Filmmaker Nagraj Manjule discusses working with Amitabh Bachchan in ‘Jhund’, which releases this Friday

Filmmaker Nagraj Manjule discusses working with Amitabh Bachchan in ‘Jhund’, which releases this Friday

Nagraj Manjule’s  Sairat broke records at the box office by becoming highest grossing Marathi film, earning ₹ 100 crore. His earlier work,  Fandry, stunned conventional industry banners with its story, treatment and actors. In 2011, his film  Pistulya won him a National Award.
An outsider, Manjule, made an indisputable mark on the Marathi film industry. He discusses making his first Hindi film  Jhund with veteran Amitabh Bachchan over a video call. Excerpts from an edited interview.

Sairat broke records in the Marathi film industry. What made you switch to Bollywood? 

The producers had approached me. At the time, we were promoting Sairat. They had a story in their mind and they wanted to make a movie with Amitabh Bachchan as the lead. For me, working with Bachchan sir was a big thing. But I took two-three months to understand the story and explore the idea. It involved self-reflection: I asked myself whether I can do it, and whether I should do it. After I had spent considerable time on this story, we decided to meet Bachchan sir.

Nagraj Manjule with Amitabh Bachchan

Nagraj Manjule with Amitabh Bachchan
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Was Amitabh Bachchan the original choice? 

When it came to me, the idea was to cast Bachchan sir. It wasn’t that we finalised on him after completing the story. Producers too were keen. When we narrated the story to him, he liked it. He took some time, then told me to complete the script. I worked on it, took the draft to him, and he said yes.

Had he seen your work before that meeting? 

Yes, he had seen Sairat. Maybe he loved it and that is why he agreed to work on  Jhund. I have been a fan of his since my childhood. As a child, I used to imagine two friends: Lord Krishna and Bachchan sir. He is so professional and a director’s actor. He would come on time, discuss creative issues, bear the delays, guide us. Though many of the talent on set had never faced a camera before, he was patient and never refused a retake. Working with him was a joy.

Promos of Jhund feature a rebellious group of young people. How did you find these actors? 

I chose my cast as per the need of the story. My brother was stationed in Nagpur for over two months, roaming thorough by-lanes and slums of that city, meeting kids, and taking photographs with permission. He sent those to me, and we discussed and finalised the actors from there.

Like with my previous work, a majority of these actors are on screen for the first time. We worked with about 35 youngsters, and they all stayed with me in Pune for over a year. I rehearsed and did workshops with them. I feel it is sometimes better to break the circle, look for talent outside and give them a chance.

Nagraj Manjule

Nagraj Manjule
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

What is the major difference between Hindi and Marathi industries? 

The only difference is the scale. Films do not change because of the language; film itself is a language.

What are your expectations from Jhund?

Bachchan sir’s presence makes it a big film. The pandemic delayed its release. But that is ok. The entire world was suffering so I don’t want to cry about it. We had problems apart from Covid too, but we overcame them. The release itself is a victory for me.

What is your ultimate goal as a director?

I could never fulfill my dreams; I wanted to be a driver or conductor. Then I wanted to become a professor. I never wanted to become a director nor did I want people to know me. I don’t dream big. I prefer to take things as they come.

A mountaineer sees Everest as his dream hike. I don’t see any such prize here. Someone may want to win the Oscar and there is nothing wrong with it. But I don’t understand how should one work aiming at the Oscar. Instead of longing for a prize, I enjoy the love I get through my present work. That is more satisfying.



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