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Dreamer and creator

He is not in awe of Hollywood and admires L.K. Advani. He craves for Kashmir and avoids politics. Read on to know more about Vidhu Vinod Chopra and his latest film "Munna Bhai M.B.B.S"


SUCH IS his longing for Kashmir that when he sees a slim, sharp-featured and fair scribe, with a typical Kashmiri look, he enquires impatiently "Are you a Kashmiri?" "No," the reply is unconcerned; "Oh!" he says, seemingly downhearted.

"Yes! I crave for Kashmir, for the beauty that it was, for the peace that it had. My Kashmir days were like a dream. I tried to give expression to it in Mission Kashmir. That's why the film begins with a dream and ends with it. I am sure that the Kashmir of my dream will soon be realised!"

And that's why Vidhu Vinod Chopra visits his homeland every year. Only recently, he took a delegation of ministers and film producers to Kashmir and introduced them to the splendour of this "heaven on earth", as Begum Noorjahan had put it once. "I have met Shiela Dikshitji also for this cause," he says.

"It was ideal growing up there." Vidhu is never tired of speaking of those good old days. "When we were small, we would go to both temples and Hazrat Bal for prayers. For us, there was no distinction." And still Vidhu's home in Mumbai boasts of Kashmiri curtains, woodwork, furniture and food.

Talking to him about Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. feels like waking him up in the middle of a dream. Though he is the producer of this film, he has entrusted the responsibility of directing it to Rajkumar Hirani, his long-time friend and editor of Mission Kashmir who has also made promos of Kareeb. This is Hirani's debut film as a director. The film, that establishes the importance of love and care over medicine and advocates a warm hug as a remedy for complicated ailments, interestingly springs from Vidhu's hug to Hirani when he loved the promos of Kareeb after rejecting it earlier, reveals Hirani.

Recounts Vidhu, "though both of us wrote a major part of the story together, I did not intervene in the direction at all. I did not go to the sets even once, as I knew for even one camera angle or shot, people would have looked at me to get reassured if it was right, rather than taking commands from Hirani." And Vidhu is happy with the result. "It is very beautiful and simple. I admit that I wouldn't have been able to make it this way."

And we know his type of films: a mix of fact and fiction. His very first film, Murder on Monkey Hill, a documentary made during his student days won the National Award for the best short experimental film and the Guru Dutt Memorial Award for Best Student Film in 1978. This film was based on a murder in a lane called Monkey Hill that falls between Mumbai and Pune. Vidhu had won an award worth Rs.5000 from the Government, but the cheque was encashable only after seven years. "I was shocked to know that I would get this money seven years later. So I decided to oppose this." When he went to receive this cheque on stage from L. K. Advani, who was then the Union Information and Broadcasting Minister, he asked him: "What is the use of this cheque after seven years when I need money now? After seven years I will be a millionaire, then I won't need this money." People on the dais asked him to come later, but he refused to budge. "I told Advaniji that I wouldn't go down unless he changed this rule. I kept standing. I told him that I spent money to buy a new shirt for Rs.120 and trousers to meet him." Advani found his case genuine. And four days later, he himself gave me Rs.5000 and changed the rule too."

Vidhu is all praise for Advani. "He is a man of principle, so I like him a lot." And the Deputy Prime Minister reciprocates the compliment. He does not miss even one film made by Vidhu! Prod Vidhu to know if he likes his politics too, and his bias for a community, and he immediately parries the question. "I am not qualified to make any statement on this. But I hate politics otherwise."

With equal quickness he avoids questions about his forthcoming film, Yagna and an English language thriller based on chess, titled Move 5 too. "I will talk about them three months later."

Though he has joined hands with Hollywood's Bobby Newyer and Jeff Silver of Outlaw Productions to direct this English film, he is not all praise for Hollywood films. "There are some donkeys in India who copy from Hollywood movies, but I am not among them. I can never be impressed with a Hollywood film," he declares.

He is not impressed with acting either, though he acted in Murder on Monkey Hill, because, "actors are puppets in the hands of directors and producers. Creating is more exciting and authoritative".

In his case, yes!

RANA SIDDIQUI

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