Director Devashish Makhija ‘s film ‘Ajji’, which has earned good reviews internationally at festivals is all set to boon in Hindi cinema too. Sushma Deshpande, the protagonist of the film who is currently in London, spoke to us in a telephonic interview. The veteran theatre writer – director who still performs her 1989 Marathi play, ‘Vhay, Mee Savitri Bai’ sharedwith us how she agreed to join ‘Ajji’ and how workshops helped to shape the characters in the film. Excerpts:

“It was an intense experience of filming ‘Ajji’"

‘Ajji’ has already been appreciated and traveled around in film festivals – how do you feel about it, what’s your head space right now?

It’s really a nice feeling when your work is been appreciated. I feel very happy when people are writing well about the film- it makes me proud; it’s a very happy moment.

What attracted you towards ‘Ajji’?

Basically it’s a different role it’s not typical Ajji that we have in our mind– the one who only loves, who feeds, that Ajji who we think about, she is deeply hurt and she knows no system is going to stand for her grandchild. She is an open character, different in nature and interesting character to do. So I got attracted to this character and Devashish, the director, who is naturally a good director told me lot of things how this character is going to be which interested me more. It was an intense experience of filming ‘Ajji’.

The trailer seems amazing and gives us chills and your character seems to have layers in it. Tell us about that?

Basically she (Ajji) knows the police are not going to do anything for her granddaughter, she knows economically they are not powerful so there is no one whose going to help her. So she takes the help of the sex workerto find the culprit; who is political powerful person. There is a line said by Leela (sex worker) – ‘Sabka rape karega toh bhi kuch nahi hone waala, tera mera sabka rape kar sakta hai woh’. But still the character doesn’t lose faith and starts following and observing him. And at a certain point when he comes in front of her; she comes across the fact that it’s the power game. Again after an unfortunate event takes place and the Ajji decides what she has to do and what she will do. So she starts preparing herself and then you see me cutting meat and things.

So was it challenging for you at that point to prepare yourself for cutting meat?

(Laughs) Yes it was challenging but I believe any kind of role is challenging; if you work properly one can do anything. This was more challenging because I don’t eat meat so basically what I had to do is be mentally prepared. The direction team was very well prepared and they had organized workshops before shooting the film which were very well prepared, particularly in this scene. Initially I use to just observe someone who was cutting the meat and then I tried it. So it was a one by one step that was taken to get prepared for that scene. The first time it was more complicated for me when I had held the chicken in my hand to cut, its body was warm and it just went in my head and for a moment I just stopped. And I told myself ‘Sushma you have to do this, its part of your job!’And then I did it. (Laughs) And after that I use to cut a lot of meat and now I know what the body parts of the chicken are. I always believe that being an actor one gets an opportunity to experience different things. It’s a positive aspect in actor’s life.

Being the protagonist of the film did you feel any sort of pressure since the film is on your shoulders?

I didn’t have pressure in that manner because I feel it’s a director’s film and he might have a sense of pressure relating the film. I just knew what Dev is going to ask me to do I am going to do exactly that. Pooja Chauhan used to take care of me and guide me in everyday scenes. It wasn’t a pressure because of the preparation I did and I don’t think because I was doing the lead role I need to be focused or be in pressure because I believe everyone did their job and everyone had some sort of pressure to do their part well. And if I am good and my co-stars are not so it doesn’t look good and you can’t see a good work onscreen. You automatically become serious to do your job may it be in any field.

Your experience working with director Devashish Makhija and co stars?

My overall experience with the whole crew was very good, basically we were a team – it wasn’t anyone doing an individual work. The day I decided I am doing the film, I asked Dev that we should do workshops because I am from theatre and I don’t work without workshops. So because of the workshop all the artists came together and we all bonded really well. And during the workshop the production team, the DOP, the whole crew was together. So we had this team spirit and we worked together as a family. Everyone was preparing for their character and we all got internally connected. The direction team was superb they guided and supported us so well. We all actors knew our graph and exactly what we have to do. We also visited the locations before the shoot.

Talking about the locations was there any diffculties faced shooting in real locations – slum areas?

Nothing as such happened because these slum area people are very cooperative so that wasn’t an issue. Only once Sadiya and I had climbed the pipe so that day there was a lot of crowd as people are crazy about shooting. Otherwise when we did late night shooting on the streets and house there wasn’t any issue at all. In all aspects we were comfortable shooting it was not an issue.

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