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Interview Hindi

Here's why Subhash Ghai is embarrassed about being called 'showman'

The director, who celebrates his 73rd birthday today (he was born on 24 January 1945), spoke on the sidelines of the Pune International Film Festival 2018, held earlier this month.

Suparna Thombare

Filmmaker Subhash Ghai, who started his career as an actor, went on to become one of the biggest and most successful filmmakers of the 1980s and 1990s. 

The filmmaker, who started off as an actor [in films like Taqdeer (1967) and Aradhana (1969)] and went on to become a director with Kalicharan (1976), has been a great admirer of Raj Kapoor’s work. 

“You would find three things in his films that I learnt. Even though my films were not like that, they were Subhash Ghai films. But he was a guru and I learned a lot from him, which I tried to translate into my own cinema. So the three things that are a must in a film are satyam, shivam, sundaram. A film should have honesty, shiv or divinity and beauty. Cinema is a celebration,” said Ghai. 

Interestingly, just like Kapoor, Ghai too received the title of 'showman' after the back to back success of Hero (1983), critically acclaimed Meri Jung (1985) and multi-starrer blockbuster Karma (1986). Ghai said that he didn’t understand at first why he had been given a title that was accorded to Kapoor. 

“It has always been very embarrassing for me to be called 'showman'. In my own publicity material or ads we have never mentioned Subhash Ghai as a showman. It is a media created title for a man. It was given to Raj Kapoor. And then it was given to me after Hero and Karma,” clarified Ghai. 

Confused why the title was given to him, Ghai spoke to a journalist who had first mentioned the term. 

“I asked one journalist who had written about that because when one writes others also start saying it. I asked that journalist why he wrote showman because my understanding was showman would mean a show off. He made me understand. We call you showman not for what you wear, for your style. Even Raj Kapoor was fat and so are you. Your film, the scale and the depth in your films, your songs, cinematography and your characters are larger than life,” explained Ghai, adding, “You show a huge amount of fiction in a believable way that the untrue also starts seeming like truth. And we (the audience) enjoy it, and we laugh and cry with it. So the way you treat your cinema on screen is why the term. You people justify the big screen. That is why he (Raj Kapoor) was called showman and that is why in this time (the 1980s and 1990s), we find you a showman.”
While Ghai is not making films anymore (his last directorial was Kanchi: The Unbreakable in 2014), he is busy training the future generation in various aspects of filmmaking at his film school in Mumbai, Whistling Woods International. The filmmaker studied at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune, and always dreamt of a film school in Mumbai, which is home to Hindi cinema. 

Ghai makes sure he is in sync with the young students by staying clued into today’s cinema and watching almost all contemporary films. Speaking about the current generation of directors, Ghai said that there is some great content being generated. 

“If you talk about the 21st century, I watch most of the films of today that the younger generation is making. Everyone is making different kinds of films. They make a Lunchbox also, a Dum Laga Ke Haisha also, a Barfi! also and Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Dangal too. All these are new directors. And I see some promise in every new director. After the first couple of films release, the directors begin to evolve,” said Ghai. 

The filmmaker also heaped special praise on directors like Rajkumar Hirani and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. “When I saw Munna Bhai MBBS (2003), I felt a good director has entered the industry, Raju Hirani. When I watched Khamoshi by Sanjay Leela Bhansali I felt like a very good director is here. In today’s times there’s also Neeraj Pandey, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and many other good directors. In the coming years, these directors will be veterans. To understand any filmmaker fully, you need him to make at least 10-15 films. That’s how you get if this is Raj Kapoor’s cinema, this is Yash Chopra’s or Satyajit Ray’s or Ritwik Ghatak's. You have to prove it repeatedly for people to understand what your cinema is.”

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Pune International Film Festival