In a session titled, ‘Badlands & the ‘Gender’’, filmmaker-producer-music director and singer Vishal Bhardwaj was in conversation with documentary filmmaker and writer Nasreen Munni Kabir to discuss the female characters in his films.
Kabir began the session by drawing attention to the fact that the filmmaker was also a singer and requested him to hum a few lines, which he did, much to the delight of the audience. Talking about his initial years and interest in poetry, Bhardwaj spoke about why he became a composer instead of a singer, saying that the latter would have required immense physical commitment from him, which he did not want to devote time to. “I was greedy for success, so I became a composer,” he said.
He narrated incidents that led him towards filmmaking saying that his work as a composer enabled him to keep a keen ear and develop a sense of rhythm, attributes that aided him immensely as a filmmaker. He said, “When an actor was not able to get the rhythm while acting or in speech, I used to catch them very quickly.
Speaking about the portrayal of women characters in his films, the filmmaker said, “In my family, I observed that women had more strength…and I found them more interesting to explore because in cinema…in the 1980s and 1990s, they were using women as props. In fact, till 7 Khoon Maaf (2011), producers would ask to cut the budget of a film by 30-40%, if there was a female protagonist.”
He took the enthralled audience through a journey of his works, experiences, his fascination with Shakespeare, his methodology as a director, offering insights of immense value to young filmmakers.
Kabir stressed on the way in which Bhardwaj’s use of language had changed the rules of how films were using language in cinema. Narrating his experiences in Uttar Pradesh, the filmmaker said, “Language has been my passion because of my poetry,” emphasizing on the fact that he embraced the language of the street. He also shared responses to his film Omkara (2006), where people got offended and quite scandalised on seeing their mainstream stars using cuss words from the hinterland.
Responding to a question from an audience member on the violence in his films, Bhardwaj said, “I think I am a gangster at heart… I try to find poetry in violence.”