New Delhi: The trailer for Vivek Agnihotri's 'Hate Story', which is releasing on the 20th April, has generated a deafening buzz and grabbed quite a few eyeballs owing to its unabashedly bold content. We posed a few questions to him regarding the movie and here's his take..
Q: From the trailer one gets the idea that Hate Story is essentially a revenge story of a woman who uses her body as a weapon to inflict pain upon those who scarred her once. Is it a very conscious effort at making a pro feminist statement?
A: I wouldn't say that there was a conscious effort to make a pro feminist film. In fact this is the first time this term has come up in my point of reference. The effort was to make a film about the power of woman. We wanted to probe as to what happens if a woman uses her biggest weakness as her biggest strength. Hence everyone is finding it bold. You will be surprised to know that it's the men who are getting shocked , not the women. Because somewhere in their DNA they have this idea.
Q: The basic plot of a docile yet successful woman using her sexuality to exact revenge on the people who blemished her once, bears an allusion to the cult hindi film Khoon Bhari Maang. Did you have that film in the back of your mind anytime while conceiving the script for Hate Story?
A: No. Never. But yes, I thought about Yashji's 'Trishul' many times. As 'Hate Story' is also set in the corporate world.
Q: Did you experience any run-in with the censors? Do you think the censor board has become much lenient, less intrusive and more mature of late? Do you, as a film-maker, think that the censor board shouldn't come in the way of a director's creative expression ?
A: My personal judgement is that it has opened up and become more mature in the last few years. We had problems with TV promos but that's reasonable enough as TV has a very open audience universe. I am sure 'Hate Story' will have no issues as we are asking for an (A) certificate.
Q: The use of sexual content , violence and expletives have increased in recent times to such an extent that it has almost become a trend . Has it contributed in enhancing the realistic element of recent films to strike a chord with the audience or does it’s usage only translate to shock value or is it a combination of both ?
A: Both. If you do an academic exercise you will find that most of the U certified films have more sexual and violent content than a lot of A certified films. Problem is that a semi naked hero surrounded by 30 white girls in bikinis is not considered sexual anymore. Cars blasting in the air, bashing up 100 villains is not considered violent anymore. When a woman says she wants to sleep with a man, we find it very bold.
Q: The amount of sexual content and violence in a film always raises the question that how much of it is enough, lest the film veers into exploitation and crass sensationalism territory . Your take on this?
A: When you use sex and violence just for titillation then it's like an item number. Meaning it has nothing to do with the story. Since, our cinema is an extension of variety shows. We like to put in little sex, little double meaning dialogues, a fight, an item number. Exactly like Indian food. That's why we call them 'Masala Films'. I do not subscribe to that kind of cinema. In 'Hate Story' you won't find even one frame extra than required in order to tell the story in a very engaging pace.
Q: Satyajit Ray once said, in the context of sexual freedom in cinema , that cinema is more effective when it suggests rather than shows. Do you think with changes in the social scenario of a country like India with time, that statement is no longer applicable since cinema in a way is a reflection of a country's social consciousness and accepted norms of morality of a particular time?
A: Yes and No. As Ray said, anything that is subtle and suggested will always evoke better response as the viewer is trying to comprehend the meaning of that particular dialogue, visual or the nuance of acting. When it's said in an on the face manner then there is nothing left for the viewer to imagine and nothing is more entertaining or pleasing than an imagination in the right direction. Ray mastered the craft of leading his viewers' imagination in the desired zone. If you do not understand the craft and the nuances of life and it's relationships, same thing will become weird. Our society has always catered to both. Crass and subtle. Our mythology, poetry, art and literature understood that we need both. But it was always 90% suggestive , 10% crass. Now it looks like its reversed. It’s not that our cinema is dishonest. It reflects the morality and social consciousness of the country. It’s also reflected in our parliament, on the streets.. ..at least films have censor.
Q: Do you think the making of trailers these days is a very specialized department since the unveiling of a trailer generates the maximum buzz for a film before its release and since it creates the first impression regarding what the film is going to be about ?
A: With the advent of Internet and social media the opinion building, which earlier lay with press and TV, now lies in the hands of ordinary people. Films are made and killed in people's perception.You don't get a second chance to create the first perception. That's why the first look determines where the film is heading in terms of business. In Hate Story we decided that we will be absolutely honest with the audience and show exactly how bold and different the film is, as its an erotic thriller – a new genre. We wanted people to know what to expect in an erotic thriller. We never knew that it will generate such response.
Q: Was the casting of Paoli Dam a very obvious decision based on her bold performance in the Bengali film Chatrak ? Do you think actors of regional cinema often gets typecast in Bollywood?
A: In fact we had signed her last April, a month before Chatrak's premier in Cannes. Even Paoli had not seen the film before that. So we had no clue about Chatrak but I knew about her Kaalbela. That one film alone will tell you that Paoli as an actress belongs to some other zone. Perhaps, one of the best actresses India has ever produced.
Q: In a patriarchal society where men are still seen as dominant over women and where men gets to make the rules and women are supposed to abide by them or get ostracised, do you think the audience will accept the portrayal of a confident, commanding, uninhibited and powerful woman fully conscious of her sexual powers and has no hesitation in using it to her advantage. Has the Indian audience matured enough according to you?
A: No, Indian audience hasn't matured enough. Hate Story is a little ahead of its times like all my work. But that doesn’t mean we don’t create such characters. The intense reactions are coming from men, not women. I personally liked the idea of a woman using her weakness- her body or her physical strength to her advantage in a conflict. That too in a corporate world where men assume that they know best. That's the best part of Hate Story.
Q: Do you think the violent reactions of men towards women in a society stems from the need to wield the power and authority over women which society places firmly on their shoulders and the insecurity which comes with the realization of how dependent they are on the women in their lives which serve as a contradiction to their idea of power and with this unpleasant realization comes the violent need to assert their authority over women as an attempt to re-assure themselves that they indeed are dominant?
A: Men are not providers anymore. That screws their self image. The DNA tells them that they are superior but the ground reality has changed. Women have liberated, changed towards more assertion and conviction. It's not that men became weaker. Since women changed, men relatively started looking weaker. That's the reason for much angst and physical violence towards women.
- It's good to be bad, says 'Hate Story' villain
- Sex not a marketing tool for 'Hate Story'
- Nudity in cinema: Are we being hypocrites?
- Bollywood: Controversy instant claim to fame