October 12, 2000


    Mahesh Manjrekar was not feeling well.
    A huge statue of Ravan was being erected at Bombay's Shivaji Park grounds. And Mahesh was right there in the thick of things, determined it had to be done that day itself.

    Mahesh Manjrekar is worried.
    The sudden media attention on him what with his recent Astitva, and his soon-to-be-released Jis Desh Mein Ganga Rehta Hai has him concerned that he might be coming out of people's ears.
    That is quite natural. If he is not winning the best film award for
    Vaastav, he is calling the police in for his screening of Astitva.
    For the moment, though,
    Kurukshetra and circumference of the Shivaji Park grounds are his universe.
    Mahesh Manjrekar also has a point to make.
    Jis Desh Mein Ganga Rehta Hai, he will have you know is an emotional film. Not, he adds, a comedy, as it is being touted.
    Some more points, a la Manjrekar:

    What exactly did happen at the Astitva premier?

    I didn't expect so many people at the theatre. It was a free screening for women. And the response was overwhelming. We just had to call in the police.
    But there was no lathi charge as reported by the press. How can one have a lathi charge against women?

    You have made a comedy after making serious films like Vaastav, Nidaan and Astitva. Why the shift?

    It is an emotional film. People might think otherwise with Govinda in it.
    Also, I haven't advertised it as being an emotional film because people might get the wrong impression. It has its moments of fun and laughter, but it is not an out and out comedy.

    But JDMGRH is an out-and-out commercial film…

    All my films are commercial.
    I am not here for charity or to satisfy my creative side. When I make a film at my producers' expense, I better make a commercial film.

    What is your assessment of Govinda?

    He is the best. The best one could find in the industry. Very spontaneous. Give him any role -- comedy, action, anything -- he does a good job of it.
    He is a complete actor.

    All my films are commercial. I am not here for charity or to satisfy my creative side.

    Despite Govinda, who is infamous for his late coming, you completed the film in record time. How did you pull it off?

    Not at all. I thought I made the film in decent time. I never thought I would do it, but it happened. Good for me!
    When you have a bound script with you, it does not take time to make a film. So when everyone comes on the sets with the script ready, whether it is Govinda or anybody else, the film gets made on time. I never suffered because of late coming.

    It was reported that you made Govinda come on the sets on time too…

    I did not make him, he just came on time.
    And when he told me that he would be late, I would have another scene ready with other actors. I would not waste time.
    But when he would be on the sets, he would be there for eight hours. So I got my time with him.

    Prem che has become quite a hit now. Tell us about its genesis.

    The music director, Anand Raaj Anand, had the song already with him. I heard it once. I needed to create a situation so the song would not look out of place. Fortunately, I did and I grabbed the song.
    I knew it would be a hit song all along. Nothing to top it.
    I hope people enjoy it in the theatre. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
    Besides, Govinda can carry any song. Shooting the song became more enjoyable because of him

    To go back a little, your second film Nidaan didn't do well at the box office despite being liked and called educational. Do you think there is a market for such kind of films?

    Well, it is only natural to hope that all your films do well.
    Films like Nidaan are made on a limited budget. They should be released with care, the publicity must be well-devised and well thought of. There was hardly any publicity for Nidaan.
    People were not even aware that this film was being released.
    And then it was released in 21 theatres. I didn't have the stars to bring in the audience. As it is, it would have appealed to a select audience.

    Do you think if you had stars in Nidaan, it might have done well?

    That's true, stars do get in the audience.
    I was in London when the film was released. It was released in an unsatisfactory manner. Schools had put up notices saying that there would be a show for students. But the film wasn't released properly, it wasn't even given a fair screening. Where would the children go?
    The whole strategy of releasing the film was wrong. It should have started slowly and then let it grow by word of mouth.
    The producers' intentions were honourable. They just didn't want to make money. So I can't blame them. I am fine with it because I know that the people who did see it came back to me with a positive response.
    Moreover, the producers plan to release the film on television. So more people will see it. That is my aim anyway -- that more people see it. I am not crying at its fate because I know I made an honest film.

    Did you always have Tabu in mind for Astitva?

    Not really -- I wanted to make the film in Marathi, too. I had approached some other actresses who knew Marathi.
    If I were making a film only in Hindi, she would have been my first choice. But since I was making it in Marathi, too, I was a little hesitant.
    Then I heard that Tabu spoke Marathi. And there was no doubt that she would do the role. Nobody would have justified the role as she did. As it happened, I had someone dub her Marathi dialogues. Though she speaks the language, she wasn't comfortable with it.

    How do you strike a balance between parallel cinema and commercial potboilers?

    I don't make commercial potboilers. But I do make commercial films.

    How true are the rumours that the producers of JDMGRH are trying to sell Grahan as a package deal?

    I don't know how the commerce works here. I am here to make a film for my producer. I am totally unaware of the business aspect of film making. So I am not sure about Grahan and JDMGRH.
    I make the film. And my duty is over. It is up to the producers to sell it.

    What do you have to say about the recent controversy of Tera Mera Saath Rahein with Sushmita Sen?

    That was blown out of proportion. They made Sushmita look a villain, which she was not. She just had some doubts about the role. I could not clear them for her. And I can't change the role because my script is bound.

    Did she ask you to change the role?

    No, but she did say that she had her doubts. I asked her not to do it in that case -- I don't want any actor with doubts on my sets.
    Today I might convince her to do it despite her doubts. What if, later, I feel that she is not giving a hundred per cent? Why go through that tension?

    How do deal with so much media attention so suddenly?

    Sometimes, it tires me. But it is a no-win situation. There was a time when I wanted to be written about.
    Now, I am scared that I might be coming out of people's ears.

    What are your other projects?

    I am producing a film with Sony called Pyar Kiya Nahi Jaata, with Sonali Bendre and a newcomer in the male lead. Then, of course, there is Tera Mera Saath Rahein with Ajay Devgan and Sonali Bendre.

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