Mahesh Bhatt: Releasing Zakhm during NDA regime was a painful task!

The filmmaker is all set with his upcoming rural-urban migration story, City Lights starring Rajkummar Rao and directed by Hansal Mehta

Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt said he struggled hard to release his film Zakhm, which was based on communal tension between two communities, in 1998 when the BJP-led NDA was at the helm. The film depicted tension between two religions in contemporary society.

The movie is said to be closely based on Mahesh Bhatt’s own life, and it explores the relationship between Bhatt and his mother. “When I made Zakhm India had changed and (people) wanted non-gratifying films and wanted cinema that is of age. We had put in our own hard earned money for Zakhm. I know people kept calling me names,” Bhatt said at an event held for his upcoming film City Lights. “The NDA was in power at that time. I was told that I must be mad to make that film,” he said. “I had the toughest time to release that film. It took a lot of me to get it out there. The film was made with passion and we are glad that Ajay Devgn got a National award for it,” Bhatt said. Actors Ajay Devgn, Pooja Bhatt, Sonali Bendre, Kunal Khemu and Nagarjuna Akkineni starred in Zakhm.

The makers unveiled a 26-minute footage of City Lights at the event. City Lights is directed by Hansal Mehta and produced by Bhatt who came on board after he saw Mehta’s last directorial film Shahid. “We as a company wanted to break the mould and it was this feeling that was steering me. We delivered hit after hit. Vijay Singh (of Fox Star Studios) and I were returning from Dubai after Jannat promotion when I told him that we need to reinvent ourselves as we had generated the cinema that would bring numbers. I am glad Vijay understood my thirst,” Bhatt said. “I liked the work of Rajkummar Rao and director Hansal Mehta after seeing Shahid. If I had not seen this film then I would not have done City Lights. This film is not a festival film. It’s an Indian film, it has an Indian story, it has fragrance of our own people and it has songs in it. It is a very brave idea to make this film,” Bhatt said. He was all praises for Mehta for bringing in “new kind of cinema”. “He is making a new kind of cinema. What makes him (Hansal Mehta) deadly is that he has made a powerful film and you cannot dare him in this space. It is Patralekhaa (debutante), Hansal and Rajkummar who bring more value to our company. We have brand and infrastructure, we want to do concept-driven cinema,” the filmmaker said.

The film City Lights depicts the problem of rural-urban migration in the country and exploitation of such migrants in big cities. Fox Star Studio presents City Lights which is an Indian adaptation of British film Metro Manila. “The title City Lights suits the story line of the film. It will cater to urban and rural audiences. It is a film for every city in India,” Bhatt said. The film stars Rajkummar Rao and newcomer Patralekhaa in the lead.