x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Prakash Jha talks about new film Satyagraha

Known for his socio-political films, the Indian director Prakash Jha talks to us about his new thriller Satyagraha.

A scene from SATYAGHARA starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Arjun Rampal and Kareena Kapoor 
CREDIT: Prakash Jha Productions
A scene from SATYAGHARA starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Arjun Rampal and Kareena Kapoor CREDIT: Prakash Jha Productions

The Indian director Prakash Jha, known for making films that tackle social issues, talks to Ujala Ali Khan about his new drama Satyagraha, which stars Amitabh Bachchan in a lead role.

The socio-political thriller Satyagraha looks at the rebellion of the Indian middle class through the eyes of its protagonist. Joining hands with an idealistic older man, the hero spearheads a movement that challenges the status quo of a corrupt government and a broken system.

Directed and co-written by Prakash Jha and featuring an ensemble cast - Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn, Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal, Manoj Bajpai, Amrita Rao and Vipin Sharma - the movie comes out at a time when people in various parts of the world are embroiled in struggles similar to the kind depicted in the film.

During a recent visit to Dubai, Jha explained the movie's message.

The definition

"Satyagraha means non-violent protest. When you insist on what you believe is the truth, you protest against the system that denies you that truth. This is what happened with Mahatma Gandhi. In 1917, he went to [the northern state of] Bihar to protest against the indigo crops that the British were forcing the local farmers to grow, and stood up for what was right. That's when the word satyagraha was born."

The relevance

"Since time immemorial, societies under oppression have protested. Especially in the past decade, there have been revolutions all over the world. These societies are protesting against the system, against the government, against rulers.

"In India, the middle class is protesting against corruption. It was interesting for me and my writing team to study these aspects. This film that we have made is our dialogue with the youth of India."

The protests

"In 2011, the Mumbai-based social activist Anna Hazare went on a hunger strike for several days, kick-starting a massive campaign against corruption. That became our focal point. We also saw a big example of this last winter after the Delhi rape incident. Thousands of young people took to the streets in the bitter cold. They were not led by a political party. They were protesting because they felt the government had failed, because the system was not working, because they didn't feel safe anymore."

The youth factor

"You try to see who the people at the forefront of these protests are and you realise it's mainly the youth. India has one of the largest numbers of young people in the world.

"They have become powerful because of social media - they connect with each other in seconds, get talking and come together. Their voices multiply and soon they are protesting both on the internet and the streets. This was the point that shaped my story."

The global effect

"Look at what happened in Tahrir Square - who are the people behind these protests? Everywhere you look, it is the youth rebelling. Such things will happen wherever and whenever young people believe that the government's priorities are wrong. This is an educated, informed demographic and it's becoming a global phenomenon."

The cast

"I have had the fortune of working with the best of the best. You develop an emotional relationship when you work with certain people. I like to work again and again with those actors with whom I share a high level of comfort. "Amitabh Bachchan, for instance. This is my second film with him. He is a tremendous actor and human being. He is so hungry for work, even at the age of 71. Every day that he comes on the set, he makes you feel as though it is his first. He is so focused, so well prepared. He is an inspiration for us all. Ajay [Devgn] is easy to communicate with. Arjun [Rampal] is so eager to try new things. I feel fortunate that these people believe in the stories I want to tell, that they want to be a part of them."

The box office

"I have made a commercial film, an emotional film. I understand that if I make a heavy film, it will not work. It has to be popular. I have to engage the audience. All they want is a good story. My language is popular cinema."

 

Satyagraha opens in UAE cinemas on Thursday

 

artslife@thenational.ae