His recent release, Mumbai-Pune-Mumbai 2, clocked good numbers at the box office, and as the film sails into its second week, director Satish Rajwade talks about the dynamics of the film business and the changing face of the Marathi film industry. Despite releasing with Salman Khan’s much-anticipated film Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Rajwade’s film managed to hold its own at cinemas. Here’s the actor-director-writer, who has also had a brush with Hindi films, in conversation with Rohini Nag.
You started your career with acting. How did you become a director?
I started my career as a theatre actor but then I realised that my calling was to be a technician. I was a theatre person, so acting came naturally to me. I was very serious about acting and did stage shows and films too. Direction and writing was the natural course for me. I worked in many Hindi films as an actor too. I started by assisting Govind Nihalani. Soon I started out as an editor and then veered towards writing and directing.
Your recent release Mumbai-Pune-Mumbai 2 is enjoying a successful run.
It is an overwhelming feeling. I expected the film to do well as the first instalment was very well received by the audience and the industry alike. Mukta (Barve) and Swapnil (Joshi) are huge stars and I expected their fans to watch the film. I am grateful to the audience for such a brilliant response. Swapnil and Mukta and I are very good friends. When we made Mumbai-Pune-Mumbai, they were fine actors and today they are huge stars. More than a friend, Swapnil is like family to me. Mukta also is a great friend and, by God’s grace, they are both very popular in Marathi films. I believe the film’s success was ensured by their status and also its content.
Your film was a Diwali release. How important is a film’s release date?
It is very important for a film to have the right release date. It is extremely important to tap into the audience mindset and their spending capacity. To watch a film today costs a lot of money so it is very important to make a film that is worthy of the audience’s money and to deliver it during the right release window.
Your film is a sequel to Mumbai-Pune-Mumbai. How has the story moved on, five years later?
To be very honest, we never had a sequel in mind. But whenever Mukta, Swapnil or I went out to promote our other films, we were always asked about a second part or requested to make one. We gave it some serious thought when we realised that people were keen to know what happened to these two characters. But it was very important to present a story that justified itself. I wanted to make a sequel that carried the story forward and didn’t look forced but evolved naturally.
How do you choose your stories?
Generally, concepts that excite me are the stories I want to tell. My idea is to have a story that connects with people and at the same time has a commercial set-up. There are two things that I keep in mind. First, a film should have a subject that has the ability to spread happiness. We all have a lot of hardships in our respective lives. Making a film which spreads happiness and giving the audience a chance to buy happiness is very important. Second, a film should have a larger-than-life set-up as everyone wants to experience things they will never get or think they might never achieve. So it is very crucial that I make films that are larger-than-life and also spread happiness.
The Marathi film industry is regarded as one of the richest regional film industries in terms of content. How have you seen this change come about?
Marathi literature is very rich, and when it comes to making popular cinema, generations come together to watch our films. Whether the younger generation or middle-aged or the old, all three generations connect with the Marathi films being made today. I think that transition and the crossover audience are well captured by the films we are making today.
What changes have you witnessed in the Marathi industry in terms of marketing?
Marketing has become so effective in today’s day and age. It is very important to create awareness about a film’s release. In earlier times, marketing was not the norm as it was all about creating good content. Now, it is equally important to marry good content with good marketing strategy. A marketing plan ensures the opening numbers, which is very critical for a film; the weekend numbers are all delivered due to marketing and presenting the content to the audience. After that, it is the content that takes charge. Marathi filmmakers should understand that making a good film is only half the job done. It is important to make a good film but it is even more important to promote it adequately.
You adapted your film Mumbai-Pune-Mumbai in Hindi as Mumbai-Delhi-Mumbai but the film didn’t work. What went wrong?
The production house can give you a better answer. I received a lot of critical acclaim for the film. The thing is, the film was not released or marketed properly. It did not reach the audience and only a handful of industry insiders knew about the film and its release. If a film doesn’t reach the audience, how can you expect it to do well? As a filmmaker, it was my job to make a good film and deliver it to the production house. After that, it was their responsibility to market and release it. So I can’t tell you why the film ‘didn’t work’. A verdict could have been delivered only if the film had reached the audience!
Will you try your luck in Hindi films again?
It’s not about luck. If I get a chance, I will make a Hindi film. Everyone wants to make it in the Hindi film industry as it is the biggest film industry in the country. But having said that, I am very content in the space I am in right now. Who wouldn’t want to cater to the large, Hindi-speaking audience? But I am in no hurry. I would love to direct a Hindi film but all in due course.
I have two scripts that are ready and I will start working on them soon. One is an out-and-out commercial entertainer and the other a romantic story. You are familiar with writing, directing and acting. What about production?I will not deny that I have been contemplating turning producer. I will turn producer too when the time is right!