The generational oppression that women have faced makes him “feel guilty” as a man, says filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj, who believes it is his duty as a storyteller to speak up against injustice whether it is political or social.
Right from the beginning, Bhardwaj’s stories have featured women with agency, be it Tabu in Maqbool, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Konkona Sensharma in Omkara, Priyanka Chopra Jonas in 7 Khoon Maaf, or Sanya Malhotra and Radhika Madan in Pataakha.
The filmmaker is making his streaming debut with Charlie Chopra & The Mystery of Solang Valley, a web series that revolves around the titular female detective. Bhardwaj hopes to develop a franchise around the character.
“We have oppressed females as a gender for thousands of years and I feel guilty for that as a man… Thank God we evolved as a society, there were laws, but we didn’t change in India too much from the inside. Even in films, she remained a mother, sister, and wife, she didn’t have her own agency. As a filmmaker, you don’t have a gender, you are just there to speak (up) against injustice, which can be political, social, and within yourself. A filmmaker is a rebel and a journalist, it is his duty to do these things with entertainment. So, maybe this thing must have played in my subconscious (mind) that I came up with strong female characters,” Bhardwaj told PTI in an interview.
The National Award winner said while strong women characters come naturally to him when he writes, he has to make an effort to create “good male characters” to secure finances.
“Otherwise, they don’t give you money on female-oriented things,” he said, adding that now there are women actors who have changed the landscape of the film industry.
“…Like Tabu, Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, they have created their own niche. They are bringing money like superstars,” he said.
Headlined by Jubilee star Wamiqa Gabbi, the SonyLIV series Charlie Chopra & The Mystery of Solang Valley is the official adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel, The Sittaford Mystery.
There is no trick when it comes to bringing a book to screen, said the 58-year-old director, who has adapted William Shakespeare’s tragedies Macbeth, Othello, and Hamlet into critically acclaimed movies. He has also turned Ruskin Bond’s stories into films with The Blue Umbrella and 7 Khoon Maaf.
“It’s just that you have to be ahead of the audience all the time, that’s the only trick. Like, if there’s something good in the book, which is pulling back the narration, then you have to drop it. You have to be very cold-hearted when it comes to work.
“This is what I’ve experienced in creative people including myself: when we get obsessed with something, we become very narrow-minded, we don’t see beyond. That’s also important because if you don’t see that then you don’t do something extraordinary.”
Initially, Bhardwaj was supposed to adapt Salman Rushdie’s Booker Prize-winning novel Midnight’s Children for Netflix but that fell through.
“‘Midnight’s Children’ is a beautiful book. Salman Rushdie is a great author and he was happy with my adaptation. This was in 2019. I was doing it for Netflix but unfortunately, something happened, the plug was pulled and I couldn’t make it. My heart was broken,” the filmmaker said.