It took Shoojit Sircar six years to bring ‘Madras Cafe’ on the big screen and the director, who faced protests in South before its release, feels Indian cinema is still not ready for political stories.
The film is inspired by the conspiracy and assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sircar knew that balancing the truth with drama would be tricky.
“It is very difficult to make films like Madras Cafe’ in India, given the diverse nature of the country. We are going there slowly but it will take sometime before we start accepting such stories. I feel fortunate that my film is one of the firsts,” Sircar told PTI in an interview.
The director believes the film has worked because it does not deviate from the plot and avoids frills of conventional cinema such as song and dance.
“When I first thought about it, I knew that this one would be tricky. This is why it took me six years. I did not want to take any chance with the story. My biggest worry was mounting the civil war of Sri Lanka onscreen. It went through
several drafts but once we figured out how to end the story, we were on,” Sircar said.
Given the historical premise of the film, Sircar has been asked about his decision not to send the film to festival circuits. But, he does not think that it was a missed chance.
“It is very difficult to explain but I did not think it was a festival film. I don’t want to categorise but I believe ‘Madras Cafe’ was much more populist in its sentiments. I have seen many festival films and I will be blunt, I don’t think ‘Madras Cafe’ was ready for festivals.”
Asked about the protests that the film faced in South, Sircar admits he was worried about it.
“I am exhausted but relieved that film has found its audience. There are Tamilians who have watched the film and liked it as it does not politicise the issue and takes a neutral point of view,” Sircar said.
The director, who made a promising start with ‘Yahaan’, only to see his second project ‘Shoebite’ get stalled due to a fight between two production houses, is encouraged by the success of ‘Vicky Donor’ and ‘Madras Cafe’.
Sircar says he wants to make films that don’t take the audience for a ride and does not believe in touching benchmarks set by others including the much touted 100 crore club in Bollywood.
“I stopped caring about industry rules after my ‘Shoebite’ did not release. I sat at home for four years doing nothing. I decided that I have certain taste in cinema and I will take it forward. I know there is an audience for such cinema,” he said.
The debacle of the Amitabh Bachchan starrer continues to haunt Sircar as it was one of the hardest projects he ever worked on.
“It was a difficult film to shoot. Normally, you finish a film in four-five months but we spent one and a half years on that. I believe it is Mr Bachchan’s finest performances and is very close to his heart. He suffered a lot for the film. He has been very supportive ever since.”
Shoojit, who has also co-produced with John Abraham, said it was great to find a willing collaborator in the actor.
“He has produced ‘Vicky Donor’ and now ‘Madras Cafe’. It is quite daring decision for a new producer but he has chosen a middle path and has been very brave in his choices as a producer,” he said.
Sircar has another ambitious story in mind and hopes to bring it on the big screen one day.
“I have a pre Independence story in mind, very political and would like to make a film on it. There a film with Ayushman, tentatively titled ‘Hamara Bajaj’. There is also film that I want to make with Mr Bachchan, I have only told him the idea and he has shown interest,” he said.