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Madhur Bhandarkar opens up about India Lockdown

From food to cinema, Bhandarkar talked about everything that drives him and keeps him positive, in an open conversation with The Statesman.

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

Madhur Bhandarkar, the Padma Shri filmmaker with five National Awards in the kitty and a bunch of trend-setting films like Fashion, Heroine, Chandni Bar and Page 3, has redefined the style of content-rich films in Bollywood. His upcoming film India Lockdown is one of the first Hindi feature films on Covid pandemic and its repercussions on people. After a global premiere at IFFI Goa on November 21, the film is set to premiere on OTT from December 2. Meanwhile the director made his latest pit-stop at Kolkata for a preview show of the film.

“I have been coming to Kolkata for so many years but one thing that I have never experienced is a tram ride. Eagerly waiting for the day when I can take a ride through the city in the heritage tram,” said the filmmaker while sharing his connection with the city. From food to cinema, Bhandarkar talked about everything that drives him and keeps him positive, in an open conversation with The Statesman.


The preview show of India Lockdown received overwhelming response. It’s been a while since you last visited Kolkata.

I really love the city and have a lot of friends and well wishers over here. I love the energy, the city is always buzzing and people here are crazy cine lovers. I really like being here especially during the winters. Initially, I did the screening of India Lockdown in Goa IFFI and then in Delhi. Then a friend of mine told me why don’t we do a screening in Kolkata and I readily agreed. I met Prosenjit Chatterjee the day before and had a good talk with him about films and food. I am a great connoisseur of food and I love the Kolkata delicacies!

What dishes are on your must-try list?

I love the fish here that’s cooked in mustard oil. Oh, the aroma and flavours! It tastes so good. Also I can’t miss the local delicacies and off-course the sweets of Kolkata. I crave for misti doi, rasgulla and sandesh. I gorge on the foods and then I need to exercise and workout to compensate.

India Lockdown is a documentation of people’s struggle for survival during the pandemic. Why do you think of taking up this subject for your film?

I have always made films in the realm of reality and even today whatever happens anywhere in the country there comes tweets from people saying, ‘sir are you making a film on this?’ Actually, I like making scripts on real thoughts and subjects. I wrote this script during the lockdown and it was a horrifying phase, the country was in great turmoil then. I thought this is the subject that should be documented. After watching the film in IFFI, a lot of people called me and said it reminded them of the struggle and trauma they went through during the pandemic. Nobody so far took an attempt to depict the consequences of the lockdown in cinema.

How did you etch out the characters in the film?

The film narrates four parallel stories in real track and at a point they all merge into one. The characters are from different social strata and include middle class people, migrant workers who are forced to trudge back home after cities got shut, sex workers who are further marginalised. The characters connect very well. Shweta Basu Prasad played a sex worker, Aahana Kumra played a pilot who soars high in sky but suddenly gets confined in her room for months due to the lockdown. Prateik Babbar and Sai Tamhankar were roped to play migrant workers. Prakash Belawadi also played a prominent role.

Initially you had a doubt in casting Prateik Babbar in the role of a migrant worker?

My entire team had doubts. Prateik has done elite roles so far and never did such a grounded character earlier. They thought he would never look like a migrant worker. In fact they repeatedly asked me, ‘From which angle does he look like a migrant worker to you?’ And I have to tell you this, when he came to meet me his hair was dyed blue and he was wearing weird goggles, funky shorts and tattoos on the body, a full cool dude look and my team was like, ‘You still think he can slip into this role?’ But I had the confidence that he could do it. He took up the challenge and put himself in the role in the best way possible. Prateik did an amazing job.

Did you script the film during the lockdown?

Yes, I scripted two films during that time. One is India Lockdown and the other is Babli Bouncer starring Tamannaah Bhatia that was released a few months back.

What else did you do during the lockdown to keep yourself busy?

Actually I tried to help people during Covid in whatever capacity possible through NGOs and all, we had formed a kitty of five six people and tried to stand by the needy. Other than that I binge-watched a lot of movies, read some books, did some cleaning- dusting and gardening and moreover connected with old friends and family. Lockdown days were completely different for me and I did things that I generally don’t do. Then immediately after lockdown was lifted we shot India Lockdown.

Your films portray women in different light, sometimes submissive sometimes powerful. Is that trend continued here as well?

My characters are very real and not over the top. Here the women are very strong. Sai Tamhankar as the wife of a migrant worker was outstanding, Shweta Basu Prasad as a sex worker is another revelation in the film and Aahana Kumra has another great track. All three women are shown in different light.

Why are you releasing the film in OTT and not in theatres?

We were thinking of releasing it in theatres but then we got the brand on board and it has a huge reach in Pan India. We want to make the film reach people across the country and audiences who don’t get time to go to theatres can also watch the film in OTT.

Is there any new content you are working on next?

There are few scripts I am working on, one is a women centric film and other is an action flick. But for the last few months I am so busy promoting the films that I need a break and then I’ll decide what’s next.