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Creating ripples with realism

Madhur Bhandarkar is passionately committed to making the kind of cinema he believes in. His ``Chandni Bar'' is one of the most talked-about films in recent times. Here the director discusses various aspects of the film with SUBHASH K. JHA.

Madhur Bhandarkar.

"CHANDNI BAR'' is a raw and realistic film on the life of club dancers in Mumbai. To Madhur Bhandarkar's relief the Hindi release of the new Kamal Haasan starrer ``Abhay'' had been postponed. ``I needed that space,'' Bhandarkar grins.

Where did you begin your movie making career?

I worked with Ram Gopal Varma for a long time. Then I ventured out on my own in 1997. I made a film, "Trishakti". That was a typical commercial film that I made for a company which wanted to see hard results.

Were you comfortable making this sort of an escapist film?

To be honest, I wasn't. But everybody advised me to play it safe in my first film.

So is ``Chandni Bar'' more your scene? Is it in any way inspired by Mira Nair's ``India Cabaret"?

Yes, ``Chandni Bar'' is definitely more my scene. But it isn't in any way inspired by Mira Nair's film on cabaret dancers. Though I have seen the director's ``Salaam Bombay'' and "Mississippi Masala"... brilliant films. I haven't seen ``India Cabaret". After the box-office failure of ``Trishakti'' I decided to make films the way I want to.

What you've tried to show is that these club dancers aren't prostitutes?

How can I make statements about their sexual activity? Sex is rampant in every walk of life. What I've tried to show in ``Chandni Bar'' is that bar dancing is a profession like any other. And that these girls deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

The bar girls are a peculiar Bombay phenomenon?

Yes, but their emotions will touch viewers in Chennai, Kolkata, Patna and Delhi. When I decided to make a film about the bar girls I wanted to make it as realistic as possible. ``Chandni Bar'' provides a ringside view of these bar girls' lives. I wanted to examine where they came from, what they want in life. To my amazement I discovered every dancer had her own story.

What did you do with all these stories?

If I went into all their lives I'd have to make a 100-episode serial. We shortlisted the characters and telescoped their lives into a plot about a girl who comes to Mumbai from a riot-affected area of U.P., with her uncle and finds employment in a beer bar. She falls into the hands of a pimp played by the "Jungle''actor Rajpal Yadav, gets married to a gangster played by National award winner Atul Kulkarni. The story covers her life from 1985 to 2000.

Did you shoot the film in an actual bar?

No I shot it on a set. How could I cover the changes that occurred within 15 years time span of my story if I shot on actual location?

And was Tabu your first choice for the central role?

Absolutely. She was my first and last choice. Tabu was co-operative to the fullestShe has interpreted her character exactly the way I wanted her to.

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