Some days back I got to talk with Jatinder Mauhar, the director of upcoming Punajbi movie Sarsa who directed Mikka starring, Mitti, back in 2010. Where on one hand Punjabi cinema today is running after comedy stories, Jatinder Mauhar on the other hand is determined not to follow this trend and is trying to set a new mark. I had always wanted to talk to him and get his perception on these matters and know what goes on in his mind. So finally we met in a cafe house and had a brief chit chat.
Rane Sandhu: What is your perception of Movies?
Jatinder Mauhar: Well, movies are not just about laughter, tears and music. I believe that a film is one of the mediums of dialogue through which one can talk to the people, can initiate a conversation and a discussion. I firmly believe that content based subject can result in a good movie and that’s exactly what I’m trying to do.
Rane Sandhu: So content based movies are your choice of medium?
Jatinder Mauhar: Well, there are other dimensions to this. For example Mitti had songs, light moments, drama and most importantly the content which made it different from most of the other Punjabi movies.
For me entertainment is engagement. If Film engages you that’s the success of the maker and the film. It has to be there but it should be presented in an interesting way like our elders’ nighttime stories. We used to listen their stories with much interest even the horrifying ones.
I strongly believe anything which is presented in an interesting way will appeal to the audience for sure.
Rane Sandhu: So is there any comedy in Sarsa?
Jatinder Mauhar: There is comedy in Sarsa but it’s not unwanted. It’s situational comedy, more of dark humor. I’m not against comedy but it should be sensible. But while making an issue based movie one should either concentrate on it properly, or should simply not make the movie about an issue. What I’m trying to say is that you can’t involve baseless comedy just for the sake of it and, that’s what we’ve tried to incorporate into Sasra. Another aspect is that in Sarsa you can’t predict what’s going to happen next. Otherwise most of the movies these days are downright predictable.
Rane Sandhu: Don’t you think it’s risky to make an issue based movie like Sarsa amidst all the comedy movies which seems to be like a trend?
Jatinder Mauhar: No. I would not consider it a risk. We’ve tried to do something good, something different.Everybody who watched Mitti, has appreciated the film but still it didn’t do good at box office. And I take the full responsibility as far as the creative aspects of movie goes, but not for marketing and distribution. As a team member of Mitti, I want to point-out the mistakes. The movie was released at wrong time and it wasn’t promoted well. Moreover the promos were misleading. Such mistakes could have been avoided. It’s not people who are to be blamed for not liking it. It’s us. It’s very easy to blame the audience for not liking the film. People always love to watch good movies. If they don’t like it there definitely is something wrong with the movie.
Rane Sandhu: That’s very courageous of you for taking the responsibility for Mitti’s not doing well.
Jatinder Mauhar: You see Rane, we are not here for just two movies. We are here to make movies that will be remembered in a long run. If you tell people not to watch such and such movie you need to give them an option to watch one as well. If you need to make people not watch senseless comedies, you have to give them many more sensible movies to choose from. So we have to keep on making good movies to create more options for the people to select. It’s not easy. It’s a learning process and I for one, know when to admit my mistakes. I’m here to make movies, lots of them and We will only succeed, if we’ll first have some downfalls. This is my learning process. I want to learn from my mistakes, and never repeat them.
Rane Sandhu: So you will be making issue oriented content based movies, and better every time?
Jatinder Mauhar: People love watching comedy movies these days because they don’t have any option. We don’t expect to change their taste with just two movies. It’s definitely going to take time. And not just me, we have to work hard with full dedication. Our generation has to put on a lot of effort to make that happen. We need to make issue based movies regularly for the next ten years at least to make a change so that our next generation has a good option in front of them. So, yes. I will be doing this surely and I will keep making content based movies. In fact, there are other people, some very intelligent ones who are making such movies for example Daljit Ami and Rajeev Sharma and I just feel happy about that. Even you guys at punjabiportal.com are a part of the equation. In more ways than one, you are also contributing towards good cinema.
Jatinder Mauhar supporting www.punjabiportal.com
Rane Sandhu: Thanks for that. One major question: I personally don’t feel comfortable while watching movie with abusive slangs in it. Many people say it’s normal and it’s how the youth of today speaks. But, I find it hard to swallow. Nobody at my place speaks such language. I’ve never come across this much of abusive slangs throughout my life as much I have in last 2 years in our Punjabi films. So, on that note I personally felt bad about the over usage of abusive Language in Mitti. Why did you incorporate such a language in Mitti?
Jatinder Mauhar: I came from a village with a lot of restlessness. I thought the characters in Mitti will speak like that. May be I was wrong. I don’t say I’m perfect but I definitely didn’t do it with negative intentions. I did what I thought was right for the movie because I was trying to be honest with my characters. But, in Sarsa I’ve taken care not to make the language sound so crude. There are some characters though, that live in such an environment that their language is not refined. But, I’ve tried to control it this time.
Rane Sandhu: Okay, I will come back to you on that after watching Sarsa then. So, Why Gul panag?
Jatinder Mauhar: When the script was ready and we started looking for characters. The only female lead that came to my mind for the character of ‘Beant Kaur’ in the movie was Gul Panag. Our character has this attitude. She has cut down her hair and she rides a Bullet. And, Gul has all these features in her real life. That simply says it. I just wanted her in the movie and the film was actually delayed as Gul didn’t have dates available and I didn’t want to do it with anyone else. She is very professional and follows your directions without any objections.
Rane Sandhu: I think everyone must be wondering if Sarsa is based on real events?
Jatinder Mauhar: It is not based on real events, we’ve taken references from the incidents occurred in our surroundings, you’ll be able to draw parallels with the real life incidents, but it is a fiction. I felt the need to talk about political upheavals that are surrounding Punjab at present times. No one is ready to talk about it openly but we need to discuss the matter. Honestly speaking I’m worried about the current situations in Punjab and what they might lead to in future. And it’s not just about student politics. It gives an idea of what student politics may result into. And one more thing that Sarsa is not based on Punjab University, Chandigarh’s elections. We’ve used PU just as a backdrop. Student politics is based on general idea of politics that youth get involved in while studying.
Rane Sandhu: And why the name Sarsa then?
Jatinder Mauhar: Sarsa is a tributary of the Satluj. When Guru Gobind Singh left the fort of Anandpur Sahib, Sarsa was flooded. Many of the texts they were carrying became victim of flood and Guru’s family got divided in two parts. The incident is known as Parivar Vichohra (separation of family members). Over the period of time Sarsa has became a metaphor which got invoked on any decisive moment. We say that Sarsa is always difficult to cross. The tributary has become almost non-existence but metaphor is very much alive
Rane Sandhu: Thanks Jatinder Ji for your time. Anything you wish to say at last?
Jatinder Mauhar: Thank you Rane for this interview for Punjabiportal. At the end I would say that we should make movies that leave mark on audience. People should remember the film if not for the life time at least for 2-3 years. When they leave the theaters they should be able to carry your film back along with them. It should be in the form of continues dialogue. (2034)