June 2002 Contents
Super Achievers & Success
at Every Alien Door'
Raja Bundela - believing in 'Meaningful
Cinema' by Sanjeeb Mukherjee A couple of years ago Raja Bundela made a quiet exit
from television and films. Now, after a self imposed hiatus, the
actor-producer is back as a director with his new film, ‘Pratha’, that
disturbingly lays bare the exploitations of a young girl in the name of
Raja Bundela - believing in 'Meaningful Cinema'
A couple of years ago Raja Bundela made a quiet exit from television and films. Now, after a self imposed hiatus, the actor-producer is back as a director with his new film, ‘Pratha’, that disturbingly lays bare the exploitations of a young girl in the name of religion…
Back in the arclights after a self-imposed hibernation, Bundela, a National School of Drama graduate who had had done character roles in films and had a string of hits on TV, is back in reckoning and debuts as a director with his new full length feature film, Pratha, a movie that lays bare the religious exploitation of a young girl in a backward village bereft of education. The film is based on a real life event in a small village near Jhansi and explores the dubious practice of designating a girl as a reincarnated deity with the specific purpose of exploiting her physically and mentally.
The theme captured Bundela’s attention after he accidentally read the story on the cover of a popular Hindi magazine a few years back. It frames the story of a young and a beautiful girl Leela in love with her husband, Deepak, son of the local landlord. Before their marriage can be consummated, Deepak’s uncle abetted by the local priest Ninni Maharaj, proclaims her to be the re-incarnation of Choksi, the local deity and imprisons her in the village temple.
To pursue their own vested interests, local politician and the police join up to cash in on public sentiment. Hailed as the Goddess, Leela is worshipped by the villagers. Her dreams of a contented married life with her husband are completely shattered as a caucus of criminals seek to abuse a young helpless girl under the cover of religion. It is then that her husband rebels against the prevailing superstition and fights the oppressors.
The moral of the story is brought home using a normal commercial format with songs and dance. Says Bundela, " I was not too keen on making a grim film, so I chose the middle-path, making a movie with a message in a completely commercial format".
Though not expecting to make a fortune with his very first venture, Bundela would be more than satisfied if the strong social message that he wants to convey registers with the audience. "I have made a low-budget film with no star cast and will be releasing it in select theatres where people are likely to understand the concept. And I feel that I will recover my investment."
The choice of some unknown faces, apart from lowering overall costs, were necessary to deal with the special subject matter. Big stars would have been misfits in the roles, besides being unable to keep to the stringent start-to-finish schedule.
Set in a predominantly rural background, the film’s classy feel certainly dispels any concern of both the director and most actors being first timers. Obliquely skeptical about the dramatic ending of the film, Bundela is convinced that no other end would have done justice to the concept.
Going by the promos, the film-maker seems to have made a sincere effort. Bundela, who has always been a virulent critic of the new-wave cinema, says that his film is a response to those who feel that meaningful cinema cannot be made in an entertaining and commercial format. " This divide between parallel cinema and commercial films has deprived this industry of many great artists and directors. It is only in the last few years that the line is beginning to blur," says Bundela.
Meaningful cinema may be his forte, however, Bundela is not averse to venturing into formula films. His next Hindi film, Kartoot has Jackie Shroff, Karisma Kapoor and Tabu.
Raja is also venturing into another area that is very close to his heart---the production of regional films such as Kisne Bharmaya Mere Lakhan Ko in his mother tongue--- Bundelkhandi dialect. "As I belong to Bundelkhand, the region obviously has a special space in my heart."
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