Sudhir Mishra hardly needs an introduction. A three-time National Award winner, Mr. Mishra is recognized as one of the trailblazers of Indian alternate cinema whose directorial credits include Main Zinda Hoon, a social drama on desertion and extramarital affair, Dharavi, set in the backdrop of one of India’s biggest slums, and Iss Raat Ki Subah Nahin, a thriller whose plot unfolds through single night. However, most audiences today would know him as the man behind Kareena Kapoor–Rahul Bose starrer Chameli, and his films with actress Chitrangada Singh – Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi, Yeh Saali Zindagi and the recently released Inkaar. But did you know he also wrote the script for the classic comedy Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron? Here is ‘Bhaawra Mann’ (Restless Mind), a documentary on the life and works of Sudhir Mishra. He candidly speaks on his dissatisfaction with today’s education system, addresses his failed marriage with actress Sushmita Mukherjee, critiques his earlier works with a discerning eye, and predicts his future in Bollywood – in Mumbai.
The director of ‘Bhaawra Mann’, Mr. Jaideep Varma does need an introduction. While earning a name among music lovers after making the documentary ‘Leaving Home‘, based on Indian rock band Indian Ocean, Jaideep Verma has still not made his mark in Bollywood, and neither does he intend to. Formerly a copywriter at an ad agency, Mr. Verma has now added documentary film-maker, scriptwriter, novelist and cricket analyst (of self-owned Impact Index) to his portfolio. After the unexpectedly positive audience response towards Leaving Home, Jaideep Verma decided he had to make a documentary on the Sudhir Mishra, one of his inspirations, even if he had to lose his money. WIth a shoestring budget of 5-6 lakhs, he managed to interview Sudhir and his films’ actors, scriptwriters, crew-members, parents, friends, ex-wife, and even contemporaries. Originally intending to upload it immediately to Youtube with little monetary expectations, Jaideep Varma had luck on his side when he found producers who were willing to promote Baawra Mann in international film festivals. With his documentary now touring around the world, Mr. Jaideep Varma can breathe a sigh of relief and rest his mind as he can rest assured his film will just do fine.
Mr. Jaideep Varma screened and promoted his film during a private screening at Surya Palace Hotel in Vadodara on 2nd August. After the screening, he willingly and enthusiastically answered a round of questions posed by the audience. Here are a few:
Q) Why Sudhir Mishra?
Jaideep Varma: I chose Sudhir because he’s the only great director to have lasted in the Hindi film industry for almost three decades. To me at least, he is the director I regard as the best in the film industry. I have worked with Sudhir before and he’s always treated everybody on set with respect. While working, I observed that the man was even smarter than his films. I told him one day that if Yeh Saali Zindagi is called one of your better films, than your best film will be mine… the one I shall make on you.
Q) How did Mr. Mishra react to Baavra Mann?
JV: This is actually quite interesting. When I went to Sudhir and told him I was keen on making a film about him, he was taken aback. But after he heard me out, and he had already seen my work on Leaving Home, he knew I was clear in my head and so accepted the offer. I’d try to arrange meetings with him but he’d usually be busy, busy, busy most of the time. So we worked out eventually by conducting our meetings on Saturdays, and that explains the title of our production company (Saturday Films).
You must have observed in the documentary that he’s somewhat eccentric.When I told him I had a three hour cut assembled, he called me to my house one night… or rather one morning as it was 1 am. We sat and saw the entire film together at his place. Throughout the film, he did not stir one moment. He didn’t move a bit, except for one bathroom break. He remained silent for the entire duration. When the film was up, I saw his face and thought he had fallen asleep. But he wasn’t, and I nervously asked him “So, you liked the film?”. And his reply was “I’m still awake, aren’t I? Doesn’t that answer your question?” (laughter). I knew I’d got my green signal then.
Q)Your favorite Sudhir Mishra film?
JV) Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi, without a doubt. If you notice, I’d given it much more focus in my documentary. It’s really a film that grows on you. I mean you see it each time with a newer, fresher perspective. It’s a brilliant work.
Q) Sudhir Mishra has also acted in a film called ‘Traffic Signal’. Why is there no mention of his contribution in acting?
JV: Well, after hearing about his work in direction and writing, his acting career is quite inconsequential. He’s actually worked in about three films, including the one you mentioned, but he is not really an actor. He appeared as a cameo in those films. In fact, you should hear what he says about his performances!
Q) I come from the ad field, and we’re told that the essence of any advertisement is its idea. However this is so much emphasis on attention to detail and form nowadays. Is the idea itself losing value due to this?
JV: That is a very good question. Twelve years of working in the advertising industry as a copywriter has taught me the importance of an idea. Idea has played an important role subconsciously in everything I have done. You need to have a strong idea in anything. Unfortunately, this age venerates form; if anything is not done the way its expected to be done, it is rejected. Great ideas are lost because of this.
Q) What is your best idea for an ad?
JV: Seriously! (laughter) I mean (thinks for a moment) Yeah, it would be asingle shot advertisement I had made for Savlon. The idea worked because it was simple.
Q) After much appreciation of your humility, I do not have a question for you. I rather need your advice on what we can do to promote your film?
JV: I feel humbled by your support today, as you all have stayed so late to ask questions about the film. If you feel like promoting it, you do it! You can tell whoever you want through social networking sites like Facebook. The film’s currently played at some film festivals and shall be on Youtube soon. Until then, you can contact me on Facebook in case you want to know anything about the film.
(Note: the questions and answers mentioned above are not verbatim as I did not have shorthand writing skills to note down the complete responses. Also, some of the questions and answers, including mine, have been left out sadly because I’m unable to decipher my own scribbling! Gotta find a shorthand tutor for myself!)