Known for his socio-political films, Prakash Jha, Indian filmmaker and actor, terms his projects as pure entertainers and not a part of parallel cinema. Raised on a farm in Bihar, while preparing to be a painter in Mumbai he was introduced to filmmaking. He made his first documentary, Under the Blue in 1975 while he was midway through his film editing course. In 1984, his documentary on `Bihar Sharif riots`, titled, Faces After Storm (1984) was banned within 4-5 days of its release but won the National Film Award for Best Non-Feature Film for the year. Some of his popular films include Mrityudand (1997), Gangaajal (2003), Apaharan
(2005), and Rajneeti
(2010) Prakash also starred in his 2016 release Jai Gangaajal
in a supporting role to Priyanka Chopra
; which was a sequel to his 2003 crime film Gangaajal starring Ajay Devgn
in the lead role.
Jha was born on February 27, 1952, in west Champaran area in Bihar, India. One year into his course in BSc Physics from Ramjas College, Delhi University he decided to be a painter and left for Mumbai. While he was preparing for JJ School of Arts, he chanced upon the shooting of the film Dharma (1973). This lured him into filmmaking and he enrolled for a film editing course at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune in 1973. Owing to a student agitation, the institute was closed for a while and Jha without wasting time came to Mumbai and started working on his documentaries. Later, he never went back to complete the course.
Prakash Jha married actress Deepti Naval
in 1985 after they worked together in his directorial debut Hip Hip Hurray in 1984. The couple divorced in 2002. They have a daughter, Disha Jha who is a producer and assistant director.
As a Director
Prakash Jha always aims to be recognized by the audience and critics in equal measure. His journey of creating powerful and commercially viable cinema demonstrates just that. He started working independently on films only one year into his film editing course. His first documentary Under the Blue was released in 1975. He continued to direct more documentaries for a few more years. In 1984, he made a politically intense documentary on `Bihar Sharif Riots` titled, Faces after Storm. It was banned within a few days of its release but won the National Film Award for Best Non-Feature Film for the year.
His first feature film as a director was Hip Hip Hurray (1984) which was scripted by Gulzar. The movie which starred Raj Kiran
and Dipti Naval
, won him the All India Film Awards Association Best Director Award. He followed this with another critically acclaimed movie Damul (1984) that won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film and the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Movie. His next film Parinati (1986), based on a novel written by Vijaydan Detha, was presented as An Outstanding Film at the London Film Festival in 1988 and won the National Film Award for Best Costume Design.
Prakash Jha not only has a number of award-winning and critically acclaimed movies but also popular and commercially successful feature films to his credit. Mrityudand (1997) starring, Om Puri
, Madhuri Dixit
, Shabana Azmi
, Mohan Agashe
and Ayub Khan
, was a blend between an art film and a commercial film like most of his movies. His 1999 release, Dil Kya Kare was acclaimed critically but received average response at the Indian box office. Ajay Devgn, Mahima Chaudhary and Kajol
played the lead characters. Since then Ajay Devgn has been a part of most of his movies.
In 2003, his action drama Gangaajal, starring Ajay Devgn and Gracy Singh released to positive commercial and critical acclaim. It also won the National Film Award for Best Film on Other Social Issues. Its sequel was released in 2016 titled Jai Gangaajal starring Priyanka Chopra in the lead which did not live up to the audiences` or critics` expectations.
Following the depiction of social issues in his movies, in 2005 he directed Apaharan, a story that explores the relationship of a father and a son against the backdrop of the kidnapping industry in Bihar. Starring Nana Patekar
and Ajay Devgn, the movie won the National Film Award for Best Screen Play and Nana Patekar won the Filmfare award for Best Villain. Although the movie was critically acclaimed, it received an above average response at the box office. He released his next movie, Rajneeti, only five years later in 2010. There were a lot of controversies surrounding the movie for its characters were said to be inspired from real Indian politicians: owing to which the film`s release was delayed. The movie, which was a contemporary take on Mahabharat, was declared as a super hit at the box office. The characters of Krishna, Arjuna, Yudhishthira, Duryodhana, Karna and Draupadi were played by Nana Patekar, Ranbir Kapoor
, Arjun Rampal
, Manoj Bajpai
, Ajay Devgn, and Katrina Kaif
respectively in the film. His next two movies - Aarakshan
(2011) and Satyagraha
(2013), both being socio-political dramas - received mixed reviews from the critics and did not garner any awards.
As a Producer
Prakash Jha established Prakash Jha Productions in the 1980s and the production house produced its maiden movie Hip Hip Hurray in 1983. Since then, the production house has produced movies such as Damul (1984), Parinati (1986), Mrityudand (1997), Dil Kya Kare (1999), Gangaajal (2003), and Apaharan (2005).
In 2007, the production house released two movies, Dil Dosti Etc
and Khoya Khoya Chand
- both the movies recived mixed response at the box office. Since then the production house has produced movies such as Rajneeti (2010), Yeh Saali Zindagi
(2012), Satyagraha (2013), and Jai Gangaajal (2016).
As an Actor
In 2016, Jha played the supporting role in his directorial venture Jai Gangaajal, which is a sequel to the 2003 movie Gangaajal. Much was expected from the movie, as it`s prequel was successful at the box office, however, the movie received lukewarm response owing to the predictibility of the script. His 2019 release includes Saand Ki Aankh
Jha has made a few television series which includes the popular comedy serial Mungerilal Ke Hasin Sapne. The serial was based on the life of Mungerilal, a character played by Raghubir Yadav. The serial written by Manohar Shyam Joshi was inspired by a novel `The Secret Life of Walter Mitty` by James Thurber to a certain extent.