A tribute to the filmmaker who passed away yesterday at the age of 62
I knew Jagmohan Mundhra after his 'soft porn' phase was over. This prolific filmmaker had a peculiar career. In the early part of his career, he made the hard-hitting film Kamla.
He then migrated to the US and made some soft porn films like Night Eyes, LA Goddess and Sexual Malice. He returned with thought-provoking films like Bawandar, Provoked and Shoot On Sight.
While making these brave films based on real people and incidents, he continued to churn out sub-standard thrillers like Apartment and Chase.
It's hard to calibrate the man's output. But to his credit he stood by his porn past.
He told me, "I consider myself first and foremost a storyteller. Whatever story I have chosen to tell, I must tell it with conviction. If it has shades of blue, you can't tell it effectively by shying away from sex and nudity."
Much later in his career, Mundhra got fascinated with true-life characters.
Shoot On Sight was the story of a 55-year-old Muslim cop in Britain. Said Mundhra, "After the terrorist bombings happened in England, the cop's loyalties... to the law-enforcement agencies in Britain were questioned.
The character was modelled on a real-life cop." Jagmohan wanted Amitabh Bachchan to play the role. Unfortunately, that didn't happen and he signed Naseeruddin Shah instead.
He was keen on making a film on Sonia Gandhi, but was stymied by 'red tape'. "I love going into lives that have struggled. At times the struggle is not so successful. This was the case with the character that Nandita Das played in Bawandar," Mundhra had said.
Provoked was based on the true story of battered wife Kiranjit Ahluwalia. She had co-written a book that Mundhra found wasn't giving the film the right perspective. So he got writer Carl Austen in. "We picked out episodes and lines from the book that were really shocking."
The director worked so hard on Provoked that he fell ill in the middle of the schedule. "But I've started looking after myself now.
I've finally discovered my metier as a moviemaker. I feel like I'm just starting out," he said. Alas, Mundhra never regained his good health. Now he's gone � just when he was planning a couple of new films.