Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR

As a producer, Riteish Deshmukh has been doing some great work for Marathi cinema in the last few years. He is back with his latest offering ‘Mauli’. We catch up with the actor-producer, along with director Aditya Sarpotdar and actress Saiyami Kher to talk about the film and more…

What was your thought on ‘Mauli’ as you started out? How did the idea germinate?
RiteishDeshmukh: It has the genre promise that ‘Lai Bhari’ made – which is action, drama, emotions. This is an action drama film, with just a hint of comedy.
Aditya Sarpotdar: The idea was his, after we made the previous film we did together, ‘Faster Fene’. We did that and Riteishji came to me, told me he wanted to make a film on the character ‘Mauli’ in a new set-up. So, we started thinking about what the set up should be. ‘Mauli’ comes from the grassroots. He is the character which is connected to the soil. He is one who is the leader of the masses, so a larger section of small town folks, understand Mauli better. They think he is theirs. So, we thought, it should be about that, it should be something which connects to them, about the issues of Maharashtra. So, it becomes a local Marahi film which people will connect with. In the story we did a little bit of research about what’s genuinely happening around us, and that would connect to people. And then how to weave him in this story as the action hero. In that format, it’s contemporary and a mix of both. You know the set-up well. With Mauli, you have other characters that will take the film ahead. So, there is this masala wali, which is Saiyami’s character. She is this aggressive, but a new-age girl who knows how to put her foot down. It’s a very film which will connect to the roots.

Saiyami, how was your experience on this?
Saiyami Kher:
This is my first Marathi film so it will always be very special. My character is from a very small town. She is not a city girl. The language is something I had to work on, there’s a little dialect also which she has, so we had to get that right. Like Aditya said, the girl’s character is the voice of the town, she stands by what’s right. She kind of has not found support in the village, till Riteish’s character comes into her life. Because of my modelling and my first film, there was a perception, and I had this western image. I am glad that both Riteish sir and Aditya felt that I could pass off as a ‘gaonwali’. Infact, I feel more connected to a character like that. As a perception, ‘Mauli’ is a big breaker for me because it gets me into an Indian mould which people don’t perceive me in otherwise. So, it’s been a great journey.

Riteish, you’ve really made an effort for Marathi cinema to reach the audience, in terms of the canvas as well. What’s the most satisfying part for you as a producer and actor?
The prime most need for us to understand as a producer, is to figure out our limitations, what’s the possibility within our limitations and how do we make sure that we are able to stretch those limitations to a point that it not only reaches to the Marathi speaking audience but also excites the Non-Marathi speaking audience, who likes to watch a regional language film with subtitles. As far as the canvas is concerned, this is my second film with Aditya and we discussed this during ‘Faster Fene’ as well that how do we give the audience a film which seems like a bigger film but we do it in our limited budget. We cannot stretch our budget beyond a point because the economics won’t work, but of course, the dream is for the film to look like a Hindi film, just like a Hindi film wants to look like a Hollywood film in terms of the visual effects and all that. That should be the aim. A lot of stuff goes into it, and that planning is needed. Irrespective of the scale, the one thing that Mumbai Film Company aims to do is to give a quality product.

As an actor how satisfying is it to be able to get these opportunities or another platform as a creative person?
Riteish:
If you ask me, I’m most excited to be the producer of ‘Mauli’ than an actor of ‘Mauli’. Because, as an actor you own one part, but there are two people who own the entire film – the director, producer. The sense of ownership of the entire product belongs to us, that we’ve created this. It’s as much as Aditya’s dream as much as mine. As an actor, you are contributing to a product, but as a producer or director, you are creating a product. It’s the different between contributing and creating.

As a director, what was your brief to your actors?
Aditya:When you have him as an actor, you can go larger-than-life. If also gives you a bandwidth to be that way, otherwise in a Marathi film you are usually very real. You need to really connect to the audience. With him on board, we had to make a larger-than-life film because that’s how we’re going to stand out. That’s also the best way to do it, with him on board. That’s when Saiyami comes in, or Ajay-Atul come in. That’s when you can expect viewers to walk into the theatres and experience it on a bigger scale – when talking about a Marathi film. So, the idea was to always make it into a large-scale spectacle.

Also, as a producer, which has been the best feedback you’ve got so far, which further motivates you to make Marathi films?
Riteish: Earlier, people thought of me as an actor producing films, but over the last four years, and now with the fifth film, they think of me as a producer. When I go to a Hindi speaking audience, they tell me, when are you coming with the next ‘Houseful’ or ‘Dhamaal’, they talk to me as an actor. But as a producer, I hear things like, ‘I love the cinema you are making, why don’t you make more such cinema?’ ‘Balak Palak’ was completely different from a ‘Lai Bhari’ to a ‘Faster Fene’ – what’s immensely gratifying is they ask us to put our thoughts behind new films that would entertain them. And that’s the best feedback to have as a producer that they expect films of a certain quality from you. It takes a while to come to that level where you develop a certain kind of credibility that people believe in your production house more than you. I wish that with time, I’m able to achieve it. It’s not about me being in a film. Infact, people telling me, they liked ‘Faster Fene’, gave me much more gratification than they telling me they liked ‘Lai Bhari’.

Saiyami, what’s been your learning from this film?
I think every film is a learning because I’m very new to this. But this film specially, because my previous film was with Rakesh sir’s school of working – his films are eccentric. But this film is an out-and-out commercial drama. That was different from my previous film that in itself was a big learning. And breaking the stereotype around me as well, I’m glad this happened.

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