Actor Swwapnil Joshi enjoyed a successful run at the box office last year, with four Marathi films. Now in the news with this week’s release, Friends,he speaks to Rohini Nag about the dynamics of Marathi cinema and the lessons he has learnt over the years
You started your career with Hindi television and moved on to films. What lessons have you learnt from your films?
Destiny. I did a lot of television serials and all of them were long-running, hit shows. I thought I would take a break as television can become hectic as well as a habit but films have much more to offer as far as creativity and content go. The change came about after Classmates as the film got such an overwhelming response.
When you are doing television, you have ample opportunities to better your performance, especially if you are doing a daily soap. For instance, if you do a dramatic scene in a television show and weren’t able to give it 100 per cent, you can do better the next time as you can be sure that another similar sequence will be shot in a week or so. But, in films, other than retakes, the chances of doing it all over again are next to none. Once the film is shot and canned, it is preserved forever. I have learnt that, in films, you have to always give your best shot.
You had four releases last year, and each film not only garnered good box-office returns but were highly appreciated by the audience.
I have always been lucky to have characters that are different from what I have already played. Welcome Zindagi was almost a dark film; Mitwaa was a fun, romantic film; Tu Hi Re again had a completely different character; and Mumbai-Pune-Mumbai 2 was a sequel. I always believe that the director is the captain of the ship and it’s very important to work with the right director. Call it luck but I have always worked with some brilliant directors who have always given me characters that have the tendency to reach out to the audience in some way or the other.
All the four films together collected around `50- 55 crore NBOC, which is very good for our Marathi cinema. This year too I have three films releasing but I understand that doing too many films takes away the air of exclusivity and from 2017, I will try and do only two films a year. I am blessed.
I have always striven to achieve just one thing through my films and that is to entertain. I want to give every viewer their money’s worth. I think I have been the luckiest guy who has been offered all kinds of roles. I didn’t have to struggle to get them. I have always had my hands full and I am lucky to be getting busier by the day.
Like the Hindi film industry, the release window has become important for the Marathi industry too. Do you also have to take into account which Hindi films are releasing during that week?
Yes, we do. We are competing not only with Hindi cinema but Hollywood as well. So we do release our films taking note of the other releases, whether Hindi or Hollywood.
The Marathi film industry is regarded as one of the richest regional industries with regard to content. How have you seen this change come about?
Yes, it has been a long journey. And rather than change, I would say that our industry has evolved over the years. Marathi films were always rich in content but now we have much better budgets and I also think that Duniyadari brought in a lot of commercial viability to Marathi cinema. In Marathi cinema, content is king but what was lacking was the glamourisation of that content and the marketing aspect of films. We are competing not only with Hindi cinema but Hollywood as well. So we had content but didn’t know how to reach out to the audience and how to make our films larger than life.
Ultimately, as a viewer, I don’t care if you have a budget or not, or whether you get a subsidy or not. That changed tremendously after Duniyadari. I think it’s an amalgamation of content with the right marketing strategy.
We are learning from Hindi cinema’s marketing strategies and the way they reach out to people. That is also what we realised in Duniyadari, that we have to reach out to people. It cannot happen overnight, so we have to slowly make them aware of our product. Thus, one of the biggest changes has been the focus on marketing and how to reach out to our audience.
Can you tell us about your upcoming release, Friends, and your character in the film?
As the name of the film suggests, Friends is based on two friends – Neil and Karan. I play Neil, who is a cool-headed guy. Neil and Karan have diagonally opposite personalities and yet they are best friends and would do anything for each other. In a way, the two friends are like magnets, totally opposite but yet engrossed in their friendship. Then there is a love angle in the film… so all I can say is that the film is a fun ride and also has good content. While my character is a level-headed youth, his best friend, played by Sachit Patil, is hot-tempered. The film is all about how my character has a very difficult time saving his best friend and how their friendship is tested.
Will we ever see your transition from an actor to a director or a producer?
It is a natural transition and I will definitely make it some day. But I have not planned it, yet I know that I will either turn producer or director in the near future. Filmmaking is like magic; you can’t force things but let them happen naturally in their due course. At the end of the day, it has to leave you satisfied. Even as an actor, you do a film because you like the story, the concept and the director, and then you keep doing films.
My next is produced by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Shabina Khan and features Anjana Sukhani. The film is directed by Swapna Waghmare Joshi, with whom I have previously worked in Mitwaa. I am fortunate to get this opportunity to work with such esteemed filmmakers.