'Black & White' criticism puzzles Subhash Ghai

Mar 13, 2008 Subhash K Jha

Mumbai, March 13 (IANS) Bollywood showman Subhash Ghai is puzzled with reports that more than "The Devil's Own", his recent release "Black & White" seems to replicate Joseph Costelo's "The War Within", where a closet terrorist arrives in New York, befriends a benign Muslim family and plans to blow up the Grand Central.

"I've not heard of 'The War Within'. In 'Devil's Own', the terrorist succeeds in his mission. In 'Black & White', the point is we need to kill terrorism, not terrorists. That really touched me," Ghai told IANS.

The film, about a terrorist, who comes to Chandni Chowk to blow up the Red Fort on Aug 15, is a well-made film. One of the unique aspects of "Black & White" is the casting of veteran stage actor Habib Tanvir.

"Casting for the part of the young terrorist (played by debutant Anuraag Sinha) and for this wise old man of Chandni Chowk was very tough. I got Habib saab to play a man who sheltered Hindus in his home during Partition. Eventually, he sold all his property for a pittance."

Ghai says Habib Tanvir was reluctant to work in his movie.

"Finding the right actor with a specific heritage, culture, personality and face was really tough. I didn't want to cast anybody stereotypical. Even Dilip Kumar wouldn't have worked. My casting agent suggested Habib Tanvir. He was reluctant to begin with me. He wondered what he'd do in a Subhash Ghai film! I told Habib saab, 'Subhash Ghai has gone crazy. He wants to make an unusual film.' When he heard me out, he loved my subject and my command over Urdu."

The film also has Anil Kapoor, who has given a stellar performance.

Some bitter reviews, however, have left Ghai undeterred.

"They aren't angry with my film. They're angry with Subhash Ghai because I have not made a typical 'masala' movie. When I was doing that, I was told, 'You've opened an acting school, so now make a sensible film.'

"Now that I've made a sensible film, they're wondering what has happened to Subhash Ghai. They're judging Subhash Ghai, not the film. I had a story that I needed to tell at this point of my career. I'm not demoralised by reviews. The world has torn Jesus and Gandhi to shreds. Who am I? Today, even artist M.F. Husain isn't in our country. These brickbats don't matter to me."

Ghai reminisces about the ups and downs in his career.

"According to critics, I came down with a thud in 1982 when 'Krodhi' didn't work after two hits, 'Kalicharan' and 'Vishwanath'. Then I made three hits - 'Vidhaata', 'Karz' and 'Hero'. Then when 'Trimurti' didn't work in 1993, the critics wrote that Ghai had lost his magic. I bounced back with 'Khalnayak', 'Pardes' and 'Taal'. Then the moment, 'Yaadein' opened badly they decided to write me off on Friday itself."

Ghai says that too many channels and newspapers are responsible for this kind of reporting.

"Now I understand one thing. Today, there's a lot of change in the media. The hunger for news today drives the media to extremes. Abhishek Bachchan-Aishwarya Rai getting married peacefully isn't news, but some crazy girl barging into a wedding claiming to be his wife is bigger news.

"In the 1980s, there were only six newspapers and one TV channel. The media is busy creating vertical rather than horizontal news. If 10 people of calibre have appreciated 'Black & White', why should I be bothered with five people who think a theme like terrorism is an occasion for them to be clever and cheeky with words?"

There's jubilation at Ghai's office.

"We're very happy with 'Black & White'. We are uncorking our own champagne and celebrating. Never mind the personal slant of the comments. Have they said anything nice about 'Jodhaa Akbar' or any other recent film? God bless them because even readers laugh at these opinionated critics.

"There're actors who are serious entertainers; the others are comedians. Some of our media commentators have become light entertainers. They're only interested in playing with words. They've the right to spoof my reviews, if it makes them happy."

Ghai says he was prompted by the world around him to make "Black & White".

"Music of a different Sufi kind has been used in 'Black & White'. Music has always been important in my films. 'Taal' was a full-on musical because it was about musicians. Although 'Karz' was a murder mystery, it was still formatted as a musical. In 'Black & White', there's no place for music. The protagonist doesn't like music. The music had to be the kind that the protagonist somehow had to tolerate.

"Anuraag Sinha's character had to go through a change. And music had to be a part of that change. The explosion finally happens within him rather than outside. I asked my composer Sukhvinder to give me a score without any disco or item songs. How many critics have noticed this?"

For those who think "Black & White" isn't Ghai's territory, the showman has an answer. "Tell me, haven't I made 'Jogger's Park' earlier? 'Black & White' was shot over a period of 40 days at Chandni Chowk at a cost of Rs.65 million. It's a profitable venture, no matter how we look at it."

Ghai is full of praise for debutant Anuraag, who got into the skin of his character.

"I'm happy for my hero. I really like that boy. He's a very good actor and a humble human being. He's an educated soft-spoken boy from a good family. Mumbai hasn't polluted him as yet. No matter what the fate of 'Black & White' is, I'll make another film with him."

He is optimistic to the core.

"My next film 'Main Yuvraaj' is a typical Subhash Ghai film. I've enjoyed big sets sounds and am moving with times. 'Main Yuvraaj' is ahead of its times. I'm lucky to have A.R. Rahman to compose the music. We're planning a Diwali release."

In "Main Yuvraaj", Ghai works with Salman Khan for the first time. Click the Movie button below for more info:
Black & White

Trisha Pictures


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