Who’s the Bakra?
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Janaki Vishwanathan's passion for addressing social issues dictates the subject of her first Hindi film, Bakrapur.
For years, filmmaker Janaki Vishwanathan has made movies on topics that have driven her. Her debut film Kutty (2001) in Tamil, which won two National awards, focuses on child labour. Kanavu Meipada Vendum (2004), her second film, also in Tamil, which toured various film festivals across the world, showcases the plight of devadasi women. "You have got to have your heart in the right place and with each film try and push the envelope," she says.
Even though her third is a Hindi film, the director has chosen not to succumb to the demands of commercial cinema and instead addressed a subject that is topical and nationally relevant. Bakrapur, a social satire, focuses on the herd mentality of Indians. "At the primary level, it dwells on the relationship between eight-year-old Zulfi and his pet goat. It is also a take on the complex belief systems and superstitions in our society and the conflicts thereof," says the filmmaker. In order to make it appealing to a younger crowd, Vishwanathan has the goat as one of the main protagonists in the film. Bakrapur stars Anshuman Jha, Asif Basra, Amit Sial, Utkarsh Majumdar, Faiz Mohammed, Suruchi Aulakh and Yoshika Verma.
Even though she has a slew of awards to her credit, Vishwanathan does not believe in riding on their laurels to churn out one film after another. She instead spaces out the films, focusing her time and energy on the research and preparation of each one. "Winning awards isn't the ultimate goal nor does it put pressure on me. But it does make people sit up and take notice of my work in all its detail," she says.
While this is Vishwanathan's first attempt at making a Hindi film, she believes that cinema speaks a universal language. Hence, one needs to know the language of cinema to present it to the viewers. She chose satire to convey her message because in her opinion, it works best for the topic. "In the past, several films have used satire as a tool — Peepli Live, Welcome to Sajjanpur, Phas Gaya Re Obama and Jolly LLB," says the filmmaker. She also cites instances of films by Raj Kapoor, such as Jaagte Raho and Mera Naam Joker, which used symbolism to portray a particular issue.