Anupam Kher turns mentor and gives a chance to debutant director Sattwik Mohanty who has made the youth-centric movie Ranchi Diaries. In this conversation with Bhakti Mehta, Kher, along with his co-producer Rashmin Majithia, talks about the film and their young team
Anupam, how did Sattwik Mohanty approach you with the script of Ranchi Diaries?
Anupam Kher (AK): It’s a very funny story. About a year and a half back, Sattwik spoke to my manager asking for a meeting and met me with a script. He had me in mind for a negative role. I liked the script and told him I’d do it. I then told him, ‘Now you can send your producer to me to take it forward.’ He looked at me with a poker-straight face and said, ‘I don’t have a producer.’ I told him that he should find a producer first and then come back to me. A couple of months later, I remembered his face suddenly because he had this sincerity in his eyes. So, I called and asked him if he had found a producer and he hadn’t yet. I told him that let’s both find a producer together. Then I met Mr Rashmin Majithia, who is the owner of Coconut Motion Pictures at an event in Ahmedabad who happened to mention that he wants to make a film. That’s how this film happened.
You are very selective about the films you produce. What prompted you to get on board with this film?
AK: It’s not by choice that I’m very selective. I would have loved to produce more films but production means arranging money. It should inspire me and also it should be possible. Also, I’m primarily an actor. It takes a lot of time to be one – I act, I do motivational lectures, I write a book, I run an acting school, I run a foundation so I have to divide my time. At the same time, I would like to give back to my profession and that’s only possible by supporting new talent, who, in turn, will pay the same forward. If a subject is nice, I will definitely produce it.
Rashmin, this is your first production in Bollywood. What prompted you to select Ranchi Diaries?
Rashmin Majithia (RM): I was impressed with Sattwik Mohanty’s entrepreneurial spirit. I have always believed in supporting new talent and admired what he brought to the table. I am glad that I could help him fulfil his dream.
How beneficial is it to have a veteran like Anupam Kher by your side while taking this step?
RM: It’s been a privilege to have an actor of Mr. Kher’s stature and experience on our side while producing this film. His creative knowledge is unquestionable and he was able to guide this young team to make this film entertaining and fun.
How has your relationship been with Sattwik Mohanty?
RM: When I see Sattwik, a youngster, I remember my early days of entrepreneurship. I was glad to be able to support him through his journey.
How has the audience’s response been to the trailer?
AK: It has been very encouraging. We hope that people will flock to the theatres to enjoy this slice-of-life comedy on October 13.
RM: Oh, it has been great. That’s what has been very encouraging. In fact, during the Mumbai launch of the trailer, while the media never asks for the trailer to be played twice, in this case, they did ask us and we were very happy. The songs have received a great response actually, they’re very hummable and modern – all three of them. They have generated some sort of a buzz, is what we’ve gathered from social media.
How involved were you creatively while making the film?
RM: At Coconut Motion Pictures, we believe in giving our talent the creative freedom that is required for a project they have envisioned. And with Mr Kher at the helm along with Sattwik, who knew exactly what he wanted from our experienced and newcomer cast, we were happy to let them have the lead on creative.
Describe the character you play in the film.
AK: When Sattwik offered me this film as a villain, I was excited because if it’s a good, realistic villain which people see or know of, it makes it more interesting. My character is that of Thakur Bhaiya, an unelected don on the outskirts of Ranchi who is involved with everything illegal in the city. Also, he’s a connoisseur of music but only looks at the music videos of Gudiya. It’s very subtle and he’s very protective about his liking for her music.
How is it like working with so many youngsters in the cast?
AK: It’s been a learning experience to work with Soundarya, Himansh, Taaha, Pradeep, Harry and even our director Sattwik Mohanty. When you do 508 films, there’s a possibility that you can take things for granted. These are the kind of actors that force you to be brilliant. Your experience sometimes makes you lethargic and you don’t know when the rust is setting around the talent and hard work. When I do plays on stage with newcomers, the rust is dusted out of the system.
Ranchi Diaries is a very youth-centric movie. How important is it, in your opinion, to connect to the youth today?
AK: It’s 99.9 per cent very important because they’re our future. I feel India’s future is great because of the youth we have today. They may come across as irreverent but they know who they are and they are not worried about taking risks. That’s what Ranchi Diaries is about. In the film, the characters are very real. They’re not idealistic. They are okay with their flaws, as Soundarya says, and they will live with it. They want to have their own path and become instant successes and it is a possibility. You put something up on social media, good or bad, and if it gels with the audiences, then you’re famous. But how long you want to be popular depends on you. Today’s youth have a great sense of humour because they’re born in independent India.