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'Banaras is the centre of the universe'

April 05, 2006 23:10 IST

Pankuj Parashar"I've got some overwhelming SMS messages from strangers. Let me share one with you. This is someone called Balaji, a friend of my cameraman, who saw the film as the print was being checked in Chennai. Here: 'Just wanted to tell you that the film has surpassed many others I've held close to my heart. Proud of you brother, thanks for giving us a wonderful film. God bless you.'

Don't miss: I'm very proud of Banaras

I've had 40 such grateful messages from strangers, even before the film has been released! So, something is definitely going to happen in three days. I've never had a response like this: 'changed my life,' 'made me think,' 'want to see it again'. A 16-year old girl wrote me a message I can't believe. It made her love and respect her parents more.

But I'm not going to make the cliched comment that I have already got my reward. Or that if I change one person's mind, I've succeeded. I don't know what I'm expecting. I know something will happen, but I'm not sure what. Let's wait and watch.

This is not a film where people are going to review it as a film, they are going to review what I think of life. That is the joy in this. I want to know what everybody thinks of what I think in life. It is a personal movie, but then 'personal' is also a subjective term. We are all one. We are so one that you can't imagine. It could be that one particle consists of the whole universe; it goes around so fast that you think it's different. That's one theory in the Upanishads.

You know how far ahead they were? You know what Aryabhatta was calculating in 500 BC? The diameter Banarasof the moon. He was trying to calculate why an eclipse happens. From there, it went to Arabia and Greece. And our friends Galileo and Newton, poor uneducated folk that they were, were banging their heads in the 1700s trying to figure it out. That's how far ahead we are.

It's all there in the movie. Physics is discussed, even metaphysics. You'll learn things you don't know. But it's a film for everybody. It's a love story, a mother-daughter story, a story of compassion, forgiveness, affection, and understanding your parents. Not 'loving your parents'.

We needed a mature actress, who would understand the script and emotions. We had to cast Naseer, of course. He's an old friend, and he's playing God in the movie. Ashmit (Patel) had nice long hair, and the right look. I had to have Dimple (Kapadia) in the mother's role: a good-looking mother strong enough to oppose a very strong daughter. And Raj Babbar fit into that dialect -- aristocratic, UP, rich, Brahmin, upper class. Akash Khurana plays the doctor. The part was written for him and he's very good in the film.

Urmila's back with Banaras

This is Urmila's best performance, the role of her lifetime. And Dimple too. Ashmit's role didn't need histrionics, it needed a back-seat, mild, pleasant boy. A bigger hero wouldn't have worked in this. I liked his look.

BanarasAnd we took Himesh Reshammiya before he became this pop Himesh Reshammiya. Because he creates notes that really touch the soul. And the music's doing well, especially in the UP. It's a honest, hardworking attempt at something I always wanted to talk about. My next is a spiritual thriller, a very interesting project.

For the first time in 400 years, someone has shot the original Ramayana of Tulsidas. And we shot in his house, where he wrote the Ramayan. And also the temple where he is supposed to have met Hanuman, and Hanuman dictated the Ramayana to him. Shot in places nobody's ever been allowed. The temple, canteen, library in the Banaras Hindu University. Much of what we shot was undiscovered. Banaras is the centre of the universe according to our spirituality. This film will also emphasise those facts.

The audience should expect to get emotionally involved with this film and undergo a catharsis. They aren't expecting it. I know they'll get more than they think.

As told to Raja Sen. Don't miss Part one.

Pankuj Parashar