Even if I make a love story, people will only see politics in it: Prakash Jha.
MUMBAI : Prakash Jha makes his web series debut with Bobby Deol-starrer Aashram, which will begin streaming on MX Player from August 28.
“Please emphasise that as far as I am concerned, Aashram is the story of a criminal,” Prakash Jha lays out a disclaimer that his upcoming web series is neither based in reality, nor does it intend to hurt any religious sentiments. The trailer of the Bobby Deol-led series, which is about blind faith of people in godmen, has already gotten audience drawing real-life references.
This, however, is not new for Jha, whose films have always raked up debates and controversies for similarities with various social-political events in the country.
As Aashram gears up to stream on MX Player from this Friday, Prakash Jha talks to indianexpress.com about making his web series debut, navigating through consistent opposition to his films and why all artistes end up becoming negotiators.
Considering this is your web series debut, how was it like to develop a nine-part series?
It took some time. I was a bit stressed initially. The story was brought to me by the platform (MX Player). I liked its concept and structure. Then I started working with the writers. It grew from there. Everybody is thinking that it is based on this baba or that godman, but there is nothing like that. Aashram is actually the story of faith of people.
Because our spiritualism is so rich we usually kind of begin to believe in things. And then someone, who has nothing to do with spirituality or faith, jumps in. Basically criminals masquerading as godmen. They exploit people. So, this is not a story of any baba but a criminal. It is not about Hinduism, Islam or Christianity. It is about people going after such things. This guy is not from any religion because religion is something, which uplifts us.
Hinduism is great. There is a disclaimer that we respect all religions and gurus, but this story is about its aberration. Like in our villages, we have quacks who masquerade as doctors and give wrong medication to people. But people still queue up to consult them. So, this is what it is.
From the trailer, I found Bobby’s appearance similar to Osho and the aspect of exploitation of women bore a resemblance to the Asaram Bapu case. I am sure you are prepared for these comparisons.
There are no real incidents in the series. They are all conjectures. That baba says, “Mujhe apna tan, man, dhan arpan kardo.” So, he will exploit through money and other things. When he becomes more powerful, he will exploit through politics. And these aspects you will find in every leader. Whether it is industrial, political, spiritual leader or a social reformer.
Whosoever has power to influence people, they can easily turn exploitative. Those comparisons will always be there, but I am sticking to my story, characters, people and place.
Bobby in the role of a godman is such an interesting casting. How did that come about?
You are saying this today, but I saw him in this avatar way before. He was also surprised when I called him for this role. Then he kind of started getting into this character. It has all kinds of shades. It is a dream for any actor. He sunk his teeth into it and I am so happy that he is capable.
Your films have always spoken to the audience about their reality. Your image is of a filmmaker with social-political issues at the core of his storytelling. Have you ever felt the pressure of telling stories in a certain way to live up to that image?
There is nothing like that, but people always look from that lens. Even if I make a love story, people will see politics and society in it. But this is not me. I only look at stories around me, a lot of realities turning into stories. But that is a different thing. No matter what I do, people will find a political meaning to it. It is okay. I go with it.
In today climate in the country, is it easy to say…
(Interrupts) Define this climate first.
People take offence at the drop of a hat. If a cinematic story does not suit ones narrative then opposition is quick and expressed in the form of boycott calls or excessive trolling of the concerned artistes. There is a lot of nit-picking which I believe was less intense earlier.
Do you believe that such an atmosphere has been created where filmmakers are forced to self-censor?
This has existed forever in our country. Today, people have a tool using which they can say whatever they think. So, it all comes to fore through social media. Earlier, it was restricted, so opinions of people did not get attention. But debates, arguments, counter-arguments and opposition have always existed. I made a film years ago, Parinati (1989).