Thursday, October 7, 2010

Had tears in my eyes when I heard cheers: Prasoon Joshi

The build-up to the Commonwealth Games  was riddled with controversies ranging from financial corruption to foot-overbridge collapse. Many of those the involved in the Games were often asked by "well-wishers'' to disassociate themselves from the event.
But well-known Bollywood lyricist Prasoon Joshi and film director Shyam Benegal who were involved in the conceptualizing and planning of the opening ceremony are glad they didn't quit midway and that their hard work paid off. Joshi is also helping out with the closing ceremony.

"Some people advised me to leave but the idea was to stay put and make it better. In fact, we didn't have time for more than one full dress-rehearsal. That was my only frustration. I had tears in my eyes when I heard the cheers during the opening ceremony. Those who had earlier advised me to leave took their words back and congratulated me,'' says an elated Joshi.

The creative brief for the project was clear: the diversity and complexity of India. "More often than not, a country is an image. That's not true for India. Ours is probably the most diverse country in the world. It is recognizable as multiple images, and also as an image outside of those presented. Yet, we are a single nation, which is amazing,'' says Benegal, who directed arthouse classics such as Ankur and Nishant besides creating the celebrated television series, Bharat Ek Khoj.

"We had the railways, the hawkers, the coolies, the rickshawwallahs. We tried to recreate both the order and chaos of India. We could've gone hi-tech but we didn't. China is hi-tech. We're hi-touch. We're a tactile nation. It was all about touching lives, bonding,'' says Joshi.

Both Joshi and Benegal worked for free. "There was no question of charging. Bharatbala, of course, was paid because we nominated him to a professional position: creative director,'' says Benegal. Joshi offers a similar view. "I was very clear from the very beginning that I won't charge. It's a matter of national pride,'' says Joshi.

The theme song of the Games composed by AR Rahman came under severe criticism from all quarters. But Joshi, who has written songs for well-known films such as Rang De Basanti, says he wasn't really involved in specific projects. "Given a chance, I would've loved to write the song. But I felt too conscious asking for something like that,'' he confesses.

Benegal, who is currently in the city, is looking forward to the swimming and athletics events at the Games. "Everyone seems to be happy with the Games. Some people are complaining that there isn't enough attendance for the events. I'll have to see for myself,'' he says.

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