At 73, the veteran director Shyam Benegal is one of the most enthusiastic people around. His new film, Welcome To Sajjanpur is ready for release this Friday, and the director clearly loves talking about it.
But when Patcy N went to meet him, the great director was running late. He needed to wrap up this interview quickly, as he had to be home in time to pick up his wife, and take her to watch the films, Tahaan and A Wednesday, back-to-back.
Benegal still squeezed in time to talk about Welcome to Sajjanpur, as well as his favourite films and directors these days.
Is it true that you have an item number in Welcome To Sajjanpur?
I have songs and dances. You can call them item numbers if you like but they are not. They are a part of the fabric of the movie.
After Mandi, this will be your second comedy. How come a comedy at this stage? Did you want a break after the seriousness of Bose? What is the film about?
This is not my second comedy but the third. First, there was Charandas Chor (1974), then Mandi (1982) and now, Welcome to Sajjanpur.
I am doing a comedy after a long time. There has been comic situations in most of my films but this is the first film where I have comedy all the way.
I had a good subject for a comedy, that's why I am doing one. Also, it's a romantic comedy, so that's a nice combination. It also has satire. It has politics and many sub-angles.
Welcome to Sajjanpur is a story set in today's Indian village. A village, which is remote but not isolated. It is connected by way of cell phones and television.
But the remoteness is emphasised because of the low level of literacy, like in most parts of India. So the educated people in that village can make a living as a letter-writer.
This is the basis of the film as well as the comedy in the film.
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