JP Dutta: We have become a passive nation
The storyteller in JP Dutta is frustrated that people are not interested in knowing what goes on at the border; as he revisits his favourite subject with Paltan, he talks about the stories that touch him and the tussle with Abhishek Bachchan
Over a decade after his last Bollywood outing, the Abhishek Bachchan-Aishwarya Rai starter Umrao Jaan (2006), JP Dutta is back on the scene with Paltan. The veteran filmmaker is synonymous with war sagas, which include LOC Kargil (2003), Refugee (2000) and Border (1997). At his office at Four Bungalows, Andheri, there are tomes about the world's biggest battles fought over the ages. He studied history, so he considers himself a historian, who considers cinema as a medium to tell the real story. "It's frustrating that most of us are not proud of our country. That national pride is lacking. We should be aware that we have been plundered for generations. We were never the aggressor. We have become a passive nation."
Dutta's obsession with war-based films is because "these stories touch me the most. People need to know about what goes on at the country's borders and the valour and sacrifices of the army folk." Paltan is based on the Indo-China skirmish in 1967, in which India emerged triumphant. The clashes at Nathu La and Chog La along the Sikkim border was for the control of Sikkim. He says, "This was a proper war as the two countries knew what they were fighting for, unlike the 1962 war, which was an act of terror. Those were the days of Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai, but they took us unawares. The Chinese army burnt bonfires to distract us and slipped into our land to wreak havoc."
Dutta has been in constant touch with the army and concerned authorities for the research and permissions required. He says, "It took me two and a half years to get the nod. I wanted it to he factually correct."
About his long absence from the scene, he says, "I had begun work on a film, which I shot in Switzerland, Italy and Rajasthan. It was in 2008 when there was an economic crises worldwide. The film studio cut my budget to 45 per cent. They pulled the carpet from below my feet. I am a passionate filmmaker and did not want to compromise. I told them our creator is also our destroyer. I had conceived the project and was also ending it." There was also a personal loss, when his dad (OP Dutta) passed away. "He used to write the dialogues for my films."
Dutta is also known to shoot most of his films in Rajasthan, which include Ghulami, Batwara and Border. "I am known as Jaipur Dutta. I like to shoot in stark landscapes. Someone referred to me as the filmmaker who shoots in naked landscapes like in deserts and mountains. It is in the nothingness that you feel close to God." Paltan, which stars Arjun Rampal, Sonu Sood, Luv Sinha, among others has Dutta's daughter Nidhi looking after the production. "Luckily, there were no hiccups even though we shot at high altitudes."
About present day Bollywood, the veteran filmmaker says, "I belong to the generation when actors were men, there was Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor, Vinod Khanna and the
heroines were women like Meena Kumari and Nutan. Today's actors, Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan, are boys. The heroines are girls. But then, things change." Dutta is already planning his next. "It could be a war film, something that touches me and everyone should know about," he concludes.
No comeback for Bindiya
JP Dutta's actor wife, Bindiya Goswami, has no intentions of facing the camera again. "They say once an actor, always an actor. But he has entrusted the production aspects and costume styling to me.
So I have enough on my hands, it's time consuming. There is no time to act," said Goswami, who acted in the '70s and '80s, and is best remembered for films like Basu Chatterjee's Khatta Meetha (1977), Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Golmaal (1979) and Ramesh Sippy's Shaan (1980).
On Junior Bachchan walking out of Paltan
Abhishek Bachchan had been cast by JP Dutta in Paltan, but at the last-minute, when the unit had reached Ladakh for the shoot, he decided to opt out. It led to a controversy as Dutta was taken by surprise and was left shell-shocked by the actor's sudden decision. The filmmaker and Abhishek go back a long way. Junior B had made his B-Town debut in Refugee (2000), which was directed by Dutta.
JP Dutta and Abhishek Bachchan
Sparks flew between Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek on the set of Umrao Jaan (2006), which was also Dutta's movie. When asked about the Bachchan episode, Dutta says, "We have an old association. I am his mentor, I launched him in Refugee. It was his decision. I am not a robot, I have emotions too. He never got back to me, but we have to respect each other. Let's maintain the status quo. But you need to ask the Bachchans about it."
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