As Tu Hi Re released this week, lead actors Swwapnil Joshi, Sai Tamhankar and Tejaswini Pandit; director Sanjay Jadhav; and producer Utpal Acharya talk about their hit films as a team, competing with other film industries and Marathi cinema going from strength to strength.
Box Office India (BOI): Can you tell us about the film and how you conceived it?
Sanjay Jadhav (Sanjay): This is actually our third film together… Swwapnil (Joshi), Sai (Tamhankar) and mine. Duniyadari was the first, then Pyaar Vali Love Story and now Tu Hi Re. After Pyaar Vali Love Story, even the producers are the same. The new addition is Tejaswini (Pandit).
Our film’s story starts after eight years of marriage and is the kind of love that happens in Indian households after years of marriage.
BOI: You just said it was an obvious decision to cast Sai and Swwapnil. Was that due to the comfort factor?
Sanjay: It is all about the comfort zone. We are thick friends, almost like family. And if you have such talent in your family, why would you go elsewhere to look for talent?
BOI: Utpal, as a producer, how did you come on board?
Utpal Acharya (UA): I have known Sanjay for 12 years and this is the most successful director-actor pair after Duniyadari. Pyaar Vali Love Story was their second movie and that’s where our journey began. Now I am also part of their family. So Tu Hi Re was the next logical choice because of its story.
There is so much good content but there is no proper exploitation to monetise this industry. So my contribution to this industry is to take this whole process to a studio structure with increasingly significant and more earthy Marathi content.
BOI: Sanjay, you just said that Sai and Swwapnil are like family. At the script level, do you keep them in mind as your characters?
Sanjay: Actually, yes, like anda pehle ayaa tha yaa murgi? Similarly, I don’t know which comes first… keeping them in mind inspiring the story or starting with the story and having them come to mind automatically.
BOI: Can you elaborate on your characters in the film?
Swwapnil Joshi (SJ): Interestingly, it is the first time I will be playing characters in two different age groups. I am playing a guy in his 20s and a guy in his 30s. The perspective of life is very different for a 20-year-old and a 30-year-old today. Traits like being carefree, negligent and arrogant and this entire ‘dekh lenge’ attitude continues till my character gets married. Then, this nonchalant nature matures, and with circumstances, the reactions are different.
It’s about how his entire life turns around and the circumstances and compulsion he has to undergo, and while doing that, how love plays an extremely significant role. My character has two completely different shades in the film. As an actor, too, this was a very challenging space, far from my comfort zone.
Sai Tamhankar (ST): I play Siddharth’s (Swwapnil) wife, Nandini, who is total ‘wife material’. Every woman who watches her in the film will relate to her. Either they have been like that for years or are on the verge of becoming her. So unlike the bold image that I have, I think this is going to be a refreshing change as I am playing a non-glamorous wife this time. It’s been a long time since I have played such a beautiful, layered character. My character has immense value for this thing ‘love’. So there are three different perspectives regarding love in the film. For all of us, this film is far removed from our respective comfort zones.
Tejaswini Pandit (TP): I play a character called Bhairavi and she belongs to an extremely rich family. She doesn’t say much and largely conveys her thoughts and feelings through her expressions. She is deeply in love with Siddharth. There comes a point when her life takes a U-turn and she goes to the extreme level of love. I think all the three characters are extremists when it comes to love in their own unique ways.
BOI: The Marathi film industry is regarded as one of the richest regional industries with regard to content. How have you seen this change come about?
Sanjay: We are very happy that Marathi films are also making a mark in terms of content and growing box-office numbers. The best part is that, in the process, we are also entertaining people. During the last decade, there were films that did not make money but things changed after Shwaas, and they picked up after Duniyadari. Marathi cinema had content-driven films earlier too but filmmakers are now trying to strike a balance with the commercial aspects of filmmaking.
ST: I think we have cracked the code on how to package our films. Thus, presentation and marketing have improved, especially in the last five to six years. I am very proud that in Marathi cinema, content is king. It is not about the actor or a star but about content and that is why we are progressing so fast.
BOI: Utpal, compared to other regional industries, what was it about Marathi cinema that attracted you as a producer?
UA: First, the Marathi film industry is based in Mumbai, which is the hub of cinema. A couple of years ago, distributors and producers used to struggle to get proper showcasing for their films and multiplexes used to complete their quota of Marathi films because they had to renew their licence. And let’s face it, Duniyadari was the gateway to the commercial aspect of Marathi cinema, in terms of the way films were being produced, the content and the way marketing was taking centre stage. So the overall packaging of Marathi cinema had changed.
BOI: Sanjay, how did life change for you after Duniyadari?
Sanjay: Hugely, I mean ye sirf kitaabon mein padha tha that raaton raat zindagi badal jaati hai. I had one kind of life on that Thursday night, the night before my film released, and when I woke up the next morning, my life was completely different. The way people perceived me changed overnight. Earlier, when I used to enter a room, people used to treat me like a friend but after that Friday, they started treating me like a friend, philosopher and guide. (Laughs)