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|July 8, 1997||
Do art films suck? Prakash Jha says no
His latest filmMrityudand has been in the news because it has a powerful woman-oriented subject and because of its unusual casting. The film has Madhuri Dixit and Shabana Azmi in the main roles and Ayub Khan, Shilpa Shirodkar, Mohan Joshi and Mohan Agashe in the supporting cast.
Jha's first film,Damul, received much critical appreciation and his second, Pariniti, won a national award. He strayed from the arty path to reach a larger audience, but faltered with Bandish, starring Jackie Shroff and Juhi Chawla.
Your last film (Bandish) was an out-and-out commercial film. Is Mrityudand on the same lines?
Mrityudand has the undercurrent that would eventually make the film commercial. It is about women, their status quo in society. That the man is very comfortable with women within the homes, but not outside it.
Why a woman-oriented subject this time?
A woman can't have a totally independent existence. If a man going out says he will come back at a particular time and doesn't, he will not be questioned at all. But if a woman tries that, she will be questioned. 'Woh akeli rehti hai' (she lives alone) is such a remark which creates a whole lot of connotations. Imagine a woman in this society trying to be like a man. She won't be allowed to live. It is a man who makes the decision, a man who will go out, a man will do anything. A woman can't do these things.
So what is the purpose of making this film?
If you go to my home in Bihar, you will know what a particular person's status is by looking at the way they seat themselves. A labourer will sit on the floor, a manager might sit on the bench and the landlord will sit on a bed. The whole composition is so strange. Likewise with the women. I am not saying there are no strong and vocal women.
By making them aware that women are human beings too. They have the right to exist the way they want to. You can't sentence a woman to death just because she has questioned your authority or asked for an explanation.
Do women do that in your film?
Yes, they do. Madhuri is a educated girl and she rebels. So she, along with Shabana and Shilpa, are sentenced to death. But when the people come to carry out the punishment, the women fight for justice.
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