Mumbai, March 24 (IANS) Acclaimed filmmaker Prakash Jha says he decided to contest the parliamentary poll on the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) ticket from Bihar as Chief Minister Nitish Kumar didn't field him despite being friends.
'I had to look for an alternative and procure a candidacy from a party that was credible. (LJP chief) Ram Vilas Paswan follows an ideology that's acceptable to both the majority and minority communities,' Jha told IANS in an interview.
'However, I won't oppose Nitish Kumar for any good that he does for Bihar.'
The filmmaker, who is known for his hard-hitting potboilers set in Bihar, also said that his becoming a politician would not compromise his cinema.
'Cinema is an extension of my politics. Active politics won't hamper my cinema,' said the man with such films as 'Mrityudand', 'GangaaJal' and 'Damul' to his credit. He is the LJP candidate from West Champaran.
Q: How will you balance politics with cinema?
A: I've been doing it for years now. I've been working at the grassroots of Bihar even while I was making films earlier. Why should that change now? I wanted a legitimate political position so I could have access to resources for development. God willing, if I win I'll be able to do a lot more for Bihar. Parliamentary recognition gives access to a lot more resources.
Q: Your alliance with Ram Vilas Paswan is being seen as a betrayal of Nitish Kumar.
A: Yes, Nitish Kumar and I were friends. We both felt Bihar needed a change and I actively campaigned for him during the last elections. I tried to influence him on policies that would change Bihar, like employment generation, industry. But please note I had never joined Nitish Kumar's party, never even seen his office. I did definitely express my desire to contest elections.
Q: You mean you wanted an election ticket from Nitish Kumar's party?
A: Yes, I did. Unfortunately, it didn't work out. So I had to look for an alternative and procure a candidacy from a party that was credible. Ram Vilas Paswan follows an ideology that's acceptable to both the majority and minority communities. That's the kind of party I want to be associated with.
Q: Do you think Nitish Kumar has let Bihar down?
A: Time will tell. But in terms of development, real development which comes from processes of wealth generation... there, I think Bihar has faltered. I don't see that happening. Yes, there have been a lot of changes in the social infrastructure. But if the Bihar government says there's been a change in the law and order situation, that's also because of the will of the common people.
Q: You've been accused of obtaining land at subsidized rates due to your friendship with Nitish Kumar.
A: That's absolute rubbish. Every protocol and process of allotment were followed. The honourable courts threw out the case against us. We've paid the maximum and fullest price for the land. I hardly got any help from the government that is supposed to favour me. If they did, we'd have been able to build and open those establishments that were supposed to come up on that allotted land. After investing so much money in it, I'm losing money every day. But I'm determined to see those projects to a finish.
Q: Lalu Prasad's brother-in-law Sadhu Yadav says that after making a savage critique of the Lalu regime 'GangaaJal', you've joined hands with him.
A: That's his interpretation of the situation. I find it a waste of time to respond to Sadhu Yadav. 'GangaaJal' was not a critique on any government. It was a critique on the society that prevailed in Bihar. Lalu Prasad's government didn't fall because of 'GangaaJal'.
Q: How is your rapport with Lalu Prasad?
A: We share a pleasant rapport. History will remember Lalu Prasad for many things, including social equality. My film 'Damul' was about that.
Q: Shatrughan Sinha thinks your problem was which party not to contest election from?
A: Choosing a party was never a problem. Like I said I was willing to contest from Nitish Kumar's party.
Q: You've worked relentlessly for the betterment of Bihar?
A: Maybe that worked against me. In politics, you seldom welcome formidable companions to grow.
Q: Was it a blow for you when Nitish Kumar turned you down?
A: Not at all. I have to stand on my own feet. If Nitish Kumar didn't allow me to contest the elections, it's because he thought I wouldn't be able to help him. I've been associated with social work and movies for 30 years. I wouldn't have survived this long if I was not doing quality work. The fact that several political parties were trying to get me to accept their ticket proves I'm politically useful. The choice wasn't difficult. However, I won't oppose Nitish Kumar for any good that he does for Bihar.
Q: Will your induction into active politics hamper the fiercely political nature of your cinema?
A: Never. Cinema is an extension of my politics. Active politics won't hamper my cinema. My new film, 'Rajneeti', is fiercely political. Interestingly, it's about the fall of a government and the ensuing elections. Strange that I should be fighting elections while I'm making a movie on it.
(Subhash K. Jha can be contacted at email@example.com)