The Dark Reality of Madhur Bhandarkar

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Though calendars have been replaced by mobile phone apps today, the demand for calendar girls has shot up, says critically acclaimed director-writer-producer Madhur Bhandarkar. He says this on the basis of research he undertook for his soon to release Calendar Girls. The movie explores the dark reality of life of five such girls who otherwise appear hot and sensual in the background of exotic locales on pages of calendars. The movie, he promises, is as much a slice of life as his earlier works—Satta (2003), Corporate (2006), Page 3 (2005), Traffic Signal (2007), Fashion (2008) and Heroine (2012).

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What is the reality for these “calendar girls?”

I am known for my works that bring out the dark reality behind glossy images.Be it Chandni Bar or Fashion or Page 3, I have shown the truth behind these [glamorous professions]. I have been researching the calendar girls industry and  … it turns out that most girls  want to be featured on a calendar. They think they will become a star, or become famous after being a calendar girl. The movie traces the lives of these girls.

Has the demand for calendar girls reduced with the prevailing technology for calendar apps?

No! It has rather increased manifold. These calendars are not ordinary ones. These are glamorous calendars, and an increasing number of girls want to be on these calendars now. This is directly linked to the fact that clicking and sharing photos has become immensely easy and popular with youth today on Facebook, Instagram, etc. Girls are aware about these calendars now more than ever.

Interestingly, you also see that every second man wants to be an actor and every second girl an actress today. The culture of selfies and Dubsmash is fast catching on. It just shows how everyone is smitten with the world of glamour and wants to be as close to it as they can.

Three of your women-oriented films—Chandni Bar, Fashion and Page 3—have bagged the prestigious National Film Awards, among other national and international recognitions. Do you think this one will get a similar response?

Awards are encouraging and welcome, but my focus is to make good films. People do not want to show the dark side of anything. But I believe in doing just that. That’s how I am branded and stamped in people’s mind. And I want to continue doing that.

Why did you choose to portray your characters through fresh faces (Akanksha Puri, Avani Modi, Kyra Dutt, Ruhi Singh and Satarupa Pyne) when you could have got the best talents in Bollywood?

Because calendar girls are always fresh faces. In 99% of the cases, these calendars launch fresh faces. They become popular only later. I wanted to stick to this reality.

Are you aware that there is a comedy movie by the same name directed by Nigel Cole?

Yes, I have heard about it, but not seen it. The subject of the two films is totally different.

You were recently invited to the first International Yoga Day celebration at the United Nations in New York as the guest of honor. Do you practice yoga in daily life?

I try to do it whenever I get time. We, in the film industry, should as we are quite stressed given our erratic schedules and lifestyle. It was a proud moment for me to be there beside Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Indian External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon among others. It was a beautifully organized event.

How long did you take to complete the movie?

I completed the film’s shoot in about 40 days.

What do you think about your last release Heroine’s reception by the masses and box-office?

It did more business at the box-office than Fashion did—Rs 23.5 crore ($36,989,000) in its opening weekend. It was a big thing at the time. But for many, it was not up to their expectation. However, I am very proud of the film and of Kareena’s performance in it. Many in my fraternity did not appreciate that I showed the dark reality of our industry in it without any hiccup.

Do you get anxious before the release of your film?

There is a little anxiety as my movies garner controversy too. People have already started speculating about who has been targeted in Madhur’s next. I have gotten used to these things to a large extent now. I am one of the few directors who has got it all—critical acclaim, box-office hits and awards. I am a fighter. I am ready for both brickbats and bouquets.

Suchi Sargam is a freelance journalist based in Kolkata, India

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