'I feel if a filmmaker addresses issues from his heart, no one minds it. In a country where we'vehada Muslim president and have Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan as icons, Muslims don't need to feel isolated. Anyone talking about division on a religious basis is creating mischief. And I'm not scared of saying so,' Santoshi told IANS in an interview.
Just like his pervious films, Santoshi's 'Halla Bol' too is full of violence but the director is not bothered. He says the audiences aren't used to seeing such things thanks to the news channels.
'Today, which section of people is immune from violence? We see it all around us. The news channels are showing it all the time. Just the other day we saw policemen brutally assaulting two children in Chandigarh. It made me very sad. How can human beings be so inhuman?'
Q: 'Halla Bol' returns to the theme of mob violence and public compliance?
A: I strongly feel a lack of sensitivity towards other human beings. We've become self-centred and are always seeking our own happiness. I'm appalled by the callousness.
Q: Women and children in the audience get put off by the savagery shown in your films?
A: Why should they get put off? Today, which section of people is immune from violence? We see it all around us. The news channels are showing it all the time. Just the other day we saw policemen brutally assaulting two children in Chandigarh. It made me very sad. How can human beings be so inhuman?
If you want to close your eyes and believe life to be as rosy as shown in the comedies, then you're welcome to it. But I sincerely believe shutting your eyes to crime is as good as committing crime. All our mythological books - the Ramayana and the Mahabharata' - speak about violence.
Q: Lately, only brain-dead comedies have done well?
A: It's very alarming. The comedies should be coherent, not gags strung together. I also made a comedy 'Andaz Apna Apna'. It had a clean plot and a coherent narrative. I like to laugh. I'm a big fan of Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers and Buster Keaton. In Hollywood, they come up with intelligent
comedies. In Bollywood, they just lift scenes and jokes from English films. And then to not get hauled up for copying, they put their own ideas into the rip offs. So the comedies look like a mish-mash.
Q: Some critics in Mumbai think 'Halla Bol' is dated.
A: I wouldn't agree with that. I've visited theatres in Mumbai. Audiences are responding according to the emotions. Finally, it's the same audience, who liked last year's comedies, coming to see 'Halla Bol'. We've tried to talk about issues in an engaging manner to reach the masses.
Audiences in Lucknow, Delhi, Gorakhpur and Patna are all for it. I hope other filmmakers are encouraged to take up issue-based films. Style and form are important. But you've to talk to the junta in the language that's relevant to the theme. There's a difference between how you talk to your driver and your boss.
Q: Pankaj Kapur's character is so larger than life and yet so real.
A: I've never come across a dacoit converted into a street actor. But a lot of homework was done on his character. We worked on every detail of his get-up. He's a scene-stealer just like Sunny Deol as the drunken lawyer in my 'Damini'. I'm glad because Pankaj and I worked together for the first time.
Q: You've also incorporated ideas on how religion is exploited by politicians.
A: But isn't that the case in real life? No, there was no fear hurting religious sentiments. I feel if a filmmaker addresses issues from his heart, no one minds it. In a country where we've had a Muslim president and have Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan as icons, the Muslims don't need to feel isolated. Anyone talking about division on a religious basis is creating mischief. And I'm not scared of saying so.
Q: The shootout at the party in 'Halla Bol' seems to be inspired by the Jessica Lal incident.
A: There're distinct echoes. However, this idea was with me for 10-12 years - the idea of the hero witnessing a crime and being in a dilemma about whether he should report it or not. I wasn't aware of the Jessica Lal case when I wrote 'Halla Bol'.
However, we deliberately incorporated Aamir Khan's incident from the 'Narmada Andolan'. We wanted to show how vulnerable an actor becomes when he joins a cause. Also there was a ghastly incident of molestation in Mumbai on New Year's Eve. I feel the responsibility of filmmakers has increased. One sequence that I deleted had politicians being described as collective diabetes.
Q: That would've incensed the politicians against you?
A: But it's true. Like diabetes you can't cure the corruption in politics. You can only check it.