Team Bhikari – director Ganesh Acharya, actors Swwapnil Joshi and Rucha Inamdar, and producer Sharad Devram Shelar – in conversation with Team Box Office India
Box Office India (BOI): The first question goes to the captain of the ship. What was it about the story that made you direct this as your first Marathi film?
Ganesh Acharya (GA): The title and its tag line say swami tinhi jagcha…Bhikari. You will find that every Maharashtrian believes in the phrase ‘swami thinhi jagasa aai vina bhikari.’ Me, Swwapnil, Rucha and Sharad… we all are very close to our mothers. When I got this story, I approached Swwapnil for this project and he immediately said yes to me. When he asked me what the subject was all about, I said bhikari. And he was, like, ‘From what angle do I look like a bhikari?’ He added, ‘I have an image of Shah Rukh Khan and a chocolate boy image in the Marathi industry. From which angle do you find me a bhikari?’
I requested him to listen to the story before jumping to any conclusions. I said he could then take a call because I definitely wanted to direct this as my debut Marathi film. I also told him that, the treatment would be different and I went to him as a director who had made Swami. I remembered that when I was doing a song with Shah Rukh Khan, he remarked to Aanand L Rai ‘Yeh kya filme banata hai!’
That’s how I approached this subject and narrated the entire story to Swwapnil. This is how we began our journey together. I have always wanted to make films on different subjects, especially on the emotions inside me.
BOI: Swwapnil, Rucha and Sharad, can you tell us what motivated you to do this film?
Swwapnil Joshi (SJ): My first motivation was to work with him. I had met him for the first time in a studio where I was dubbing. At the time, one song of Masterji had just released in Marathi – Chimani udali. I told him I was a huge fan and that I loved that song. That’s how we met and then he said he wanted to connect with me for a film.
And please delete that ‘Shah Rukh Khan’ example he mentioned. It was nothing like that. Shah Rukh bhaut bada star hai. I can tell you one thing… there is not a single actor who doesn’t want to work with Ganesh Acharya at least once in their life. And if you do get the chance, it is usually only for 4 or 5 minutes of a song.
I was very fortunate that I got to work with him in this film. It would have been stupid to let this opportunity go. As Masterji said, he is a completely different person in the head and in the heart. He believes in his film and wants to make films on different types of subjects. Bhikari is one of such film.
I would like to say that Bhikari har tarah ka hota hai, it’s not only lack of money that decides who is a bhikari. You could be a bhikari in your way of thinking. A person who is deprived something major in their life is also a bhikari. But I believe that someone who doesn’t have their mother’s blessing is the worst kind of bhikari. In this film, you will see the son-and-mother relationship. It is an extremely emotional film, but it has commercial elements too. Dada has made a heart-wrenching film. These are the reasons I did this film.
Rucha Inamdar (RI): Take a look at whom am I working with. It’s my first commercial project, where Ganesh sir is directing the film, Swwapnil is acting in it, Sharadji has produced it, and Mahesh (Limaye) sir is the DOP. Casting director Rohan Mahapuskar mentioned me to Ganesh sir and then Ganesh sir called me to do this film. Obviously, I said yes.
BOI: Sharad, What did you see in this film to make you want to produce it?
Sharad Devram Shelar (SDS): I didn’t see anything really but I got my friend back after so many years. I guess even God wanted us to reconnect and do this film together. In this film, we have one Ganpati song which I had already recorded, and Ganesh liked that song very much.
You see, a friend of mine, Sayaji Shinde, told me that Ganeshji was making a Tamil remake and asked me if I would accompany him to watch the film. Then I met Ganesh and, since we were old friends, we were very happy to meet each other after such a long time. I also had to shoot an album and I went to Ganesh to talk to him about the same. After a few days, Ganesh called me back and asked me if I would give him the Ganesh song for his film. Then, two days later, he called me again and asked if I would produce his film. I said, ‘If you allow me, why not?’ I immersed myself into the project completely when I saw the team – Ganesh as director, Swwapnil and Rucha as actors and Mahesh as DOP. I am sure the audience will also appreciate the whole Bhikari team.
BOI: Ganesh, what made you think Swwapnil would be perfect for
GA: As Sharad said, it’s a South remake of Pichaikkaran. When I saw the film, I bought its rights, and could only see Swwapnil in the role. Let me tell you why. I have made many changes in the film, like adding lots of songs. There is a boy who is living in the UK. He is smart, lives a luxurious life and enjoys his life full-on. Then his mother calls him back and his life changes completely. It’s how a chocolate boy turns out to be a bhikari. And I don’t see anyone except Swwapnil playing this character. Also, Swwapnil is a director’s actor. I have watched many of Swwapnil’s films and I wanted him to do something different. I also want the audience to see a different side of him.
BOI: As an actor, what did you discover about yourself while doing this film?
SJ: I discovered plenty, all credit to Dada. I realised that the film was ready in his mind, including every minute detail. Hence, as an actor, it was easy to try to play my part because I knew what I had to do and what not. And Dada was there to guide me. Honestly, if people like my work, all credit goes to Ganesh Dada. I firmly believe the director is the captain of the ship. If the audience appreciates my work, I would give credit to the director, DOP, writer and the rest of the team. Actors and actresses are overrated; we tend to get all the credit because it is we who are visible to the audience. Each and everybody has contributed equally to the film, and Dada has led the team forward with his vision.
Also, we have released our second song Maagu kasa mi and it has received millions of views across YouTube and other platforms. We are getting so much love from people. Also, in this film, you won’t get to see the regular Swwapnil Joshi, you’ll see a very different Swwapnil. The fact that people have received the song so well speaks a lot about how people are going to receive this film. It is a very good start to our countdown for the release of the film.
BOI: Rucha, you said this is your first commercial film. Did you have any preconceived notions about what it would be like working with these people?
RI: Yes, I had apprehensions, and as Swwapnil said, Masterji was very particular about everything. The work I had done before was very different, so while doing certain scenes, Swwapnil would tell me, ‘This is what you have done and now this is what you need to do here.’ It was a completely different platform and Masterji used to specifically tell me what he wanted me to do. It’s very good to have someone who knows what he wants, that way, you are not all over the place. And you couldn’t get a better co-star than Swwapnil. I strongly feel that it’s a very rich film when it comes to emotions.
BOI: Sharad, you said this is the first film where you have been involved quite a lot…
SDS: (Cuts in) The reason was my team. They were so involved with this film that I too had to be involved. I think this film will be a life-time achievement film for me, in terms of the way these people have worked.
BOI: What kind of environment was there on the sets?
SJ: It’s always fun on Dada’s sets. Anybody who has worked with Dada knows what I mean. Having said that, that does not take away the focus or concentration or commitment towards the work. But the atmosphere is fun because Dada is very child-like and so he is a very happy person. Khush rehna pasand hai, khush rakhna pasand hai.
Also, the pre-production of this film is very strong, right from Sharad sir to Dada, to Guru (Thakur), who has written the film. So, on the sets, nobody had to discuss what had to be done; all those discussions took place every night after the shoot. We had a big cast, picture ka khali naam bhikari hai baaki, its production values are not bhikari; its casting is not bhikari, the film’s set-up, its look… we shot for 15 days in London… also there are a lot of actors. There are 22-23 main actors, including character actors, so the unit size becomes bigger. But with Dada, it’s always fun to shoot. You don’t realize when you began your shift and when it ended because you are always laughing, always eating and always pulling Rucha’s leg.
RI: Yeah, so true (Laughs). I would like to narrate one more incident. There was this day when we were shooting in Pune and Masterji had a couple of meeting in Bombay too. So we shot all day long in Pune and then he left for Bombay. He completed his meetings at night and returned the next morning and was ready for the next day’s shoot. Surprisingly, he was still full of energy.
SJ: He is full of energy, it’s almost scary because he’s never tired!
GA: While making this film, we never once thought that this is basically a Marathi film or a Hindi film; the production values are very high. And our whole team… Mahesh, who is one of the best DOPs in India, he has done films like Dabangg; our action coordinator Abbas; Guru Thakur, who is a big writer in the Marathi film industry and has written films like Natrang… So right from our cast to our technicians, we were a big team. So when we were shooting, I used to feel as if we were in the middle of a fair.
We rehearsed for our songs two months before shooting began. There is this one big Ganpati song that has released, in which there are 500 dancers, 500 junior artistes, 200 musicians, 100 aghori babas … so that is how we started the shoot of the film.
The film’s name is Bhikari and the muhart took place at the JW Marriott and Amitji (Amitabh Bachchan) was present for it. So we started the film on a high note and ended it on a high note too. We shot the last schedule in the UK. So it’s called Bhikari but it’s a rich film and we are waiting for Sharad to become richer and give us money for our next film.
SDS: He told me in the very beginning that we will make more Marathi films. He also said we could not make these films without Swwapnil Joshi. This is the agreement we have.
GA: If Swwapnil Joshi agrees…
SJ: Arre, Dada…
GA: I have worked with Swwapnil and he was never like an actor to me. He is like a younger brother to me. I don’t know about the film but our relationship will always be one of younger brother and elder brother.
SJ: Thank you, Dada, I am blessed.
BOI: You mentioned that Amitji was present for the mauhrat of your film. From a legend like him to a brigade of actors like Varun, Alia, Ranveer… everyone is promoting the film because of the goodwill you enjoy. Is there any kind of pressure to deliver?
GA: The pressure is not of them, the only pressure I feel is from my audience. I hope they like the film. All the people you have mentioned, they all love me a lot. In my last film, Hey Bro, in which I also acted, there was this song called Birju where Amitji, Akshay Kumar, Ranveer Singh, Hrithik Roshan… were all present. Today too, if I invite anyone from Bollywood to an event, they will come out of love and goodwill. So that is not my concern, I am confident that the film has been made well. This is the first time I am doing this and I hope the Marathi audience likes my work. I guarantee they will love Swwapnil and Rucha’s work.
BOI: Lately, Marathi films have been releasing not only in Maharashtra but in the North as well. Will this film too enjoy a different kind of release?
SDS: From the very beginning, we started releasing our films on a bigger platform. There’s no point in releasing on a smaller scale. So this film will enjoy a proper release.
GA: We have made the film in Marathi but we would like it to reach across the world. When I launched the trailer, I met a guy from UP and he said he liked the trailer and wanted to watch this film.
I am sure Maharashtrians will like this film and others, with the help of subtitles, will also like the film. People across the nation gave a lot of love to Sairat. I believe this film has the same reach.
SJ: Also, the subject is universal. To empathise with the mother-and-son relationship, you don’t need to be Maharashtrian. Regardless of community, you only have one pure relationship and that is with your mother.
GA: We use different terms to refer to our mother – maa, amma, aai etc – but maa ki godh hoti hai nah ussme koi milawat nahi hoti. Basically, this film is based on the true relationship of a mother and her son.
SJ: We have subtitles for the film, so people who don’t understand Marathi can read and understand the film. You don’t have to know Marathi to watch this film; if you love your mother, take her to watch it.
RI: Honestly, the subtitles simply add flavor. You will connect to it without language.