I would not use the word ‘favourite’ and I will go in sequence. I would say writing first because it’s easy to say ‘one lakh soldiers aim their arrows with fireballs and fire them’ as there is no budget when you’re writing. Then, as a director, you have to put the script to images and that is challenge number two, because you know you don’t have one lakh soldiers and there aren’t many fireballs. And you don’t have a great cliff like the one in the script. So how you convert what you wrote into visuals is the biggest challenge.
Three, would be acting because it’s also very difficult for me, It requires a completely different kind of focus and attention to various other aspects, which as a director you leave to the actors. An actor draws his inspiration from the sky, from his relatives, wherever we wants, to bring that emotion to the screen.
And number four is producer. For me, my biggest burden of production has been taken over by Sunita. That’s why I list it as number four because the pressure is not directly on me. So when we are shooting and ‘one lakh soldiers’ comes to 1,000, she makes sure I get at least that many. She takes over that part, which makes life easy for me.
From one director to the other, what compliment would you give Rajesh Mapuskar?
I would say he has a keen eye for relationships. I saw that even in Ferrari Ki Sawaari. His characters behave in a very different way with regard to their desires, their ambitions, their interpersonal relationships, and it is a very different world that he creates. In Ferrari… you know there were eight or 10 characters but this film has many more. He is like an expert conductor of an orchestra, who is able to conduct all of us in a manner where we are all in sync with each other and still come up with all those nuances. I think he is a very finely nuanced director with a keen eye.
As you mentioned, the film has an ensemble cast. Apart from your own character, which other character did you find interesting?
It is a very interesting question. I would say all of them because each one has their own quirks. My scenes were with Satish Alekar, Jitendra Joshi, my biggest emotional scenes are with the two of them. Those experiences were very different, to be able to perform with actors who have acting in their blood and who are at it round the clock. And here I was, an outsider coming in with the baggage of a director, and interacting with them as an actor. They were very warm towards me, they were very helpful when I needed cues or extra time.
Were they intimidated by you?
Not at all because I have worked with many of these actors in the past and I meet the others socially. Although I have not made a Marathi film before, I know the Marathi industry because of social interactions. So there was no intimidation, we did readings and that helped. Actually, the readings were meant mainly for me.
You just said you haven’t made a Marathi film, so is there…
(Cuts in) I want to but I haven’t got a script which I feel would do justice to the Marathi film industry. But I want to.
In what way are the commercial demands of a Marathi filmmaker different from those of a Hindi filmmaker?
I would say that both exist for different reasons and different purposes. The Marathi film industry is catering to the needs and desires of the Marathi community within their region. Hindi films are slightly wider, which is why a Hindi filmmaker has to keep in mind all the different states and make sure that Haryana mein bhi achi lageygi, Bengal mein bhi achi lageygi, Andhra mein bhi achi lageygi. It is a very tough concoction. That is the burden on the Hindi filmmaker.
Independent cinema in the Hindi industry is very good right now because they are catering to the niche audience and they are commercially successful because their cost-to-recovery ratio is great. But I am talking about mainstream cinema. Both types of mainstream cinema are a little different from each other.
You have worked with Priyanka Chopra as an actor and now as a producer. Can you comment on both her roles?
Priyanka is very vibrant and full of zest. And that quality, which is there in her persona, is reflected in her acting and now in production. In production, she is not a slow learner at all. She has applied all her knowledge from her acting experiences, from different production houses, and she must have absorbed all the do’s and don’ts and applied them to her company. So our entire shooting process was absolutely smooth.
She and Madhuji (Chopra) were very hands-on with production. I would say it was wonderfully done. I mean, look at the three films that she is doing. That is her vision and there is a purpose as to why these three films.
Do you think producer Sunita Gowariker would offer you a film as an actor after watching this film?
(Laughs) That won’t happen. How I wish, I want that to happen. She will not like me as an actor, she would want me to direct even though she’s watched the film and liked my performance a lot.