Director Manoj Kotian, leading star cast Subodh Bhave, Urmila Kothare and Kranti Redkar of Marathi film Karaar, in conversation with Team Box Office India
Box Office India (BOI): How did you conceive this story?
Manoj Kotian (MK): Karaar means ‘agreement’ and this is a family-oriented film. My main lead is played by Subodh Bhave. He becomes a self-made man after he loses his parents. He makes a deal or an ‘agreement’ with himself, that he has to do something special with his career. Hence, he becomes an achiever.
Things take a turn after he gets married and starts imposing his ‘agreements’ on his wife. How this impacts his wife and family is what the movie is about. At one point, his wife (Urmila Kothare) wants to have a family because her husband is very calculating. Then, Kranti Redkar’s character enters their lives and this introduces a twist to the tale.
BOI: Why did you cast these specific actors?
MK: I think they are best placed to answer this question since this is only my second film as a director, whereas Subodh, Urmila and Kranti have been working for a very long time. When I completed the script, they were the actors who came to mind since I was looking for terrific actors, I was looking for characters. I didn’t want to compromise in terms of acting. I was a new director for them, and I am so glad they agreed to be part of my film.
BOI: Subodh, what made you say ‘yes’ to the script?
Subodh Bhave (SB): First, all of us had dates that we could assign for this film. And then there was the script, which made me say ‘yes’. It was a never-seen-before kind of story, while it was also my character that grabbed me. It is also the kind of family-oriented film that we haven’t seen in Marathi for a very long time; it was about family with a new take in keeping with today’s times.
We have been waiting for a family film for a long time and so we jumped at the chance. Manoj had a very clear vision about how he wanted to shape this film. It was his conviction and clarity that made me say ‘yes’ to him. It was also the first time all three of us would be working together. Urmila and I worked on a film where we had small roles but these were full-length roles.
Another interesting factor about this film was the music, which is very fresh and takes the story forward. Some very good singers like Shreya Ghoshal and Bela Shinde have lent their voices to our film. Everyone worked so hard to make this film what it is; each one of us gave of our best. And when a team works hard to make a film, it always turns out well.
BOI: Was it emotionally challenging for you to play the role?
UK: The script was very emotionally challenging, not just for me but for all the three characters. I play the role of Jayshree, Sunil Mokashi’s wife. The crux of the story is that everybody is caught up in a very competitive world and wants to achieve goals, carve their own identity, earn a lot of money and buy penthouses, cars, bungalows etc. In this hectic life, we leave our families behind.
There comes a time when it is not medically advisable to have a child and (Sunil Mokashi) is growing older. It was said that one should have a child before the age of 30 years; then, they said 35. So, whether 35 years is safe or not still remains a question mark. That’s what we are trying to ask in this film… what are one’s priorities at different points in life? Should I focus on career now at the cost of having a child? We are trying to address questions like this through this film.
BOI: And what about your character?
KR: When I heard about this character, when Manoj sir narrated it to me… the story is primarily about these people but when this character makes an appearance, it totally changes the story. So when I was offered this film, the first thing I said was that I wanted to do this character because she plays a pivotal role in all the twists and turns that are in the story. This was the most challenging role I have ever played because I was never ‘de-glammed’ in any of my films; I have been shown as glamorous and even the girl-next-door but never this kind of role.
So when Manoj came to me with this role, I was, like, it is the time for me to play a role like this. When he revealed the cast to me, I was super happy because they are my friends first and then co-actors. What I liked about the story was that it was emotional and focused on a very sensitive topic. It was enlightening but it was not over the top. It did not hammer the message at you.
The film begins when they can’t have a child and actually begins when the problems they face surface, what options they have and how they go inside the pit they have dug for somebody else and how she is a poor thing who is dragged into it. The main person orchestrating this is Sunil Mokashi, the main protagonist, who has a very different quality about him. he isn’t really stingy; in Marathi, we say ‘kaat karsri’. So, for instance, if something costs `10, he would choose something that costs `5 but he would want to get it for `3. That’s his mentality.
The film is very nuanced and I enjoyed it thoroughly. The script was very well written. It was a pleasure working on this film.
BOI: Given the film’s subject… were there any real-life references?
MK: No, not at all, but after we completed the film… Wait, let Kranti explain.
KR: I had read this report, there was a surrogate mother and there was an Australian couple. The couple had opted for surrogacy and the surrogate mother was from the Philippines or Indonesia and twins were born but the couple only wanted one child. I don’t know if you have heard the story… they left with only one child and the surrogate decided to raise the other child. Later, she sued them for maintenance but since the contract said they wanted only one child, they got away with it.
Our film is not exactly based on this as it was shot much before this. But the fact that films are being made on important topics like this is heartening. I am glad that Manoj chose a subject like this way before its time and we worked on it very hard.
BOI: It is said that it is tough to get into a character but is it also difficult to get out of a character.
SB: Agar ghussna aasan hota hai, toh nikalna bhi aasan ho jata hai. The story was good, the role was written very well, and Manoj explained it very well, so it was not difficult to understand the character. If you understand it very well, it is easy to come out of it as well. You know that when he says ‘cut’, you have to leave the character there and go home. You don’t take your costume home, do you? It’s the same with the character; you leave it there and go home. When the actors have not done their make-up, we know they are not in character. When they have their make-up on and are in front of the camera, that’s when we slip into our characters. After working for so many years, I am used to it.
BOI: Is it the same for you?
UK: If it was not like that then we would turn schizophrenic. How many characters can you take home? I don’t remember who said it but he or she said that an actor who leaves their character behind as soon as the director calls ‘cut!’ or they walk into the wings is considered a good actor.
BOI: Where do you see the Marathi film industry five years from now?
SB: This position was well known for a long time now. Like Marathi, is the film industry that started the Indian film industry. It was always the experience Marathi film industry had. But from the 1980s to the 2000s, the Marathi industry went through a rough period. It was a time when filmmakers stopped experimenting and not many good films were made. After that, the time was ripe for change.
It was when Shwaas won a National Award in 2006 that filmmakers got the confidence to make content-driven films. There has since been a paradigm shift in the Marathi film industry and it has been a collective effort. There have been producers, directors, actors, technicians, spot boys, etc who have contributed to the change.
There was a time when the Indian film industry was known for Hindi films; then Bengali films thanks to the work of Satyajit Ray; and then Malayali films, but in the next five years, the Marathi film industry will represent the Indian film Industry.
BOI: In your opinion, how has the marketing of films changed in the last few years, especially with social media playing a key role?
UK: Now everyone has a smart phone in their hands and people are using it as a handy tool for marketing. Now, we cannot think of releasing a film without promoting it on social media, without a Facebook page or Twitter handle. People from all walks of life have a profile on Facebook or Instagram. So this medium is very important to reach out to them. From a personal marketing point of view too, I believe social media plays a very pivotal role in the way people like actors present themselves in front of the audience.
BOI: The Marathi industry is high on content and, in regional cinema, it is right on top. Is there any genre that the Marathi film industry hasn’t fully tapped?
SB: The Marathi industry is capable of doing a lot of genres but you cannot arrange for funds overnight. You need a lot of funds for some genres. For instance, the Marathi industry cannot produce a film like Baahubalidue to budget constraints, not due to a dearth of talent. So, I feel, in the next four to five years, we should be able to explore those genres. We have done plenty of films on serious subjects or social issues and we will continue to but there are genres such as mystery, horror and action that we should explore.
BOI: What’s next for each one of you?
SB: I have a release called Fugay coming up in February, which I have written with Swwapnil Joshi and we have also acted in it. It’s a mad comedy.
UK: I am doing a biopic based on the life of Lavani Empress Vithabhai Narayangaonkar. I play Vithabai in the film. There are a few other things in the pipeline, which will be announced soon.
KR: I have completed a film titled Truckbhar Swapn, which features me and Makrand Deshpande. The film has been produced by Nitin Desai. It is about the life of people living in slums and how they illegally build an extra storey and what happens when these illegal houses are demolished.
MK: I am coming up with a film titled Typewriter based on a true story. We go on the floors in 2017.