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Upcoming Marathi film Ventilator is Priyanka Chopra’s maiden Marathi production under her banner Purple Pebble Pictures. Producer Madhu Chopra and director Rajesh Mapuskar speak to Team Box Office India about their film

Box Office India (BOI): What led Priyanka Chopra to produce a Marathi film under her banner, Purple Pebble Pictures?

Madhu Chopra (MC): When we set up our production house, the basic agenda was to encourage regional films and integrate them into mainstream cinema. Priyanka (Chopra) believes that there are so many good stories in so many different regions of our country that get told but that don’t give credit to the region. We pick up stories from the region, adapt them with the mainstream and then show them as a Hindi film.

Sometimes, there is a parody, sometimes reality. She felt we must give due credit to every region and let the rest of the country also know what those parts of the country are like. The East and North East are barely 200 km apart but they are very different from each other. It’s the same with Gujarat and Maharashtra. The basic fabric is the same but they are yet so different. The agenda of launching Purple Pebble Pictures was to start with regional films and see how much we can do to encourage and give exposure to the regional space, all over the country and worldwide. God willing, we can do it through her presence, globally.

BOI: Was Ventilator the first Marathi script you considered?

MC: It wasn’t the first script but it was the best script. So when Rajesh (Mapuskar) told me about the story, Ishaan Dutta, who was working with us, brought the story and Rajesh to us.  The first time, Rajesh was very sceptical and gave us a very flimsy narration, like usko maza nahi aa raha, kinds.

Rajesh Mapuskar (RM): No!!! Really? (Laughs)

MC: I am not a filmmaker, so he must have been wondering why he was telling me the story.

RM: NO!!! (Laughs)

MC: (Laughs) The second time, the story was more detailed and I loved it. I spoke to Priyanka and she said we should get a detailed narration. He gave her a detailed narration, which was the third meeting. Priyanka was in India then. He gave such a fabulous narration to Priyanka that she said yes to the film then and there.

Back home, she said, ‘I am sure this will be a very difficult film to make but I am sure that the passion with which Rajesh narrated the film will make it a beautiful film.’ She wanted to make this film even though she knew it would be a difficult film to make because Rajesh had narrated it from his heart. So from one artist to another, the chords connected and they clicked.

BOI: Were you really sceptical initially, as ma’am just said?

RM: (Laughs) No…

MC: The film is worth it and to showcase this Marathi film worldwide makes us as proud as it gives you satisfaction.

MC: Be honest.

RM: Not really. I see my film reflected in the other person’s face… how the person I am narrating to reacts and talks. I get my inspiration from the other person’s reaction when I am conversing with them. And Priyanka was very expressive when I narrated the script to her. I could tell that she was enjoying it and that made me feel more and more involved. So I was not sceptical but I was not sure that Priyanka Chopra and her mother would be interested in doing a Marathi film.

But they made this film, supported this film, and backed my vision from the beginning. This was an extremely difficult project to execute and they did it with heart. The question was,yeh project acha hai but yeh karengey kaise? It is a genuine concern for any producer but Priyanka and Madhuji took that chance and said, Kar lo, ho jaega. And now it is going to be showcased on a global platform. I think this is the first Marathi film to release worldwide simultaneously with its India release, on the same day. They lived up to their promise.

MC: The film is worth it and to showcase this Marathi film worldwide makes us as proud as it gives you satisfaction.

BOI: Ashutosh Gowariker said you pursued him for a long time to be a part of the film but when Priyanka asked him, he agreed immediately.  What was it about the character that made you want him play the part?

RM: The character, Raja Kamerkar, is a world-famous Bollywood director but when he visits the small town from where he hails, he is still that small Raja that they knew. So there is a contrast that he character goes through and that character is the spine that holds the story together. I wondered who could play this character in Marathi. I realised that if Ashutosh Gowariker essays this role, his mere presence was half the battle won as he is a world-renowned director and very comfortable with himself. And that’s what my character is like.

MC: It was a perfect match.

 BOI: Out of all the characters, which ones are your favourites?

MC: I love the character Prasanna played by Jitendra Joshi, the character is a rebel and I have seen this kind of a rebel in friend’s family and my family. A rebel who became a rebel because he felt misunderstood, something a few words or a conversation could have ironed out so easily. But today’s kids have bigger egos than their parents and they find it very difficult to take that one little step. For the film Ventilator I think kids will also understand the futility of holding onto grudges and not maintaining communication and relationships. We are here today, gone tomorrow. So relationships have been given so much importance in the film and Prasanna has really justified his part. I have two favourites.

The second character I like a lot is that of Sarika, the sister played by Sukanya Kulkarni. She is the epitome of grace and the father-daughter relationship is beautifully shown. Nothing distracted her or detonated her. Her thought was completely how to get her father well without any personal agenda which is what I saw in Priyanka. I could relate Sarika with Priyanka and her father as she too had no other thought in her head other than stabalising her father’s health. It’s been captured very beautifully.

RM: There are many characters that I like and I see myself in them. But what I will talk about is the relationships we explored in this film, whether chacha-bhatija, uncle-aunty, father-son,… we have explored all kinds of relationships. I like the father-son relationship most. It was there in my first film Ferrari Ki Sawaari also. Although this film is not about the father-son relationship, there is a hint of it between Ashutosh and his father. That relationship is very close to me, as I think every son goes through that kind of conflict with his father.

We say that daughters are close to their fathers and sons to their mothers. That’s a universal truth. So the relationship between father and son is taken for granted, they don’t say very much to each other, they hold grudges against each other, there is a layer, there is no filter.

 BOI: Was casting easy?

RM: No, it wasn’t easy at all. My brother Rohan Mapuskar worked hard on getting each character on board. As soon as I started writing, he started casting. So I would write one character one day and the next day, he would give me five options. It also helped to cast simultaneously because that person would inspire me while I was writing.

BOI: Was it difficult to shoot as you had so many characters?

RM: It was difficult and it was also easy. It was difficult because we were shooting in a real hospital, Kohinoor Hospital in Kurla. That was tough as we were a crew of 100-200 people in a real hospital, and all kinds of patients, from pregnant women to people on stretchers would be walking past us and, obviously, we couldn’t do anything about it. Also, we couldn’t make too much noise as it was a hospital and it was a sync sound shoot. But you will see real patients and their relatives in the film.

But, as a director, it was scary to shoot in a real hospital because I was constantly afraid that our cables and equipment would inconvenience the patients. It was very stressful. But the crew was trained to shoot in a hospital, the shoot proceeded smoothly.  We completed the shoot in 34 days whereas Hindi films usually take 70-80 days. In fact, Ashutosh Gowariker asked me, ‘Yaar, tu kaise khatam karega? Hoga nahi fir 15-20 days maangega.’ It was a big challenge to complete it in 34 days.

MC: (Cuts in) This is the first time I had heard Rajesh say he was stressed. I must say here that the professionalism of Marathi actors is superb, they used to turn up on time and finish on time. All these things made it easier for us to meet our deadlines.

BOI: From the first narration that Rajesh gave you to the final product, how satisfied are you?

MC: I am very satisfied with the film. His characterisation bang on. Of course, as a director, he modified the script depending on the actors he had cast; otherwise, it was what he had written. He was very clear about his vision and how he wanted the film to shape up. I truly believe that we were able to wrap the film in 34 days because of Rajesh. He had done his homework very thoroughly.

BOI: Madhuji, how did Priyanka Chopra turn producer? Was it an organic move or was it a deliberate one?

MC: It happened when she decided to take up Quantico. She was very unsure about where her life was heading. She didn’t want to feel detached from her country. So, one day, she said, ‘Mom, let’s set up a production house and I will start telling stories.’

She writes stories, she writes poems, she is very artistic. I told her she could write and direct but she said she wanted to produce and tell more stories as a producer as well. That’s how it all started. For six to seven months, I was clueless. We had hired people, but I had no idea what to do. Then, Priyanka came home during a break from Quantico and that’s when she set the ball rolling.

BOI: As you mentioned she is fond of writing. Will we see her turn director?

MC: I hope she does because she will make a fantastic director as she has an keen eye, she give details to everything. I believe she is still learning the craft so once she is ready she will surely direct and she will do a good job.

BOI: If you can describe Priyanka as a producer.

RM: She was brilliant. As madam said she has a keen eye of everything and she is also very creative and has great ideas. She has something going on in her mind, even if she is shooting for continuous 14 hours. Back into a meeting she is very creative. A lot of people are saying the film is looking fresh. That’s because it’s not been made in a rigid form, we made the film in a free flowing form. Whether people comb or not comb doesn’t matter so it’s the whole process. And she appreciates what you do; she appreciates the hard work you are putting and why you are doing certain things. So she was brilliant as a producer.

 BOI: Any plans to produce Hindi films?

MC: Hopefully next year. But currently we have one Punjabi film, working on a Rajasthani script and one Assamese script.

RM: So she is a mother India.

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