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Vishal Bharadwaj
'I want to scare kids'
Only when children are scared, says Vishal Bharadwaj, will they love his film Makdee

Son of lyricist Ram Bharadwaj (Jurm Aur Saza, Zindagi Aur Toofan), Vishal Bharadwaj has composed brilliant music for films like Gulzar's Maachis and Hu Tu Tu, Ram Gopal Varma's Satya, and Vinay Shukla's Godmother. He even won the Filmfare R D Burman Award for Maachis in 1996.

Now, the music director takes a step forward into film direction. Makdee, starring Shabana Azmi in the unique role of a witch, opens November 15.

The children's film has been selected for Spotlight on India, a special section at the upcoming Cannes International Film Festival.

The debutant film director chats with Subhash K Jha.

Makdee is a short film --- just an hour-and-a-half long...

Yes. It will be screened at multiplexes in Mumbai where small films --- and I don't mean only in terms of budget --- have found an ideal outlet. Gurinder Chadha's Bend It Like Beckham (an hour 40 minutes), and Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding (two hours), got a wide release in India through these downsized theatres.

Why not Makdee?

Multiplexes want shorter films so they can run five instead of four shows.

Do you think smaller the film, the better?

Yes. It is better to hold an audience for 90 minutes than to bore them for three hours. Indian filmmakers need to snap out of the three-hour mentality. They feel they are offering audiences value for money when, in fact, they are only drowning them in tedium. In Hollywood, the length of a film is dictated by the theme. An average film is an hour and 45 minutes. In India, quantity matters over quality.

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Jeena Sirf Mere Liye
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In Makdee, everything works in collaboration. My small film was sold at a better price than Harry Baweja's so-called sex film Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai and the new Govinda comedy Waah! Tera Kya Kehna in some territories.

Shabana Azmi adds a luscious dimension to your project.

Absolutely. If Makdee is getting so widely noticed, it is because of Shabana's presence. If someone else had starred in the film, it would not have been noticed.

I had earlier offered her a film in which she was to play a politician with grey shades. She was very keen. But three days later, she declined saying that [husband] Javed Akhtar had advised her against doing a role that went against her personal ideology as a female politician. But I would love to do that project with Shabana.

Shabana Azmi in Makdee When I wrote the role in Makdee, I did not think she would accept the offer. I have known her from the days of her film Godmother, where I scored the music. So I called her up. She laughed and asked what mischief I was up to.

When she heard the story, she agreed readily. When I asked her about the remuneration, she said that she did not want any money. She wanted me to use that money to enhance the production values instead.

We have been able to take Makdee to five important international film festivals in Frankfurt, Chicago, Tehran, Norway and Cairo. We completed the film in 24 days, thanks to Shabana's cooperation.

Her makeup as the witch is extraordinary...

I had been warned that Shabana hates makeup. I was prepared for ill temper. Instead she was very cooperative. For two months, we carried out test makeups. Every time, she would sit for four hours to put on the makeup. We hunted for the right eye lenses on the Internet, which we finally ordered from London. And we had to give her a blue-toned skin which took a lot of time. Considering how meagre our budget was, what we have achieved is truly remarkable.

But don't you think children will get scared by the witch?

I want to scare them. The more scared they are, the more they will love it. By the way, Makdee is for children between the ages of six and 60. Percept Pictures, which made the Dino Morea-Rinke Khanna starrer Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi, partners me in this film.

We are making sure that this small film reaches every part of the country. Can you imagine a music composer who spends most of his working hours in his recording studio suddenly stepping out to sell a film to a largely unreceptive market? I have been going crazy.

Fortunately, the market is opening up. There is a growing need for a different kind of entertainment.

My cameraman Hemant Chaturvedi became famous after he shot Ram Gopal Varma's Company. He had shot my telefilm Tan-tan-nan before Company. He has done his own witchcraft in Makdee.

What prompted you to become a producer?

Shabana Azmi in Makdee Initially, the Children's Film Society was supposed to produce Makdee. But when the roughcut of the film was submitted before [chairperson] Sai Paranjpe, we had a number of creative disputes. She objected to my film being shot like a modern day thriller. She wanted me to spoonfeed young minds like a typical children's film of the country.

I refuse to treats kids like idiots.

In Makdee children are treated as mature people. Sai had a problem with everything, including my editing. She didn't like my jumpcut technique or my use of handheld camera. She wanted to re-edit my film and cut it down by 15 minutes.

I refused and returned the Children's Film Society’s money with interest, something unheard of.

Now, we are ready to release Makdee on a scale that no film from the Children's Film Society has ever dreamt of. We have already recovered our investment on the table.

It must be a whole new experience...

Yes! A music composer producing and directing a film! The only music composer to make a film before me was Salil Chowdhury [Anand, Madhumati]. I always wanted to be a director, not a producer. I was forced to become one. But it was for the best. Now I can make my own films and give music for them.

But I will always remain a music composer first. In fact, I have just signed on a film with director Tinnu Anand.

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