India Lockdown: Director Madhur Bhandarkar's new film brings to life tales from COVID-19 lockdown

With critically-acclaimed films like Page 3, Fashion, Traffic Signal, Heroine, Indu Sarkar, and more, multiple National Awards-winning filmmaker, Madhur Bhandarkar’s movies have always been steeped in reality. Be it capturing the heady world of modelling and film industry in Fashion and Heroine respectively, or using the 1975 Emergency as the backdrop to churn out a political thriller like Indu Sarkar, Madhur has always managed to bring to celluloid real-life happenings.

And, now, he has started shooting for his another slice-of-life film titled India Lockdown. As the name suggests, the movie is premised around the coronavirus-induced lockdown, and how it affected people from different walks of life.

Speaking about the movie, Madhur says he observed the contrasting pictures that fascinated him to weave a story around it. “On one hand, some people found it as a much-needed pause to restore and reconnect with themselves, and their loved ones. On the other hand, there were people, who were finding their ground, economic and emotional stability, felt devastated. For some, it was a dark phase that did not offer any hope! Isn’t it a fascinating contrast and a drama worth giving a cinematic vision?” shares Madhur. While the filmmaker has been tight-lipped about the narrative, the cast features Prateik Babbar, Sai Tamhankar, Shweta Basu Prasad, Prakash Belawadi, Aahana Kumra, Zarin Shihab and Ayeesha Aimen.

Madhur has, in the past, collaborated with celebrated actors like Tabu, Konkona Sen Sharma, Bipasha Basu, Priyanka Chopra, Kangana Ranaut, Kareena Kapoor Khan and many others. What is his parameter of casting an actor for a particular film? “I am more of a storyteller than a proposal filmmaker who will go to producer with an idea and cast, and say if we bring these stars to the project, we can capture one section of the audience. I need a strong, skilled actor who can bring to life my vision, and my story,” he added.

Madhur says when it comes to casting for his films, he looks at whether the actor is a perfect fit for the character and the movie. “When I cast an actor, I look for the movie’s character in that person, and not how the star can bring the audience to the theatre. Perhaps, that is why if you look at most of my films and the cast, it is a combination of stars and great actors. I have also teamed up with actors who were relatively new when they worked with me — be it Konkona in Page 3, Kunal (Kemmu) in Traffic Signal, or Kirti Kulhari in Indu Sarkar. She is renowned now, but back then she too was relatively new. Yes, Tabu is the star in Chandni Bar, but Atul (Kulkarni) is such a brilliant actor! We must not forget that.”

Making his directorial debut with the film Trishakti in 1999, Madhur bagged three National Film Awards for Chandni Bar, Page 3, Traffic Signal that positioned him as one of the most celebrated filmmakers of Indian cinema. However, with corporatisation and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that affected the economy, the business of cinema has changed. The whole process of theatrical release of a film, counting on box office numbers and recovering the invested money in a project has completely changed.

Does the change put extra pressure on Madhur to deliver a commercial hit? “I think I am one of those who can make a film on a limited budget, and that is why the chances of recovering the cost of the film are higher. Yes, the business of cinema is changing, and OTT is surely adding life to every film. But when I work on a story, I don’t calculate the business part, but look at the creative execution. If my story is the product, I have to make it well, a well-made product then can be marketed well,” Madhur signed off.

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