JP Dutta on Paltan, why India has fewer war films than US, China and his stint at RK Studios
It’s a busy day for the 69-year-old film maker at a suburban Mumbai five-star hotel. JP Dutta, one of Bollywood bastions from the old school of filmmaking, is not used to giving interviews in succession — that too in a single day. Thanks to a mushrooming media, the assemblage of reporters at the venue is intimidating. In a separate corner of the hall are seated former actress and wife, Bindiya Goswami and his daughter, Nidhi, with whom he often converses when breaks between interviews permit him. Nidhi, who also assisted in the making of Paltan, is there to aid him and thus when his eyes get strained, she is readily provides him his eye drops. JP Dutta is back in a familiar territory after almost a decade with Paltan after the forgettable Umrao Jaan. When asked why it took him so long to make a film, the director mentions that there was a film in the making which later came to a grinding halt. “I started a film in 2007 with newcomers and had Reliance backing me with a certain budget. The film was mostly to be shot in Europe and then the world was hit by the financial crisis. After the world market collapsed, Reliance pulled the carpet under my feet and my 100 per cent budget was slashed to 15 per cent. I told them that it was impossible to shoot further.” JP further informs that a portion of the untitled film was already shot in Switzerland, Italy, Udaipur and Jodhpur. “They thought that I have been a passionate film maker and would never shelve the film but they had something else coming. At the end of the day, it's business and it’s not about soldiers and wars where I would think twice,” informs the Border director whose shelved film was a love story and panned from 1918 to the present time.
Nothing of such sort happened with the ‘soldiers and war’ drama Paltan and the film is slated to hit theatres this Friday. This time the director has opted to recreate the Nathu La incident of 1967, which dealt with Chinese incursion in Sikkim, then an Indian protectorate. How did the subject matter strike him? “Somebody from the army spoke to me and told me about it. My instant reaction was that nobody knows about it, to which the army gentleman agreed. The incident had its own political ramification. Lots of political decisions were made at that time. The details of the incursion were very political and that’s why it was pushed under the carpet,” reveals the film maker. He also adds that there was a deliberate move to keep the information classified from the powers that be to keep it out of public domain.
Paltan also completes the trilogy of war films for the filmmaker after the much acclaimed Border and the much panned LOC. JP Dutta also remains the only film maker in the contemporary era who often dabbles with war subjects. When asked that why the volume of war films from India is so little and he cites the history of wars in India as reason. “Weird, isn’t it? Look at America, China or for that matter, France. Their output is so much. They have faced WWI and WWII and they have also faced wars at home and outside their country. They have so much history to tell; in short, they are educated and we have not had any such thing.” The director believes that the passion for the fatherland is missing because we have now become very comfortable as a society which can only blamed on its materialistic nature.
While JP is known for films like Border, Refugee and LOC, there is also another facet of the director which was at fore when he directed his initial films. Ghulami, Yateem, Hathyar and Batwara — all multi starrer in true sense — talked about a different aspect of India far removed from the terrains of war. Does he feel bad when people recognize him as a war filmmaker and completely sideline his initial films? “Yes, I feel very bad. My war films have now become very overpowering. My daughter often says that Border came with its own destiny and will always be like that and I will not be able to do anything to control it. For 21 years, we have not been able to stop it and it goes on and on and you cannot do anything about it.”
For someone who honed his directorial skills under the baton of Randhir Kapoor at the RK Studio, the recent news of RK Studios changing hands has come as a shock. The director mentions that the three years he spent assisting for RK banner films remains one of the best phases of his life. “I saw the industry up close and personal. I actually saw the trauma that Raj Saab went through after Mera Naam Joker did not do well at the box office. I saw him beaten down. I saw him crumbling and then I saw him rising with Bobby, again. I consider myself very blessed that I saw that great man battle all that in front of my own eyes.” Coax him to narrate an incident and he recalls an incident that transpired during the shoot of Dharam Karam while filming 'Ek din bik jayega maati ke mol' song when he was assigned to operate the dimmer on cue. “I was standing next to the dimmer and Raj saab passed by during the lunch break. He retraced his steps, came to me and enquired if the dimmer that I was operating had been hired from Ranjit studios. I had no clue and feigned ignorance. He then called our head light man and again enquired. When he received a positive answer he revealed that when he was an assistant he had worked on the same dimmer.” The director mentions that he will never forget that encounter which according to him was eerie, very eerie.
Updated Date: Sep 07, 2018 09:07:34 IST