In an exclusive interview with DawnNews, acclaimed Bollywood film director and producer - most recently of Aashiqui 2 fame - Mahesh Bhatt talks about his expectation from Arth 2, the evolution, or lack thereof, of the Indian film industry and his concerns for daughter Alia Bhatt.
On being protective of daughter Alia
Bhatt’s daughter, Alia, has made a name for herself as a leading lady in the Indian film industry since her debut in Karan Johar's romantic drama Student of the Year.
Speaking about what she has achieved thus far, he says that he takes pride in her success and knows that she has been able to come this far because of her determination to make a name for herself in the family.
"At 21 years old, Alia has achieved what it took me 40-50 years to do – had 4 successful films in a row. She has proved repeatedly that she is a talented actress."
|Alia Bhatt (L) with Mahesh Bhatt (R)
It is clear that Bhatt considers himself a father first, before being a filmmaker or a producer, and his paternal concern for Alia is always present.
"My experience with the entertainment industry taught me that it worships success, and will not forgive an unsuccessful man. I fear that she has achieved too much success too soon and too young. I tell her it is her misfortune. I fear that she may fall, because failure is inevitable."
However, he says that he sees a determination and resilience in her eyes that makes it clear to him that she can weather any storm, and is capable of reinventing herself - a trait that according to him is a prerequisite for longevity in this field.
He emphasises that he sees a greater depth in his daughter at her young age than he lacked even at 40 years old, a trend that he feels is shared by her entire generation.
"Today’s young Pakistan, India, even the entire globe, is miles ahead of my generation and we have to gracefully accept it. We should advise them, but also concede that through them, life is telling us something about itself and we should listen. We should not burden them with our old ways of thinking, and we should let them lead us now."
On Shaan's remake of Arth
Bhatt spoke very positively about the Pakistani film industry, and when asked about his opinion on Arth 2, said he felt very pleased that Shaan Shahid has chosen one of his classic films for a remake.
“Shaan sahib is remaking a film that I started my career with, and that makes me very happy. I am very keen to see how he will interpret it. Every filmmaker has his own worldview, and he has complete freedom to reinterpret it however he wishes.”
|Poster of Arth 2. – File photo
He discredited rumours stating that he was against the idea of his work being re-made, saying he doesn't believe that the film or it's legacy will be tampered with.
"In no way do I feel that it will taint my work, on the contrary I take the fact that he thinks my film is worthy of a remake as a sign of respect."
He thinks it is too early to say whether Arth 2 will be more popular than his original, because there will always be a difference in opinion and the sentiments of the older and younger generation.
"There is a danger in interpreting the classic works because an audience will have a tendency to compare, saying ‘The original was better, this lacks what it had’ but I feel that is usually the older generation talking. I know the new generation will see it differently, because most of them have not even seen the original and will not compare the two."
He states he is looking forward to seeing how Shaan will make Arth his own, and is interested in coming to Pakistan to see the film once it is released.
On the growth of the Pakistani cinema industry
Bhatt sees a bright future for Pakistani filmmakers and was all praises for Shoaib Mansoor, appreciating both of his films, Khuda Kay Liye and Bol.
|Shoaib Mansoor (L) with Mahesh Bhatt (R).-Photo Courtesy Mahesh Bhatt's official Twitter account
“He [Mansoor] has a unique strength as a filmmaker. The fearlessness with which he presents social issues is unmatched by any of our people in the industry. Khuda Kay Liye redefined the reference point of Pakistani cinema, and even the harshest critics in India concede that his work is admirable and they were pleasantly surprised by it.”
Bhatt feels that the Indian audience will only learn about Pakistani films when they will be able to go see them in their local cinemas. he highlights that this will unfortunately be difficult because the Indian exhibition sector is extremely competitive and even local films have to struggle to get release dates.
“Until and unless Pakistan makes a sensational film, it is highly unlikely that an Indian exhibitor would show any interest,” shared Bhatt.
Talking about the blockbuster film, Waar, Bhatt said that even though he hadn’t seen it, he wasn’t surprised at its thunderous success.
"I heard about Waar, about how well made it was. It did not surprise me because I feel there are a lot of talented people in Pakistan who have not got an opportunity to show what they are made of."
He is hopeful that with new talent coming in and more opportunities being created, Pakistan will reach the same position held by the Indian entertainment industry.
How the Opening Day defines an industry
Though the Indian entertainment industry might have evolved in a technological aspect, he strongly feels that they lack the depth in terms of content and themes, which was present in the industry of yore.
"21st century cinema is successful, yes, and a lot of commercially successful films have been made, but a film like Arth, or Zakhm, that touches the heart of the viewer, is missing now.That depth is missing in the stories penned by the screenwriters,” reckons Bhatt.
|Mahesh Bhatt. - Photo Courtesy Mahesh Bhatt's official Twitter account
He explains that the industry has become all about the marketing game, with people only eyeing the “opening weekend,” leading to a decline in soul-stirring films such as Gangster and Aashiqui being made.
"The film business is like a parachute. If there is a problem with its opening, then you’re done. So people play it safe, and don’t experiment enough and the andaaz of old is lost now."
He strongly believes that playing by the numbers has redefined the standards of creativity in the industry for the worse.“A fearful artist will always be a mediocre one.”
Creativity and critical acclaim are no longer precursors for success in the Indian film industry, according to Bhatt, with the current trend being that the films that perform well at the box office are the ones that are generally panned by the critics, and even talked down by the very people who flock to the cinemas to see them.
"The lifetime business I can expect from my film City Lights was exceeded by the opening day business my daughter’s [Pooja Bhatt's] film Jism did. It is the very films that people say should not be seen that do well now."
Mahesh Bhatt started his directorial career in the 1970s, and after a few missteps rose to fame and critical acclaim with films like Arth, Lahu Ke Do Rang, Saaransh, Janam, Aashiqui and Zakhm.
Upon turning 50, he hung up his director's megaphone and started his own production company 'Vihesh Films' with his brother Mukesh Bhatt. Many of the films he has since produced have been commercially successful, despite their small budgets, and the production house is considered one of the most lucrative in the industry.