‘Great to begin at zero’

‘Great to begin at zero’

Pooja Bhatt believes in ruling everything that they tell her not to and this time it’s basketball, says Aparna Bhalla

You need to leave Mumbai regularly to keep your soul intact. Otherwise you just get caught up in its pace and you lose your conscience,” says the bold and audacious Pooja Bhatt, the first woman producer of Bollywood, who is now endorsing basketball. She was in the capital for the launch of The Delhi Hoopers, one of the teams of the 3×3 basketball tournament that will be held at The Great India Place Mall, Noida, on June 9 and 10. The winners of the tournament will get a chance to represent India at the FIBA.

How has cinema changed since the time you began and what is your take on women-centric films?

Whether it is my battle with alcohol, or whether it has been being an actor or a film-maker, I was always told that you have no business in either of them ever since I was 21 — and the industry was fairly male-dominated at that time. When I began   directing movies, people told me “tum acting karo na, why do you want to be like us?” I used to be like, excuse me? You tell me not to do it and I will put my foot into that box. Don’t tell me I can’t belong to that club because I will rule that club and jump over you and form my own club. That’s the way I am.

How did you hold on to your creativity in a hostile atmosphere?

Creativity is something that anybody who is remotely original has to guard very fiercely and passionately because people just want you to be run-of-the-mill. Whatever is new and people can’t put into a slot, they will dismiss. I remember when I had got Rahat Fateh Ali Khan  to sing Man ki lagan for my film Paap, experts in the movie industry said it wouldn’t work. Now look at the singer’s career. Our audience is far more evolved than we will ever be.

You were denounced for getting actors like Sunny Leone in the film business... How did you hold out?

I work for the people. They not only accepted Sunny but loved her work and gave her an eminent career. Apparently, it has never happened in the world ever before where an adult film star has made a mark for herself in  mainstream entertainment. It has not even happened in America which talks about being very modern and forward but is actually very conservative. I guess that  in itself was an answer for my critics.

What is your take on content-driven films?

We like everything glamorous and whatever makes a lot of money. It is rightly said, “Jo dikhta hai voh bikta hai.” We all understand that whether it is media, entertainment or newspapers, it is finally a business. So people make movies that they know the audience is going to watch.

But what is good now is that all kinds of stories are getting heard and seen thanks to a strengthened distribution network. Regional cinema like Marathi is packing some wonderful stories in tiny budgets and creating a far bigger impact. Even for that matter Tamil and Bengali films have amazing story-telling. I recently watched Srijit Mukherji’s Uma and it was beyond marvellous. Apart from the story of a father and daughter, it also celebrates the spirit of a city like Calcutta. Also, some time ago, I watched Secret Superstar and it was a gem of a film. But you do need a backing of Aamir Khan to tell a story like that.

Do you follow basketball and what has been your involvement with FIBA?

We live in an attention-deficient time when a sport like basketball has been made more concise and simpler to understand with 3BL which is a 10-minute high speed version. I am going to watch my first live basketball match today and I am looking forward to it. It gives me something new to immerse myself into. I think life begins when you constantly will yourself to unlearn and relearn and the process goes on. I have zero knowledge on basketball but I guess it is a great place to start with zero.

What has been your affiliation with the undermined sports of India?

It was one day that Ritvik (former number one squash player, owner of team Delhi Hoopers) visited us and he talked about how he wanted to open a squash institute. That dream became a reality. So slowly but surely, Munna (Munish Makhija,  former VJ and owner of team Delhi Hoopers) and him identified the land and collected the money or rather saved it and built the place without an architect. It was just local contractors, where we used people who built for the village really and got to do things our way. They have this beautiful institute now where there are not only kids from all over India who come from  privileged backgrounds but also from villages. Ritvik said I want to find the next champ from this village. That is the day I would have achieved something. I would have achieved something the day when I have an young adivasi kid becoming the next champion of India. Through squash and boxing, I then met Rohit (3BL, League Commissioner) who has a passion for basketball.

Basketball has not had conspicuous support, what is your take on that?

Like I said, Rohit himself plays and he said why are Indians not a part of this, why are we not staking our claim here? With his own resources, dignity and his entire being, he developed this format. What binds these people are the underdogs in a cricket-obsessed nation. You will be amazed  how kids naturally take to basketball in our country.



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