Actor Neetu Chandra is ready for the release of her second production Mithila Makhaan, a National Award-winning Maithili film. She had earlier produced Deswa, a Bhojpuri film in 2011. We caught up with her for a freewheeling chat about the struggles of making a regional film.
If you remember there was a devastating flood in 2008 in Bihar, especially Mithilanchal. Many organisations were helping the affected and hundreds of people came from outside. So, my brother Nitin (Chandra, director) thought that why can’t there be an indigenous system, so that the local population could get employment. He wanted to create jobs.
My production house is called Champaran Talkies because Mahatama Gandhi started his crusade from there. He had already assisted Dibakar Banerjee and Tanuja Chandra and then he chose to go for localized filmmaking.
Kranti Prakash Jha (MS Dhoni, Raktanchal) had worked with us in Deswa and we had a good tuning. That film had gone to 37 film festivals and was also showcased at IFFI in the Indian Panaroma. Then Anurita, Pankaj (Jha) and many other actors came on board.
At one point while making Deswa, we had thought of not doing this anymore but then it was about a revolution. And ultimately, it’s about your own house. We shot in sub-zero temperature in Canada and 45 degree in Bihar. So it was indeed difficult.
Bihar’s image was mostly formed due to films and that’s why only films can change that. We intend to make films in all five dialects of Bihar—Bhojpuri, Maithili, Maghi, Vajjika and Angika.
No OTT platforms wanted to take a film from Bihar even if won the National Award, so we decided to open our own platform called bejod.in (laughs).
Mithila Makhaan is a clean film and that’s why we have so many reputed singers and artistes like Sonu Nigam, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shrya Ghosal, Swanand Kirkire have come with us. We also have songs by Udit Narayan and Hariharan.
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The meaning of entertainment has been changed lately in films coming out of Bihar, but we are determined to stay away from cheap content. We want to attract educated people, Bihari living outside the state and the general audience that wants to enjoy quality content.
‘Sab log Bhagat Singh chahte hain, lekin padosi ke ghar me.’ It had to be started. It’s only us who can’t see our local films with family. A society also dies with its language. I was surprised to see that even in a place like Darbhanga, people preferred to talk in Hindi and not Maithili. Whenever I go to my village, I speak in Bhojpuri, people look at me with shock.
Being A Sportsperson
I am a black belt 4 dan in taekwondo and I represented India when I was in class 9. I represented Bihar seven times at the national level. Won four gold medals and three silvers. I am also associated with NBA India for basketball promotions. Even during my sports days, other states wanted me to represent them but I was too attached to my roots, I guess. Even now, when I have made LA my base, I keep travelling to different places. I could never forget those Patliputra colony fields or Notre Dame or cycling near the governor house or running at Rajendra Nagar stadium.
I was born and brought up in Patna within a large family of 32 people. My father had come from Dumraon. There is a contribution from everyone in my life. I am like liquid with them. I am still connected to my teachers. For graduation, I joined Delhi University’s IP college.
Road To Bollywood
I was friends with Madhu Sarkar, filmmaker Pradeep Sarkar’s sister, and with her help, I kept coming to Mumbai in the first year only. Both, Nitin and I, didn’t want to take money from home, so we started working. I distributed pamphlets, anchored events, he worked in food outlets. Being a sportsperson, I never knew how to ask for money.
I did a small role in a commercial with Dibakar Banerjee for which I received Rs 5,000. I didn’t know what to do with that much money (laughs). Vinay Pathak was a part of the commercial. He encouraged me to go for acting.
I didn’t know anybody in Mumbai except a friend’s brother who used to live in Four Bungalows.
I have produced a film that has got the National Award. Then I have a release with Randeep Hooda and Paresh Rawal titled Bhagwan Bharose. I am also doing a Hollywood project which will be announced soon.
Mithila Makhaan is releasing online at bejod.in on October 2.