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Reel Magic

After "Mian Maqbool" Vishal Bharadwaj is all set to direct "Mantra" produced by Shekhar Kapur, writes RADHIKA RAJAMANI

VISHAL BHARADWAJ may have begun as a music composer with Gulzar as mentor but his heart is now set on directing films. His debut venture Makdee (with Shabana Azmi as the witch and child artiste Shweta Prasad) won Shweta the National Award. Vishal was first noticed as director. He did not sit quiet and followed up with Mian Maqbool, an adaptation of Macbeth, which received rave reviews at international film festivals. Again people took note of Vishal - now his audience was wider. More importantly the screening of Mian Maqbool at Marrakesh festival got Vishal an admirer - Shekhar Kapur who immediately offered him a project to direct. Vishal is excited about this development (though it is not outwardly visible) in his life which till now was filled with melodious notes.

"This film, Mantra, will be the first production venture of Shekhar Kapur's production House (Shekhar Kapur Entertainment). It's too early to talk about it. But I can say it will be an entertainer - something like Harry Potter. Preity Zinta is the only actor decided upon," says Vishal.

When Shekhar Kapur saw Mian Maqbool "he came to me and said he had not seen this kind of cinema. He felt my sensibilities close to his kind of approach to cinema. Then he saw Makdee and liked it too. We became friends and roamed the streets of Marrakesh. Exchange of ideas followed. As we narrated, the idea of Mantra was floated by Shekhar and I suggested that it could be done in a particular way. And when he asked me to direct, I was completely flattered," reminisces Vishal. It will perhaps go on the ground mid next year. How was it spending time with Shekhar Kapur? "A creative bond developed. For many Shekhar is like God but he is down-to-earth."

"I do not want to be bound by genre. Makdee was a children's film. I wanted to do something on the underworld. Most films on the underworld end up being gang wars and the human element is left far behind. Macbeth is a great story, a timeless tale. It can be adapted to any genre anywhere. I have seen adaptations of the play by Polanski, and Orson Welles. I had the script of Mian Maqbool (written by Abbas Tyrewala and me) ready before Makdee. I placed the story in the contemporary format. There is some change in terms of interpretation," says Vishal.

He lined up an impressive star cast for Mian Maqbool. It boasts of Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Tabu, Irfan Khan and Pankaj Kapur. Shot in Bhopal and Mumbai for 50 days, Mian Maqbool has not yet been released in the domestic market (should be released in January 2004) although it has travelled to festivals in Toronto, Durban, Berlin and Marrakesh. Why did he choose to go international first? "Festival reviews make great impact on international sales. I got great reviews," says Vishal who has also scored the music for the film.

Vishal is passionate about cinema. "My sensibilities are developed by seeing world cinema - not Hollywood. I don't have much regard for Hollywood films. My learning ground has been Satyajit Ray. Also Gulzar," he adds.

Was it easy switching tracks? "If you are passionate about cinema one can do anything. If you are confident about your script one can always learn the technical aspects on the job. One should know one's abilities and not remain in fools' paradise.

Vishal has a few aces up his sleeve. He has a script (done by Abbas Tyrewala and him) based on a French Story Pas De Quatre - a mature love story. He has also bought the rights of Ruskin Bond's Blue Umbrella.

At the moment Vishal is firmly on the film track though he is welcome to compose music for anything extraordinary which comes his way. "I am planning another Sufi music album for my wife Rekha after Ishqa Ishqa."

Vishal met Amitabh Bachchan at Marrakesh and is happy to say "he came in search of me after Mian Maqbool's screening. He liked it." Would that mean he would want to direct Big B. "He is larger than life and a role has to be written for him. Maybe I will one day Insha Allah."

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