Nagraj Manujle, director of Jhund: “Fairy tales sell in cinema, but it is important to also tell the story of the beasts”
Few filmmakers “dare” to organize a screening three days before the release of their film unless they are as confident as Nagraj Popatrao Manjule. His latest director Jhund, starring Amitabh Bachchan in the lead role, garnered positive reviews from celebrities and critics. Based on the life of social worker Vijay Barse, the film sees Vijay de Bachchan rally street children to form a football team to give them a purpose in life. For the filmmaker, the idea for the film came from producers Bhushan Kumar and Savita Raj Hiremath who wanted to tell this story with Big B as the face.
“When I learned that the creators were considering Bachchan sir to play the lead role, I was immediately excited. I was so inspired by the thought. I did my research, I worked on the script and I went to meet him. It was always going to be him and we are happy that he said yes,” Nagraj said in an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com.
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Stating that the megastar brought ‘khatarnak energy’ to sets, the director confessed he was worried about working with Amitabh Bachchan in his first Bollywood film. He shared, “I would wonder what we could and could not do with sir. So what happens to the schedule. When I spoke to him, he asked me to work according to my style and he will be there. ‘Aap jab bolo hum aajayenge’ (I will come whenever you want). You won’t believe it, but he delivered on his words and would be on set even at 7 a.m. or on the night shift. It really came as a surprise to me.
Apart from Bachchan, the world also praised the youngsters of Jhund. Sharing that he enlisted 20 children from Nagpur to play youngsters, Nagraj Manjule said, “They are all playing for the first time. I’ve always enjoyed working with new talent and non-actors. And I have to say that even if someone doesn’t like the movie, they will definitely like these kids. You will fully appreciate their performance. On set, while they were a little stunned to work with Big B, the gentleman was so supportive and made sure everyone was comfortable. It made the children more confident.
He revealed that although he met Vijay Barse and his team, there is also his own perspective and opinions in Jhund. Calling it his “creative freedom”, the filmmaker said it was fiction but inspired by a true story. Lately we have also seen Rani Mukerji’s Hichki which was about the inclusion of slum children in society. When asked if he thinks movies can bring about change in society, he replied, “I don’t know if it will, but I really think slum kids should have a chance. They have talent, passion and a lot of hard work to give. All they need is an opportunity. As for films, I think they can initiate conversations and present a new outlook on life. The primary purpose of art is to reflect society and my films do the same. Realizing where we are wrong can help us improve.
Nagraj Manjule further shared that while many may believe that he only makes movies about social issues, he also has the smarts to do new things. “I am not at all afraid of being boxed. I know it’s my strength to tell true stories. And when I want, I can also do different stories,” he said. Deeply inspired by BR Ambedkar, the director of Sairat also shared how frustrating it becomes to see religion, caste and socio-economic status still dividing people. Saying he hopes things get better, he added, “We will never prosper if these differences continue to eat away at us. For a better and happier life, things have to change, and I think it will happen gradually. We must keep hope. »
Given that Nagraj’s film is about real people and non-actor stars rather than the “stereotypical pretty faces”, we wondered if it was difficult for him to make his films a commercial project. “I agree that movies are all about pretty faces. I too watch these stories. But they don’t all have to be beautiful. There are people who identify with my films and watch them because they don’t have a perfect life. Maanta hu pariyon ki kahani bikti hai cinema mein but kabhi rakshashon ki kahani bhi dikhani chaiye (I agree that fairy tales sell in cinema but sometimes you have to show stories of the beast too). My actors may not fit the bill of a handsome actor, but moviegoers love them because they’re real.
Finally, Nagraj Manjule revealed that he is still adamant about releasing Jhund in theaters. He also mentioned that he knew the film would work by word of mouth, as audiences would tune into it. Sharing his takeaways from Jhund, the filmmaker said, “The most important thing is that I got to work with Bachchan sir. I don’t know what life has to offer me next. Even though there are many great movies and awards, I don’t think anything could be greater than this feat. Plus, having grown up with Big B’s avatar Vijay, not only did I have him in my movie, but I also have a Vijay to cherish.
Jhund hit cinemas across India.