John Mathew Matthan, one of the eminent directors of Bollywood best known for making Sarfarosh in 1999, believes in speaking on his mind on various issues including governance. He likes Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s working style as it is pro-poor that eventually leads to welfare of the downtrodden. He told Organiser that all decisions taken by Shri Modiji are in the interest of the country. “I am not a Hindu but I am a believer and follower of Hindutva,” says the filmmaker. Excerpts from an exclusive interview with Matthan by Anita Choudhary on the sidelines of the recently concluded India International Film Festival in Goa. Excerpts:
Sarfarosh was a patriotic movie and its story is still relevant in the present Indo- Pakistan stand-off. What is your view on this?
The relations between India and Pakistan are never going to improve as Pakistan’s birth was on the basis of religion. In fact, Pakistan survives only on the basis of religious politics. Unfortunately, it is adopting the same approach towards India as it was doing earlier. When I made Sarfarosh in 1999, I discovered that many Pakistanis live in India as agents.
What was the inspiration to make Sarfarosh and what kind of challenges you faced?
The inspiration was India’s peculiar situation during that time. As a Mumbai-based ad film maker, I used to travel to different parts of the country. These work-related travels gave me quite a few idea of our diverse country. My Delhi visits were very frequent. One day when I reached Delhi, I was surprised to see the fearful atmosphere prevalent there. I decided then to make a film. I quit my job because I wanted to live the story of Sarfarosh. It was necessary to give the perfect feel to this film. I spent a couple of months at the Jaisalmer border to understand the situation. I found that many Pakistani agents were living in the border areas under the pretext of cultural exchange. The hurdles and challenges I faced during Sarfarosh were due to the Central Board of Film Certification which wanted to cut dialogues and scenes related to ISI, terrorism and Pakistan. Fortunately, senior BJP leader the late Sushama Swarajji supported me and the film finally got released in theatres.
There is an impression that Bollywood is against PM Narendra Modi. What’s is your take on this?
It’s only a section of Bollywood which is opposing Modiji. We all know that the present dispensation at the Centre is nationalistic; there is no doubt that it is a patriotic government. Those who are opposing the Central Government are Left leaning individuals. They want the whole world to listen to them and this is the best time to get publicity.
What is your view about film personalities like veteran lyricist Javed Akhtar who is critical of various issues?
Javed Akhtar is a Left-leaning poet like his father-in-law the late Kaifi Azmi. Even Shabana Azmi, his wife, is a Leftist. All of them believe in the Communist ideology. However, Communalism has vanished globally. Akhtar should also come to terms with the fact that the Leftist ideology is non-existent. The truth is that Communalism created lot of bloodshed worldwide. This ideology is now on a ventilator especially after dissolution of the Soviet Union.