In an exclusive chat with Cinestaan.com, Mishra throws light on the reasons for adapting Devdas into a political drama, shares his views on films facing protests and explains why it is time youngsters take interest in politics.
Hope every film has some view point, there is no point in being dumb: Sudhir Mishra
Mumbai - 15 Apr 2018 9:00 IST
Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay wrote his classic novel Devdas way back in 1917, and would not have imagined that his work would inspire artists even after a century. Filmmaker Sudhir Mishra’s Daas Dev is the latest one to be based on Devdas. However, Mishra claims to have the adapted story into a political scenario and reversed the protagonist’s journey from Daas to Dev.
In an exclusive chat with Cinestaan.com, Mishra throws light on the reasons for adapting Devdas into a political drama, shares his views on films facing protests and explains why it is time youngsters take interest in politics. Excerpts.
How did the idea of adapting Devdas into the modern political scenario originate?
Long time ago, a friend of mine, Pritish Nandy, told me to do Devdas. He is an interesting and one of the best minds in the industry. I take whatever he says seriously. I wondered, why he is telling me? Then one day it struck me and I thought, let me think about it. So, I sat and sat and then suddenly similarities between Devdas and Hamlet struck me.
Then I thought that they are both indecisive characters. Hamlet, he is the prince of Denmark. Then I felt, what if I make him the prince or heir to a political dynasty? So, when he becomes heir to a political dynasty, I thought, what can Paro be? What if I make Devdas into Hamlet but keep Paro as Paro? So, what is the relationship between the two families? What if Paro’s father is the secretary of Devdas’ father?
Then what is Chandramukhi? Can she be the political manipulator or fixer – people who walk the corridors of power, whom all politicians know but refuse to acknowledge?
She is this seductress in the corridors of power who had his money. And what if she has the same flaw that Chandramukhi had, which is her attraction to Dev? What if she manipulates Dev and brings him to power but then saves him from it?
Therefore, the addiction of Dev and all three characters is the addiction to power. Dev was also addicted to alcohol, but he is lured by Chandramukhi towards power. Even Paro is lured towards power. The rift between Dev and Paro is political. She escapes from the kothi and confronts Dev and wants revenge.
I thought then it can become a very interesting political thriller with a romantic base. So, is love possible in the times of bull shit or when the addiction of power happens? Power and love are two contrary forces, I think.
The film is about how Dev, Paro and Chandramukhi try to achieve the impossible, which is to find love. The girls are totally badass. Both are present throughout the film. If people want to see the same story as Devdas, please don’t watch it. Then you won’t get it.
Why do you think Devdas keeps inspiring filmmakers even in 2018?
It’s because he is an interesting character. He is an extreme character. He destroys himself because he destroyed the woman he loved. He is not an ordinary character. He is not this practical, compromising character who thinks, okay now let me get married again. No! He is f**cked up by his girl.
A story is made by extreme persons. The Joker as evil. Devdas as a lover. Why I am admitting to the influence of Sarat Chandra is because Devdas is a kind of a lover. But if today’s lover just dies outside a kothi, it’s not enough.
What was the reason for choosing Rahul Bhat to play the titular character?
Because I wanted somebody with a natural arrogance. A guy who looks khaandani (belonging to a rich family) but a very good actor, who would play this emerging character from Daas to Dev. A guy who is addicted to love and lured towards power becomes almost helpless and then emerges. So, he should have the ability to play weak and compromised and then slowly emerge towards the kind of heroism. It’s a reverse journey from Daas to Dev.
I also wanted someone who is confident enough and who doesn’t get problematic, because the girls’ roles are as good. In this version, Paro and Chandramukhi are as important (as Dev). I wanted someone who doesn’t get upset saying, ‘Arre yaar yeh ladki ka role itna achha kyun likha tu? Kaun dekhna chahta hai ladkiyon ko? Ladkiyon ki wajah se film thodi na chalti hai.’ [Why did you give such an interesting for a girl? Who wants to see them? Films don’t do well because of the girls].
It has been observed that although you make unconventional films, you always give a lot of importance to music.
I like music. I am from Lucknow, so I have grown up with poetry and music around. I love all sorts of music. I am a music freak. I can’t not have music in my films. I generally put it (songs) in the background. I think it adds to the emotional weight of the film.
This is the Indian aspect of my film heritage that I accept. I am an Indian, I don’t want to be European. I don’t want to be French and I have no desire for it. I have no desire to placate anybody and be a film festival director. I want to be in that sense an Indian.
Ever since social media boomed in India, a lot of youngsters have started taking keen interest in politics. How do you look at this?
It was about time because politics is about how you are governed and how it affects. And youngsters should know how it affects their love life also. It’s about being free. Political understanding is about realizing how you are being governed and controlled. It is about how can you escape. You cannot totally escape. But how do you play a trick so that you have maximum possible freedom. We don’t live in an ideal world. We should be aware of what people and politics are doing to us. It is very stupid not to know. And it is very stupid and moronic to not vote.
It is very stupid to listen to other people. Always check facts. Always think and come to your own decisions. Don’t even listen to your parents or anyone. Only listen to yourself. Look before you leap. If anybody tells you don’t look, just jump, it’s the most foolish statement. If you want to take a risk, do that.
Do you foresee an increase in the number of political films considering the rapid interest in politics currently?
Not necessarily politics but I hope every film has some view point. Taking a position on gender rights is also political. To say that women have a right to be wrong is political. Any father who forces his daughter into marriage is almost alluding to rape is a political film.
It might not necessarily be around politics. It can have a political point of view or be politically aware. There’s no point in being dumb. The whole world wants you to be dumb. One should even choose products intelligently; think about what you want to buy. Why do you want to buy a watch? Just because your girlfriend or boyfriend thinks so? If he or she wants you to buy crap things, dump them rather than being a moronic consumer.
Your film Dharavi (1991) faced a lot of protests when it was released. Recently, Padmaavat went through a lot of hardship. Do you think now filmmakers would be extra cautious in choosing subjects?
I don’t think the young would be bothered. The producers might be. But I think because of the digital era there is a lot of freedom. You can use it responsibly. You should contemplate and make sure your film has the value of a good story and cast. It should be engrossing and bold. It should not be propagandist. It should be provocative. After doing all this, you shouldn’t be afraid. If you are afraid, what’s the point of being young?
During a conversation at the Lonavala Film Festival in 2016, you said that you had shown the guts of making an anti-Emergency film during the Congress rule, which was Hazaron Khwaishen Aisi (2005). Do you think today it is possible to make a film that is critical of the current government?
Somebody should. People are making films which are critical of the state of affairs as they are. I think that’s happening.
Do you worry about your film’s box office prospects while making it?
I worry. Everybody worries. Everybody hopes for a good performance at the box office. But I don’t worry so much that I change the film.
What are your forthcoming projects?
I am making a film based on the relationship between me and my wife and partner Renu Saluja called Swaha. I am also doing a couple of web series.