“Teaching about filmmaking is like filling a bucket from the ocean and teaching others about how the ocean actually looks like. There is no flow, no ebb, no wave, just water and that too stilled to the extent that it’s no longer the sea.”
Such pearls of wisdom from an ocean called Mahesh Bhatt were generously showered on lesser mortals like yours truly, who was privileged to be among those chosen few at Divya Bhaskar office, Vadodara.
A ping on FB asking, “Would you like to meet Mahesh Bhatt?” by Mr. Sanjay Chawda, a veteran in media and mass communication was enough to make me eagerly await the opportunity of meeting up this versatile filmmaker in person.
All through the way to Divya Bhaskar office, I was wondering what I’d ask a man who made films as profound as Zakhm and as banal as Duplicate, as real as Arth and as romantic as Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin, and as thought-provoking as Saaransh and as breezy as Hum Hai Raahi Pyar Ke. Nevertheless, there was no point in preparing questionnaires for someone as articulate as Bhatt saab, who had come to Vadodara as a chief guest at the official play adaptation of his movie, Arth. The play was directed by Priyanka Pathak and organized by Insync Club, staged at Sir Sayajinagargruh, Akota, Vadodara on 4th July’14.
The way he got up and greeted every person entering the boardroom spoke volumes on his humility, making one feel special. It was indeed a pleasant surprise to be in the company of friends like Chandrakant Golani, Apsara Iyengar, and Chitra Parmar and theatre veterans like Chari Sir. After few awkward silences and ice-breaking banter, there emerged the real Mahesh Bhatt that one has always adored.
“There was no question of hiring a costume designer, especially when you’re working on such low budget,” informed the veteran director in his inimitable style, when Chandrakant Golani, a renowned fashion designer and owner of ‘Rivaaz’ boutique, asked about how the costumes were designed for the movie, Arth. He explained how Arth was ‘bought’ by a producer, who watched it as a mere ‘time-pass’, but walked out in complete awe of the film.
“Us producer ne baad mein mujhe bataaya ki usne meri film ko nahin, meri bhookh ko khareeda tha,” said Mr. Bhatt about the producer buying the film purely because he noticed an inextinguishable fire in him and a hunger to make films that create an impact. It is this ‘hunger’ that helped him survive decades in the tinsel town, where religions change every Friday and so do the gods.
Honestly, my favourite Mahesh Bhatt movie isn’t Arth, but Zakhm released in 1999, which won Filmfare Best Story Award, National Film Award for Best Actor to Ajay Devgan, and also Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration.The story based on the relationship he shared with his father Nanabhai Bhatt, who was also a filmmaker and mother Shirin Mohammad Ali, who was an actress.
I asked him since Zakhm was based upon his father, how much influence did his films or style of filmmaking have on him. “I never lived with him so there was never any influence whatsoever. If you notice carefully, the character of Rahul Roy in Aashiqui (1990) had a single parent i.e. mother…that’s how I have been brought up,” he said in a matter-of-factly manner.
“How important is the script for the success of any film?” asked Tanvi Vyas, a city-based actress now residing in Mumbai. After a brief caesura, Mr. Bhatt responded that script is surely important but there’s still no guarantee of success. “Today we’re discussing films like Arth, Zakhm, Saaransh, but nobody is talking about Jism and Murder, despite the fact that the latter made much more money than the former. Having said that, all these years, I have maintained that my scripts resonate with my life. If it’s a story of your life, there will be honesty in it and when there’s honesty, it shows.”
On asking how he made it to the top, he said, “It might sound a bit crude but when a stray dog crosses the road and reaches the other end, it doesn’t teach others the right way to cross the road, as it doesn’t know how it made it. You got to ‘cross your road’ your way, there’s no formula to do so,” he said, when asked about his success mantra.
He shared an experience where his daughter Alia Bhatt had made her debut and her film Student of the year was a huge success. She wrote something on a paper and handed it over to him. “I thought she has written something emotional for me and when I read it, she had written: Thank you dad for not helping and guiding me!”
As a ‘saaransh’ i.e. summary, Mr. Bhatt said, “Koi bhi aapko apne tajurbe ko pudiya mein baandh kar nahi de sakta – You got to learn from your experience and do it your way.” Point noted, sir. Thank you Bhatt saab for adding Arth to every Zakhm of life.
PS: Unlike my other friends, I couldn’t take a selfie. Honestly, I am still to perfect the art of taking selfies instantly, and was awkwardly trying desperately to take one (The above pic is a testimony to this fact). On reaching home, I eventually learned it, but it was too late.