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First-time director Adnan A Shaikh, along with actors Sandeep Salve, Akshaya Hindalkar and Ganesh Yadav, talk to Padma Iyer about their Marathi film Rocky, their experience making it and their expectations from the movie

Adnan, why did you decide to make your directorial debut with a Marathi film, given that you don’t speak the language? Also, why an action film?

Adnan A Shaikh (AS): I studied Marathi in school, so I understand the language. But yes, it is a bit of a challenge for me to speak in Marathi. Sandeep (Salve) is a very good friend of mine. When this script came to me, it was for a Bollywood film. But then this concept is not new for Hindi cinema. It has been done before. When I shared that thought with him, he said perhaps it could be done in Marathi, as that would be something new. I agreed.

Initially I had no plans to direct the film. I was to be part of the project, but just as creative producer. Then things turned out such that it came to me to direct. At that point, I spoke to Ahmed (Khan) sir about it, and he too supported the idea. The action genre is not exploited in Marathi cinema. We have Riteish Deshmukh, who set the bar high with Lai Bhaari. We want to take that forward with Rocky.

Akshaya, how did you come on board?

Akshaya Hindalkar (AH): I auditioned for the role and was chosen. When I took it up, I did not think about the length of the role. For me all that was important was what I could give to the audience through my role. And this film revolves around my character. It is the relationship with the hero that drives the story forward, whether through action or revenge or emotion.

Sandeep, this being an action film, how comfortable were you doing the emotional and romantic scenes?

AS: Whenever there were romantic scenes, Sandeep would call on me to show him how to do them. But he is good actor and he is learning the ropes. He was always ready for the action sequences. And he was always apprehensive about the emotional stuff.

Sandeep Salve (SS): I like to watch action films, so it was natural for me prefer those bits. Actors are generally wary of action scenes and films because one is prone to injury, but I enjoy that space immensely. This is my first movie, so I was extra-cautious about the emotional scenes. I was worried about whether I was getting them right. How to move, what to do with my hands… these basic things bothered me. But Adnan is an old friend who knows me well. So I relied on him for help with those scenes.

AS: Sandeep is a very hard-working guy. His journey has been full of struggles. He was an usher in a movie theatre and today he is sitting here. That says a lot about his dedication.

Ganesh, what made you say yes to the film?

Ganesh Yadav (GY): When this film came to me, I was told that I would be playing a cop. At that moment, I said that I didn’t want to do it because I had done that kind of role many times. But then I met Adnan. He said that it would be nice if I did the film. I realised that this was a young team, all newcomers. And when you are working with them they bring a certain energy and passion to a film. I wanted to be part of that and so I decided to do Rocky.

It was a fun experience. I already knew Ahmed Khan, and because of this film we reconnected. Rahul Dev and I had done Bardaasht together and now we are in this film. Everyone has worked very hard on this. The songs are also nice. This is a well-made film by these young people and my best wishes are with them. And the entertainment value that we say a film should have, it is absolutely there in this film.

Adnan, how did you convince Rahul Dev to be part of Rocky?

AS: I had worked with Rahul sir in the film Ek Paheli: Leela. I was an associate on that film. I used to interact with him and he liked me. At the trailer launch, he mentioned that I should become a director soon. And he also said that the day I became a director, he would work in my film.

When this script was being written, we looked for a Marathi actor to play the villain. We shortlisted a couple of names, but their dates did not match ours. We wanted to start shooting immediately. That is when I called Rahul sir. When he heard that I was directing, he agreed to meet me the following day. I met him, narrated the story and his role and he was every excited. He agreed to play Nana.

It was only then that I told him the film was in Marathi. He was taken aback! But I convinced him, pointing out that he had done South movies and he would certainly be able to do a Marathi one. He put in all the hard work, learnt his lines. 

What was it like when you faced the camera for the first time?

AH: Facing the camera for the first time was not a challenge, because I had worked in TV. But yes, acting for films is different. I knew my character well and Sanjana is very similar to who I am in real life. So it was relatively easy. And whenever there were issues, Adnan sir was there to guide me.

SS: My first scene was a romantic phone call! I had to act with no one in front of me. It was an outdoor shoot. I had to do a lot of retakes, but I think I finally got it right.

Ganesh, as someone who has been in the industry for a long time, what was it like working with newcomers?

GY: The attitude of these actors is very positive. They come to me with questions. They are eager to learn. They respect your experience. Both Akshaya and Sandeep would interact with me a lot and come to me with their queries. Some newcomers feel they know everything and that results in arrogance. When you are willing to learn, there is humility. 

AS: All the senior actors in this film were amazing. Ashok sir (Shinde), Kranti ma’am (Redkar), Pradip sir (Velankar)… all of them supported me throughout. They knew what they had to do for their roles. But if I went to them with some suggestion, they were more than willing to try it.

There will be comparisons between this film and action films in Bollywood, especially with the Ahmed Khan connection. What are your thoughts on that?

AS: I look at comparison as a positive thing. Ahmed sir is promoting and presenting this film. He has already said that he would lend his name only if he liked a film. And when he saw it, he liked it. I have been with him for 12 years so that was important to me. Even if someone criticises the film, I will take it positively. This is my first film and there will be mistakes. You learn from your mistakes, and I will learn from mine.

What are your expectations from this film?

AH: I don’t think much about that. I worked in two TV serials and there was a time after that when I wasn’t doing anything. I wasn’t getting any work. I wanted that period to be over. Now I have this film. I don’t know how the film will do, but the hope is that I continue working. Whatever roles I get to play, they should be interesting and challenging. I should be able to give something to each and get the opportunity to learn as well. I am not looking to do just heroine roles or glamorous roles. I want to do roles that are memorable.

SS: I love action and I want to do more action films. This movie is important for all of us. If people like this film and accept me, it will open the door to more films in this genre, which is not that common in Marathi. There have been action films but not on this scale and at this level. I am confident that this movie will be liked.

AS: Expectations are very high. I want the audiences to accept the film. We have tried to take everything one notch higher. It has emotion, family drama, romance, friendship… I have not compromised on the content, which is what Marathi cinema is all about. There are all types of songs too… a Ganpati song, a rowdy song, a dahi handi song, motivational song, item song, romantic song. There is something for everyone. So, I have given it my all.

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