Live the reel life
The ensemble cast of Satyamev Jayate, John Abraham, Manoj Bajpai, Aisha Sharma and producer Bhushan Kumar, have taken up the cudgels against corruption, saysSaimi Sattar
I have never bribed and I will never bribe. I wanted a particular registration number for my new bike. The man told me that it would cost Rs 20,000 but he would give me a receipt only for Rs 15,000. He added that ‘you understand what the Rs 5,000 is for’. I said, ‘What do I understand? Give me a regular number at the just price or else I won’t take it.’ This was day before yesterday,” said actor John Abraham, dressed in a T-shirt which was emblazoned with ‘1972’ and a khaki trouser. That was how the actor used a real life incident to pitch for his new film Satyamev Jayate, which raises awareness against corruption.
Accompanied by co-actors Manoj Bajpai, debutante Aisha Sharma and the producer Bhushan Kumar,, the actor introduced the film: “There is everything — action, romance, drama, patriotism, suspense, basically everything that you would want. After a long time, one can see a credible commercial drama which is quintessential to Hindi films. It is a commercial film with a lot of structure and twists and turns. So what you see in the trailer is not actually what you get. It is a holiday entertainer.” The movie releases on Independence Day.
The name of the film is central to its ethos. Said Bhushan, “Nikkhil Advani and Milap Zaveri (the director) had given me some name options including this one which we did not have. When I heard the script, I realised that the power and the impact could not come from any other name. Aamir Khan was gracious enough to give the title of his TV show to us. When you see the film, you will realise that it is relevant.”
Manoj identified corruption and population as the biggest challenges in our country. “As a result of corruption, talent is relegated to the back and mediocre people rise to the top. The sad part is while every government talks about eliminating corruption, they themselves are enmeshed in it. We can make films, serials and plays to register our protests as artistes about the issue. But fact is between birth and death, everybody in this country has to face corruption.”
As often happens these days, this movie’s trailer too rubbed a community the wrong way. “The Shia community had filed a complaint against the trailer. But we take scenes from different places. So we showed them the entire movie and they withdrew the complaint,” said Kumar,.
Another notable aspect about the trailer is its emphasis on the fact that “religion has killed a lot of people.” Explaining the premise, John said, “The whole world is getting polarised against a particular community and in our minds the idea has got fixed that if there is something wrong then there is a particular community causing it. We should first get it out of our head and then only we can judge people rightly. If you communalise someone, then they become fringe elements which in turn means that you are yourself creating the terror.”
Manoj spoke from his personal experience. “When we aren’t sure of who we are, then we look at religion as this is the easiest place that one finds an identity. When I was 17 years old, I embarked on a pilgrim’s journey as a kanwaria. At that time I took out a procession from Sultanganj. I have some amazing memories of that celebratory time. But these are the ones that I would prefer to keep rather than the ones that I see in the newspapers these days. Which religion is mine? Certainly not the one where people are making it a subject of ridicule by their actions.”
John also expressed concern over women’s safety in India. “People get offended when someone from outside says that India is not safe for women. I also feel bad, but this is the truth. So instead of feeling bad, one should do something and make a safe place for women. I feel like slapping that man who subjects a woman to his gaze.”
More than the content, there is one more controversy that the movie was plagued with, that of it clashing with the release of the Akshay Kumar,-starrer Gold, one which could have commercial implications. But John sounded positive. “From a commercial point of view both films on the same workday make commercial sense. If we came solo on some other day, our collections would have been less.”
Asked whether the movie was justifying playing judge and jury by individuals which in today’s world of mob lynching was not a great idea, John said, “Films are symbolic of what is happening in the society. But that doesn’t mean you emulate everything that you see in the movie. If you see a romantic couple on screen dancing on the road, you don’t do that in real life. If I am tearing a tyre or if I am breaking the door of a jeep to get out, it is not to show my strength but to show the frustration of the society,” he said, giving the example of Amitabh Bachchan who played an angry, young man as symbolic of our society at that time. He added, “So Satyamev Jayate is a very inspirational film. What I must credit my producer Bhushan Kumar,, Nikkhil Advani and also Milap Zaveri is that they have addressed these issues in a commercial manner. So what they are saying is, ‘go watch the movie, and enjoy it as people don’t want a docu drama.’”
There was much curiosity about the success of its song, Dilbar, picturised on Nora Fatehi and which has had four million plus views. The first line is taken from a song which was filmed on Sushmita Sen in the 1999 movie, Sirf Tum. Said Bhushan Kumar, of this reprisal, “The song is not a remix but a recreation which takes longer than creating a new song. In a remix, all you need to do is put a beat but this has been recomposed. The recreation is tough and you have to be accurate if you are recreating an iconic song.” He also pointed out that they had recently recreated Dil Chori Saada Ho Gaya in Sonu Ke Titu ki Sweety, adding, “The sound, singer and shooting are different from the first version. We give people what they want.”
The cast, of course, learnt a lot about each other during the shoot. For newbie Aisha Sharma, working with John and Manoj in her very first outing was a learning experience. “I learnt different things from both of them as they are a study in contrasts. From Manoj sir I learnt you can take your craft seriously but you don’t have to take yourself seriously. From John, I learnt that despite being a huge star, one can be humble on the sets.”
Manoj on the other hand said, “John can pull your leg very politely and you would not even come to know about it. It has happened a lot of times, especially in the movie.”
John had this to say about his co-actor: “Manoj comes across as a very serious character, a person with whom you can’t mess around but he is the funniest person that I know. He is one of the best actors in India or even the world but he feels that there should not be negative energy on the sets.”
Incidentally John the producer had offered Manoj a comedy script on the sets of Indian Idol, a night before. But there is one thing about John that Manoj does not like. “On Nikkhil Advani’s birthday he refused to take even a bite of the cake. I also diet but I cheat once a day,” he said. Aisha, on the other hand, laughed and said that what she didn’t like was that they ganged up against her and pulled her leg.
Soon the focus shifted to John and his penchant for a shirtless scene in every movie. Displaying his funny bone, he immediately retorted, “I feel hot, so I take off my shirt,” and added, “The producers demand it. Nikkhil Advani told me that I have given you money, for God’s sake take off your shirt.” And the room erupted in laughter. On this happy note they decided to sign off.
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