You started as a chemical engineer. Why make films?
I was always passionate about and surrounded by an insane amount of cinema. In 1983, when I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, it was the first time I thought of film-making. The final push came in 1991, with Terminator II. I realised that movies can be fun, and that I want to make them for a living.
What research went into making your latest film, Lakshmi?
I met women in Andhra Pradesh, who were rescued sex-workers. As I learnt about their lives, their remarkable heroism fascinated me. Initially, I wanted to shoot a short-film on the subject, but then I came across one woman who had been kidnapped and forced into prostitution. She fought a hard legal battle in court to send her perpetrators to jail. This story became my central hook. I had to give it a fictional approach, however, because my subjects were never explicit about what happened to them. They found a comfort in ambiguity, which is why many never went to court. Through fiction, I could turn true accounts into a seamless story.
Are you apprehensive about the Censor Board tampering with it?
The Board could have a lot of problems with the film. But I will fight for its integrity. Lakshmi’s heroism would be irrelevant if I don’t take the audience down this road of the inhumanity and degradation she was subjected to.
Is there too much pressure for censorship on filmmakers?
This pressure has scared filmmakers to a questionable level. We’re second guessing our writing and our shooting. It’s sad how today a tool that was placed in the hands of the common citizen for the welfare of everyone, the pil, has become a monster. No matter what we do, someone has a problem. I beg the people to see things in context, to understand the essence of what’s being told.
Your films carry strong social messages. What one cause do you feel most strongly about ?
My intent is never to make such a film, but only to tell a good story. In doing so, if there is the space for a social message, I will deliver it. It is true that the horrors these women suffered inspired me, but I only made a film when I had a good story. True art is nothing but a reflection of our true passions. For me that would be gender equality. At some level or the other, we all have been victims. In my films, right from Hyderabad Blues to Lakshmi, I have tried to show strong women characters and gender equality.