Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri gets candid about his much-delayed feature film and student politics
After a wait of nearly two years, Buddha In A Traffic Jam will finally premiere in theatres this May. The film, a political satire
starring Anupam Kher, Mahi Gill, Pallavi Joshi and Arunodhay Singh, by Mumbai-based director Vivek Agnihotri, is a hard-hitting campaign to strengthen the power of young entrepreneurs of India and create awareness against corruption. In a free-wheeling conversation, 47-year-old Agnihotri tells us more about the film, the idea behind it and why the project is so special to him.
Why the two-year delay in releasing the movie?
When we announced the movie, people were very excited. But since the movie is anti-intellectual and exposes
the nexus between NGOs, communists, naxals, intellectuals, academia and
media — there was a lot of resistance to its release. But a few like-minded people got together and are now making the release possible.
What really initiated the movie.
I am a commercial filmmaker, but I’m not cut off from politics. I was part of student politics. I used to do workshops on creative thinking for leadership and, in one of the workshops in ISB, Hyderabad, students came up and told me that they wanted to make a documentary on the naxal issue. I said (in December 2011), why not make a feature film so it reaches a wider audience.
Will the masses accept this movie which is different from mainstream cinema?
This is not a mass movie. This will be appreciated by those who have been affected by corruption, poverty, etc. I thought it will never get a release and so started taking it to universities. Then crowds started showing a lot of interest and endorsing it.
Tell us about the movie.
It is an autobiographical film. The story is about me. When I came out of college I was a naxal, I used to be involved in strikes and burning buses. The film has become like a documentary—it feels like I have shot it in JNU, where I studied, and you can see a Kanhaiya in the film. In corporate jargon, anyone with an idea or an enlightening person is a Buddha. But the reason you can’t become Buddha is because we are stuck within a traffic jam of the system and its establishment.
Tell us about your wife, Pallavi Joshi, being a part of this film.
Initially, she was more focussed on bringing up our kids, who are 12 and 11 years now. But since the movie’s release was pushed, she got the time she needed with the kids and now has taken up other projects. She will be part of a serial now.
What’s your next project?
I have two scripts ready. I have adapted a radio play, called 12 Angry Men. It’s a world classic. The other one is on the Bofors and Emergency period. I am yet to decide which one to make first.The movie releases on May 6.
— Nandini Kumar