How did Chakravyuh come about?
The subject, Naxalism, is not new. I have seen it closely in the early 70s as a student in Ramjas. That’s when it was all very romantic, we spoke of a classless society, we idolized comrade Charu Majumdar. I had first thought of (a movie about) it in 2003. But Naxalism has gone on spreading in the last 8-10 years, it occupies more districts. The conflict, tension used to strike me when I moved around in the country. Also the disparities have become wider. There is a new magnitude of wealth on the one hand. It has all combined to build on the anti-state, anti-nation psyche.
Where did you witness it?
I have been to the CRPF camp in the middle of the jungle in Gadchiroli. They say there that if you get saved from the Naxals, you’ll get killed by the mosquito. On the other hand you have the Naxals who don’t have a home. Their life is about roaming continuously. Is this what they want from life? But then life wasn’t any better for them before that either.
Is it easy to take sides here?
I may be sentimentally aligned to a cause yet live in a sovereign state. We need a system. Their demands are right, but the way is wrong. But then there is also state violence. I have tried to bring out the good, bad and the ugly from all sides and put it on the table. I thought it was the right time to bring all this to public domain.
How much of it is fact and how much fiction?
It’s about two friends and conflict of ideologies but we have researched, read thousands of documents, read Outlook and Tehelka. We have had an entire team researching on it.
And you have already moved on to the next film...
I am yet to see the final print of Chakravyuh. But the subject of my next film Satyagraha is to do with middle class uprising, how it is getting more vocal and agitating.
Does it take inspiration from the Anna movement?
Anna is only a part of it. Middle-class uprising is happening the world over, be it Arab Spring, street riots of London or the novel protest in Occupy Wall Street. But it’s not as though our middle class has not been aware earlier. It just has not been politically participative. Now it is renegotiating democracy. Earlier voting day would be a holiday, but now it is feeling more responsible, and politicians are being pinned down. Politics and business have begun to intermingle. Politicians have become like businessmen. Everything is driven by greed and accumulation. 25% of the GDP is in 100 families. 75% of the population earns less than Rs 20 a day. Isn’t this distribution of wealth leading to violence? How will it be countered? Villages after villages are getting wiped out. There is a desperation. But then desperate situation will bring out desperate measures.
Your films always spring from the world around you, but now the tone is getting more commercial...
I have chronicled social changes through my films. In Mrityudand I talk of the open market economy, how the traditional zamindari is gone, the contractor coming in. My effort as a filmmaker is how to tell it to an audience that wants to be entertained. The idea is to reach out, make money yet say something. Damul and Parineeti were purely my own films. I started negotiating from Mrityudand onwards. Otherwise I’d have to shut shop and go back to Bihar. It’s something I am learning, and it continues till date. It’s a constant struggle. Sometimes it gets better balanced, at others not. In Aarakshan everyone complained that I raised an issue but offered no conclusion. What conclusion can you offer on an issue like reservation? I also looked at the related issue of commercialization of education.
Which of these films/scenes didn’t work?
Once I have dealt with a subject and checked the final print I never go back to see it again.
But focus of your films will remain political issues? And your own innings in politics? Do you continue with it?
I am working on a subject on relationships. I had decided to give 10 years for public life. That will get over by the next elections. I am past 60. I’d rather pursue something else.
We watched Hip Hip Hurray while growing up. The lead Nikhil Bhagat was very popular and then he vanished. Where is he now?
Nikhil is now a businessman in Kolkata. His son, who has learnt filmmaking in Singapore, assisted in Chakravyuh.
An edited, shorter version of this appears in print
Dr.Subramanian Swamy once said that facial hair could often be a sign of a Pro-Naxal mindset!!
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