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“I have not disturbed the soul of Kaaka Muttai”

Samit Kakkad is all set to release his Marathi film Half Ticket, a remake of the Tamil National Award-winning film Kaaka Muttai. Kakkad’s debut Marathi film, Aayna Ka Bayna, won many accolades at international film festivals, and was also the first Marathi film to be dubbed in Hindi. Here’s the director in conversation with Rohini Nag

What prompted you to become a filmmaker?

I think I was a little lucky because my father is a documentary and ad filmmaker and I used to accompany him to the sets. My father gave me odd jobs to do on the sets and that was my entry point to direction. It was my father who taught me filmmaking and I gradually started liking it. Somewhere down the line, I felt it was my calling and this is what I was meant to do.

I could relate to the process of filmmaking and I even got into writing ad films. That’s when I realised I had it in me to become a director. I have to thank my father as I didn’t have to enroll in an institute to learn the art of filmmaking but I had a lot of practical knowledge.

How were you approached for the Marathi remake of the film Kaaka Muttai?

For Half Ticket, I was approached by the producer of the film, Nanubhai Jaisinghani of Video Palace. He liked my earlier film Aayna Ka Bayna. In fact, the home video rights of Aayna Ka Bayna are with Nanubhai. That film too was about kids who are below 18 in a remand home and they escape to dance. That film went to 18 international film festivals. It was actually the first film in the history of Marathi films to be dubbed in Hindi and bought by Sony Max.

More than that, Nanubhai and I share a close relationship; he is like an elder brother to me. We discuss films, not only Marathi but Hindi, Bengali and other languages as well. We always talk about cinema and are usually on the same page. So when Nanubhai asked me if I had watched Kaaka Muttai, I told him I had. When I told him I thought it was beautiful, he said he was making the film in Hindi and asked me if I would direct it. I was ecstatic and ready to shoot.

The Tamil film Kaaka Muttai won a National Award. Did that put any pressure on you while working on its Marathi remake?

Half Ticket is a Mumbai film because, here, more than 60 per cent of our population lives in slums. The rich and poor in Mumbai are neighbours. You cannot avoid that, just as you cannot avoid that boy at the traffic signal when you leave home. He is there every single day. So I felt this was a perfect story which should be told in many languages.

But, yes, there was pressure and not just the National Award. Not many know that Kaaka Muttai lost out to Court by just one vote for Oscar nomination. So there was huge pressure but I believe pressure is good as it makes me work harder. I think I get more passionate when there is pressure. This film was turned into a Mumbai film as it is a Mumbai slum we are showing, and it took me back to my roots because I shot the film in a slum where my grandfather was born.

Are there any changes to the story or treatment of the screenplay?

The treatment of the screenplay had to be changed because the minute you turn it into a Mumbai story, a Maharashtra theme changes many things. People change, the set-up changes. I have tried to turn the location into a character in the film. And since Mumbai is Mumbai, and since it has so many different characters, we shot in the old parts of Mumbai that people have forgotten. People have called me and asked, ‘Ye Mumbai mein kidhar hai jagah jahan tune shoot kiya hai?’

Was there an option to make this film in Hindi?

There is and we are on it. We would love to make it in Hindi also but maybe a little later. We will first make it in Marathi because we are based in Maharashtra. It is also a Mumbai film as the first language spoken here is Marathi. I think this is just perfect; it is a film for Maharashtra. Having said that, I believe the subject is global, regardless of language, it can be shot anywhere in the world and still be relevant. It is all about the soul of the film. I have not disturbed the original at all.

What was it like working with Fox Star Studios?

It was great working with Fox; they do
not interfere in any way. The best thing about Fox is that they give you your
space and trust your creative judgment. They are very easy to work with.

Do you plan to work on any big-budget films?

This may sound like the biggest cliché in the world but it is true that it is not about the budget but the content of the film. The biggest truth about filmmaking is that content is king. Marathi films have always scored on that front. The best example of this is
a film like Sairat, which has no star and was made on a modest budget.

What’s next for you?

I have pitched a few stories and am planning to make some different things. But it will all happen only post-November. Before that, I am doing another out-of-the box kind of film, and will start it in September. The film is called Ek Numberand will be produced by Vijay Kajaria, who also produced Fandry. It is an action-love story with three male protagonists.

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