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‘Gandhism is serious business’

After loud rounds of applause from different sections of the audience and critics, Lage Raho Munnabhai has finally found a detractor in award-winning Assamese director Jahnu Barua. The film-maker who made his own Gandhi film last year in Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara told Metro that an ideology as serious as that of Gandhism shouldn’t have been treated so lightly.

“Gandhian philosophy is serious business and Lage Raho Munnabhai is not the right way to show it,” said Barua, who won a Padmashri in 2003 after many a triumph at the National Awards. “I have seen the film and its purpose is very clear, that of a popular mainstream movie. While there’s nothing wrong with that kind of a platform, the message has to be genuine and honest.”

Barua is just back from Japan after winning the Kodak Vision for Best Film Award at the Fukuoka International Film Festival for Maine Gandhi… “Apart from a trophy and a citation, they gave me the complete Kodak raw stock for my next film,” the director revealed. “That’s a big headache taken care of. But more than the prize what made me happy was the way the Japanese audiences responded to the film. In fact, two special screenings had to be organised due to heavy demand.”

So what made the Japanese ask for more? Three things, felt Barua. “The Gandhi aspect definitely… That his ideology is missing in today’s world and that is creating problems all over the world. They too felt that his philosophy could be a possible solution to the sufferings around us. Then the Japanese were intrigued by our social structure, especially the position of women. My research before the film had led me to believe that whenever there is a lethal disease in the family, the woman in the house gets emotional and more attached to the problem while the men get detached.”

In the midst of the celebrations, Barua also suffered a setback. After the Film Federation of India chose to send Rang De Basanti as India’s official entry to the Oscars, Barua and Maine Gandhi… producer Anupam Kher decided to send their film as an independent entry to the Academy Awards, very much like Lage Raho Munnabhai. “When I went through the regulations, I discovered that for a film to be entered, it had to release in its own country on or after October 1 the preceding year,” Barua elaborated. “But Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara released on September 30 last year. So we missed out by just one day.”

Jahnu Barua

Barua’s next film is against terrorism. “Coming from the Northeast, terrorism is something which has always disturbed me and I wanted to make a film on that,” he said. His second Hindi film, Butterfly Chase, starring Yashpal Sharma, Gauri Karnik and Diwakar Pundit, is set in Kashmir and looks at terrorism as the cause of the changing social structure.

“It has been ready for some time but my producer was having some problems. Now that everything has been sorted out, the film will release by the end of the year.”

Although Barua has set his story in Kashmir, he had to shoot in Sikkim for security reasons. But he doesn’t agree to the latest accusation going around that Kashmir has been showed in a negative light by film-makers. “We talk about negative aspects of other regions also,” he said. “It’s just that some incidents happening in Kashmir cannot be accepted by us and we make films on them. As long as film-makers do not become biased and take sides, there’s nothing wrong with that.”

After Butterfly Chase, Barua will make a love story in Hindi. “It’s too early to talk about it but, yes, it will be made with my sensibilities as a film-maker,” was his introduction to his new project. “After that, in a year or two, I will announce my international project.”

In the meantime, Barua has been regularly offered Bengali films but he hasn’t yet given in to the temptation. “There are such good film-makers there,” he laughed it off.

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