Hansal Mehta talks about his Citylights and the pressure after winning the National Award
WITH last year’s critically-acclaimed film Shahid, director Hansal Mehta began a new chapter in his filmmaking career. The National Award that followed, firmly put aside memories of debacles such as Woodstock Villa. His less-acclaimed previous works include Chhal and Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar. Mehta speaks about his latest film Citylights, starring Rajkummar Rao, Patralekha and Manav Kaul:
What kind of impact has the National Award had on your life?
There are small discernable changes in perception, especially among peers and the industry. They realise that you have been recognised and that brings respectability. It got us, as a team, a certain amount of recognition. But that must convert into audience. So I am glad it came before the release of a special film like Citylights. You make one film in order to make the next.
Does that place greater expectations on Citylights?
It is scary. I try very hard not to be burdened by expectations. This is another film, another journey, but it’s made with the same sincerity as Shahid, with the same empathy, love and honesty. Frankly, I have seen failure for so many years that it has made me wary of expectations.
What made you connect to Citylights, which is a remake of Metro Manila?
I have not seen Metro Manila yet; none of us besides the casting director and writer has seen it. I used the adaption as the basis for my interpretation. I improvised. The decision was made on the basis of what I read. I felt that even while this is an adaptation, these are characters I could empathise with. Producer Mahesh Bhatt said three things to me: make the film fearlessly, with audacity and honesty. He has been an energy source.
How would you describe Citylights?
It’s about a family unit and their survival in the city. There is a thriller element that acts as a plot device to take the story forward. It’s an important film and an engaging tale of the times we live in. It asks you to look at the people all around you and find your story within them: those nameless, faceless people lining our streets. Rural-urban migration is true of all big cities in India and around the world. What Rajkummar’s character Deepak does is what is going to happen if you ignore them.
What’s next for you?
Writer and editor Apurva Asrani is working on a script, which I am hoping to get off the ground this year. Once again, it is a voice that is fading in the din of right-wing jubilation. When the boundaries are clearly defined your voice is distinct—I like that. It challenges me to see how fearless I can be.
Citylights is scheduled to release today.