Some of his acclaimed films — Arth (1982) and Zakhm (1999) — have been semi-autobiographical in nature. Audiences can anticipate another glimpse into Mahesh Bhatt’s life in his next, starring Vidya Balan, Emraan Hashmi and Rajkumar Rao - Humari Adhuri Kahani.
Months before the release of the film, Bhatt is gearing up to bring out a novel, titled All That Could Have Been, based on the film’s script. This is a first for him and his production house. Bhatt takes us through his journey in films and writing.
Will releasing the book ahead of the movie affect the business of the film in any way?
Absolutely not; these are two different mediums. Often, people read Doctor Zhivago or Doctor No before watching the respective movies. Cinema is an immersive medium, while book-reading is a more personal experience. You convert images as you read, and although on surface, there maybe similarities, both will be two distinct experiences.
This is the first time that you are working with Vidya Balan.
She is the most important actor in the project. Emraan is important, too, but since the narrative unfolds from the woman’s perspective, I needed a woman with a certain degree of Indianness.
Was the book always part of the plan?
No, it happened over the course of writing (the screenplay). The essence of the story is rooted in the memories of my step-mother, who had to deal with an unavailable husband (Bhatt’s father; Nanabhai Bhatt). The climax of the film is set in Kolkata during Durga Puja. I worked with a young writer, Suhrita Sengupta, to get the essence right. She wrote the scene in the form of a chapter, and that’s when we decided to turn the entire screenplay into a more detailed novel.
You have been writing scripts and screenplays since the ’80s. How have you adapted to changing times?
Writing for screen has been rejuvenating with changing times. At our production house, we have always churned out new kinds of content. With the advent of social media, smartphones and so on, the attention span of the audience has dwindled. So, we need to make more fiercely engaging work. In fact, fiction has undergone a change as well, and is now rooted in the contemporary scene.
Since some of your work has been autobiographical in nature [films like Arth (1982), Woh Lamhe (2006)], is there an autobiography in the pipeline?
Yes, there’s a memoir that I am working on with Suhrita. But before that, four of my previous works —Arth (1982), Saaransh (1984), Zakhm (1998) and Janam (1985) — will be converted into novels. All of them will be released by April next year. The books will delve more into the personal memories that didn’t make it in the films’ scripts. I believe books go places where films cannot. Thus, with these books, I will go into more intimate spaces than I could have earlier.