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Home > Movies > Interviews

The Rediff Interview

'Gangajaal is not about Bhagalpur blindings'

Vickey Lalwani | February 03, 2003

Prakash JhaPrakash Jha has been makingthought-provoking films since 1974, completing over 25 documentaries, five features, along with numerous television projects.

His feature films include the award-winning Damul (1984), Hip Hip Hurray (1984), Parinati (1986), Bandish (1996), Mrityudand (1997), Dil Kya Kare (1999) and Rahul (2001). His documentaries include Pas de Deux (1981), the award-winning Faces After Storm (1982), Shree Vats (1982), May I Thank Sir (1983), Parampara (1986), Ek Aur Itihaas (1987) and Ek Abihbyakti (1988).

He is now directing Gangaajal -- The Holy Weapon. The film stars Ajay Devgan, Gracy Singh, Mohan Joshi, Mohan Agashe, Mukesh Tiwari, Yashpal Sharma, Ayub Khan and Anita Kanwal.

For the record, the film has 87 characters. In a start-to-finish hectic schedule at Wai and Satara, Jha took some time off to speak to Vickey Lalwani:

When and how did Gangaajal -- The Holy Weapon happen?

I have been living with the idea for a while.Although it is a socio-political drama, its core has a Hamlet-like dilemma of a cop who suddenly realises the enormity of issues at stake.

There are no easy solutions or recourse. He is caught in the crossfire between right and wrong. What may be right socially may not be right morally. This state of being of an individual in a volatile social landscape excited me as a filmmaker.

Why the name Gangaajal --The Holy Weapon?

It is a metaphor signifying the act of cleansing. The title does not signify anything mythic but something astonishing, stark and powerful. One will have to see my film to understand this symbolism.

What is the filmabout?

It is a dramatic journey of an individual into the collective consciousness ofsociety. It eventually becomes an intense meditation on the mechanics of crime and punishment.

Set in the small town of Tejpur touched by theGanga, the film is not restricted to the issue of cleansing the system. It seeks to take matters beyond. It arrives at a bigger, broader dilemma, one that grips the soul of the protagonist, questions his logic and puts him in a scenario where he has to determine his heroism.

The film is said to be based on the infamous Bhagalpur blindings.

No, it is not about the Bhagalpur blindings. There are blindings [in the movie], but they form a small part of the story and are used more as a narrative ploy than anything else.

What effect did the Bhagalpur blindingshave on you as a person?

You want me to say the film is based on the Bhagalpur blindings, but I am not falling in your trap, simply because your allegation is wrong. Anyway, the Bhagalpur blindings wereshocking,no doubt.

Why shoot in Wai and Satara?

My story is set in a bustling township, a vibrant human settlement in the heartland of India. Wai and Satara fit the bill.Since they are close to Mumbai, it is convenient [for me]. I find a lot of cooperation from the locals. I am utilising a lot of local help in my shooting. I am surprised at the talentpresent. I have taken some local actors.

Why did you cast Ajay Devgan and Gracy Singh in the lead? Did they easily consent?

It is an unusual pair alright, but the choice ofhero, heroine and every other artiste has purely emerged from the script. I am extremely convinced about the pair. Both werevery excited after listening to the script. There was instant acceptance. Ajay is a volcano of talent; Gracy's potential has not been tapped.

Who else did you havein mind ifeitheror both had refused?

One thinks about the second stringonly when there is some problem in getting the first choice. Thankfully, that situation didn't arise.

What is the estimated budget?

It is a large scale drama. We will not spare any expense to give the script what it demands.Production values will be extremely high.

It is a co-production between Entertainment One [Ardh Satya producerManmohan Shetty's new production company] and Prakash Jha Productions. The estimated budget is in excess ofRs 100 million.

Wherewill you shootas the movie rollsalong?

The entire movie will be shot at different locations in Satara district, Wai and Panchgani.

Prakash JhaWhy 87 characters?

There is an ensemble of characters which collectively make up the atmosphere. This chorus of characters is from where the drama of the script stems from.

Eighty sevencharacters. Won'tsomeget lost?

Writing ascript means orchestrating the characters. I have done justice to this requirement. In the script, each character emboldens the other rather than weakening him. That is because of a very tight dramatic design. There were so many characters in Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding as well, but did anybody get lost?

When do you plan to release the film?

God willing, I will completeshooting by March and release it by July.

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