Madhur Bhandarkar: I jokingly told Kareena Kapoor that I had made ‘Chandni Bar’ on a budget smaller than what I spent on her clothes in ‘Heroine’ – Times of India


Madhur Bhandarkar’s ‘Chandni Bar’ not only gave the filmmaker a new lease of life but also went on to become a cult film in Bollywood. Today, as the film clocks 20 glorious years of release, ETimes exclusively got in touch with the ace director who opened up about choosing a challenging subject and making a film on his own terms at an early stage in his career, working with Tabu, and more. Excerpts…

‘Chandni Bar’ completes 20 years of release today. How do you look back at the film?
It really feels like yesterday; I can’t believe it has been 20 years. I am very happy that this was the film that brought me into mainstream cinema. It changed me as a filmmaker, storyteller, and, as a person. It is a labour of love of the many people involved with it. Although I debuted as a director with ‘Trishakti’, it was ‘Chandni Bar’ that brought about a paradigm shift in my career.

Did you think the film was a risky gamble at that time? What prompted you to go ahead with the film?
It was very risky. People even had a problem with the title of the film. Many thought it was very cheap, and a B-grade title. I researched the film for about six months. When I approached producers for it, they wanted me to put some item numbers in the film, which I didn’t want to. My first film did not work, so there was a lot of pressure on me, but I was hell-bent on making the film the way I wanted to. I made the movie on a very small budget. So much so, that I once jokingly told Kareena that I had made ‘Chandni Bar’ on a budget that was smaller than what I spent on her clothes in ‘Heroine’ (laughs).

I have been successful in creating a genre for my cinemas. People call me a topical, realistic, or even a hard-hitting filmmaker. I am happy that I was able to create a brand for myself through my films. I am thankful to everyone who has been a part of them, especially my audience, who has always been with me and encouraged me. I have done about 15 films in the last 20 years and those have been the films that I wanted to make. I have taken my time to make my movies and not succumbed to the pressure of coming up with a film every year. Whatever my career has been so far, ‘Chandni Bar’ has been a stepping stone for me.

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How did you get Tabu on board for the film?
I wrote the film keeping Tabu in mind. I didn’t know her personally back then. My producer knew her as she had worked with him in one of his earlier films. When ‘Chandni Bar’ came to me, I narrated the story to her and she was on board for it. She is definitely one of the most intelligent actors we have in Bollywood. Not getting bothered about the fact that my previous film was a failure, she believed in me as a filmmaker and the story. I am glad that I proved her right; I always tell her that it was she who gave me a foundation in the film industry. After ‘Trishakti’ bombed, my professional obituary was written. But after ‘Chandni Bar’, things changed for me, and here I am today.

Do you think the film would have enjoyed even more respect and praise had it been released in today’s time?
Most definitely, yes! A lot of people tell me that the kind of subjects I have touched upon with my films are all rich in content and would have worked wonders even today. Through ‘Chandni Bar 2’, I want to show people what happened after the dance bars were shut down.

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