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“This was my way of contributing to my language”

Recently released Gujarati film Gujjubhai The Great is running strong at the box office and has also been declared 100 per cent tax free in the state of Gujarat. Debutant director Ishaan Randeria chats with Rohini Nag about his journey while making the film. Over to him:

Your father is a renowned Gujarati stage artiste and his play series, Gujjubhai, is also well known. Was that the inspiration for the film?

The Gujjubhai series of plays has been immensely successful in the past decade and have also broken records on the Gujarati stage. There was clearly an audience connect which I felt could translate to the big screen. We have had many successful Hindi films based on Gujarati plays, so why not a Gujarati film?

Gujjubhai The Great is enjoying a successful run. How does it feel?

(Laughs) It’s a relief. Making a film is hard. Sleepless months and tireless effort of my entire team has made this film possible. My feeling is only of gratitude to the cast and crew and mainly the audience for appreciating the film.

Tell us about the film’s backdrop.

Although based in Ahmedabad, the film has a universal approach not just in the story, which is about a father looking for the right guy for his daughter, but also in its treatment. Just like in present day Ahmedabad, there are many Hindi-speaking characters in my film. The humour is clean and relatable to everyone who watches it. In fact, I have had people from Bengaluru who don’t speak a word of Gujarati telling me that they enjoyed the film because of the easy-to-understand language.

What were the challenges you faced considering this is your first outing as a director?

Several. As I mentioned earlier, making any film is a difficult proposition. You start work 1-2 years in advance, unaware of how the public will perceive it. In a regional film, the challenges are compounded by the constraints of time and budget. Since I had written the screenplay myself, I was able to visualise the film very well and keep my head above water during the hectic shooting. As with any first, you make mistakes and are wiser due to them, although I will know the extent of my newfound wisdom only with my second outing!

What is the current state of Gujarati cinema?

There is a lot of positivity about Gujarati films, especially among the youth. People in Gujarat want to see new stories and contemporary films. At the same time, they want the film to be at par with a Hindi film, in terms of production values, cinematography, editing and other elements. It’s an exciting time, a reawakening of sorts, and the best part is that it’s being fuelled by young and energetic filmmakers. In the next few years, we will see the Gujarati film industry match up to what any other regional cinema has to offer.

Was there any struggle to get distributors on board?

Making a film is one thing, getting it out for the audience to watch is an altogether a different proposition. Luckily, I had an experienced team of marketing professionals from Mojo Media, who believed in the film and pushed it. PVR, who got on board as a distributor, was very supportive and equally enthusiastic about the film. I would say it was easy but once we had a great partner in PVR, things went much smoother from there.

Have you ever wanted to work in the Hindi film industry?

I am just starting out and would grab any opportunity I get at this stage. Gujarati is my mother tongue and, not just my father but my grandfather has been part of Gujarati stage, so this was my way of contributing to my language. I want to entertain the audience and Hindi films let you reach out to more people. Whether I do Hindi films or not, I will always want to be connected to the Gujarati film industry.

What’s next?

I have a long way to go. I want to improve with each successive film, and I’m already itching to do something new. So let’s see what the future holds.

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