Marathi film Ventilator is not only Priyanka Chopra’s maiden venture as a producer in Marathi cinema but it also brings back filmmaker Ashutosh Gowariker in front of the camera after two decades. Here’s Gowariker in conversation with Rohini Nag Madnani, discussing the film and much more
What was it about Ventilator that made you say ‘yes’ after a 18 year sabbatical from acting?
Two factors, one is the script because the script boasts very strong family values, about how we need to rediscover our family values. When we say ‘family’, we mean extended family. It’s actually a family film, pun intended.
Two, Rajesh Mapuskar. I really loved his first film Ferrari Ki Sawari and I thought he had captured some really fine nuances in the film, of not only performances but also characterisation of the value of culture, which I saw in this script also. I did not harbour a desire to get into acting. So, despite these two elements, I kept telling him I didn’t want to do it, that I was focused on direction and that I was doing Mohenjo Daro at the time.
But he kept insisting and he was patient about it. He waited for six months till I finally said ‘yes’. Today, when I see the film, I thank my stars that I said ‘yes’, because it’s a lovely film to be a part of.
Is it safe to say that it was a creative decision, not a commercial one?
Absolutely creative! I wasn’t thinking about the film’s box office collections or anything like that, I just thought it was a lovely film to be part of. More than that, it was about whether or not I wanted to act. My driving question was why was I getting distracted again when I was enjoying just making movies. For me it was whether I want to go in front of camera or not. Your question, about whether I was thinking creatively or commercially, is very interesting. I was thinking only creatively.
When I was getting into the zone, my director Rajesh didn’t tell me he had got a producer; he just said, ‘You know the producer very well.’ I was wondering who he was talking about and he said ‘Priyanka (Chopra).’ I was, like, ‘What?’ That was outstanding news.
First, I was very proud of Priyanka for taking that step to produce in Marathi. I mean, she could so easily have decided to produce a Hindi film as she has everything available to her. But she deliberately decided to make films in three languages, which I also happen to relate to – Bhojpuri, Punjabi and Marathi. I thought that was very interesting.
So she called me and said, ‘Rajesh told me you loved the script but you are thinking about it. Why are you still thinking if you liked the script? Did I think about it when you offered me What’s Your Rashee? ‘ That’s when I said ‘yes’. Why say ‘no’ to
No, I am very disciplined. Also, I think acting is very difficult and I need to direct all my energy and focus on it. So the question about thinking of anything else didn’t arise. When I was on the sets, all I did was follow my director, go through my lines and rehearse so that I was in sync with the other actors. I was a very obedient actor. (Laughs)
Is this Ashutosh, the director, complimenting Ashutosh, the actor?
(Laughs) Yes, you could say that. I was a very obedient actor.
When you were reading the script – the trailer shows the father-son relationship – how did you prepare for that? The trailer also has a scene where people are advising you about hair oil. For all these things, what was the preparation like?
It’s very interesting. Raja Kamerkar is a filmmaker who has a very busy life. His uncle is in hospital, on the ventilator, and he is visiting him. There, he meets all his relatives, favourite uncles and aunts. They have met after a very long time and are catching up. That’s something which is very close to me.
When I met my family after Lagaan… pre-Lagaan, I had lots of hair but post-Lagaan, my hairstyle had changed. So they all gave me advice on hair oil and the like. When I read that scene, I asked Rajesh if he had spoken to any of my relatives. He denied it, saying instead that the incident had happened to him. I realised that all directors are being asked the same thing. That was really fun.
One’s relationship with one’s father and mother keeps undergoing dramatic changes in one’s life. The way girls don’t get along with their mothers but they will always be very close to their father. It’s the reverse for men and it’s all about how to lead your life. Are you making the right choices in your life? It’s all about that.
So the film captures the emotions and relationships that all of us go through in our lives and I find that very interesting. I said to him (Rajesh Mapuskar) that this father-son relationship was superb, and he replied, saying, ‘Yes, mine was the same.’ I realised that this was the story of our lives. It was a challenge to behave in a fashion that looked convincing on screen but it was something all of us have experienced.