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Side-Splitting

Actors Siddharth Jadhav and Saurabh Gokhale, producer Amol Utekar and director Pradip Mestry talk to Padma Iyer about their Marathi film, Sarva Line Vyasta Aahet

With Sarva Line Vyasta Aahet, Pradip will be making his directorial debut and Amol will be debuting as a producer. How did this association come about?

Amol Utekar (AU): I am a different kind of producer and did not want to work with someone who was famous. I would rather work with someone who is technically sound and who knows what he is doing. The thing with established names is that they are usually involved in more than one project. If I had an established director on this film, he would have probably made two more films during this time. But I wanted to work with someone who would focus on just this one film.

I had heard this story several months ago. After that, I heard many other stories, but this was the one that attracted me. Also, Pradip was not insistent that he direct the film; he wanted his story to be made, that’s all. It was his sincerity, his struggle, his way of thinking and his calibre and experience that helped me decide that he was perfect to direct this film. He was tried and tested before coming on board.

Pradip Mestry (PM): When I wanted to make my first film, this was the subject I wanted to make it on. I wanted to make a film that would relax people. We go through a lot of stress in our lives and I wanted the audience to feel happy after watching my film. I wanted to make them laugh and just entertain them. This film was with me for eight years and it is finally being made.

How did the actors come on board?

AU: My aim was to make a low-budget film. But I realised that if I wanted to make a good film, making it a low-budget venture may not be right. When the writers Ganesh Pandit and Shreepad Joshi brought me this script, I knew they had raised the value of my film. So it became imperative that I work with actors of a certain calibre. That is when Jadhav came into the picture. I had seen his work in TV serials and I had worked with him before. He had done films as well but I hadn’t watched them. But I knew he had never been presented in a character like this. When it came to the actresses, we selected them based on how well suited they were to their roles. At the same time, there have been times when artistes were changed and portions reshot because the chemistry was not working as part of the bigger picture.

PM: Though we started this film with a certain budget in mind, it slowly started getting bigger and bigger. Thankfully, Amol sir offered complete support and the cost of production was no longer an issue. So then we decided to go with established names when it came to the cast and crew.

Then I went to meet Siddu (Siddharth Jadhav) to narrate the film. He did not think about whether he was the main lead or the second lead. He assured me that I had approached him for the right character. All he was concerned about was how his character impacted the screenplay. The story I had written was about a solo hero, Sameer, the character that Saurabh is playing. But when the first draft of the screenplay arrived, it had become a story of two heroes, Sameer and Babya. And so we got Siddharth on board for Babya.

I had never worked with Saurabh before. I had seen him in a TV serial and was not aware that he had worked in films. So when Amol sir suggested his name, I wasn’t so sure. But then an actor can convince you of his calibre by just the way he walks. And that’s exactly what happened with Saurabh. The scene he did had no dialogue. I just asked him to walk a certain way and the way he did it, I knew I had found my Sameer.

The same was true of the five heroines. I explained their characters to them and exactly what they would be doing in the film. And all of them have done a wonderful job. Of course, there was apprehension whether they would agree to doing these roles in the first place. Thankfully, they all did. At the end of the day, it was all about team work and everyone contributed to the film, especially Siddharth, who brought so much energy to the film.

Siddharth and Saurabh, as actors, what was it that drew you to this film, especially a two-hero project? Were there any challenges?

Siddharth Jadhav (SJ): I never think of a role as the lead role or supporting role. Like I said the last time I was here, when I started off, I used to get one-scene roles. So when you are start getting work, you should always remember those days of struggle. I kept in mind the following: whether my work would be noticed by the audience; would I get paid properly for the job; and would the people I would be working with want to cast me in future projects.

In Jatra, people said that even though I was working with Bharat (Jadhav) sir, my performance stood out. And after De Dhakka, roles were being written for me. The credit for that goes to Mahesh (Manjrekar) sir. In his film Mee Shivajiraje Bhosle Boltoy, I tried to do something other than just comedy. At that time, many people tried to dissuade him from giving me this role, saying my image was that of a comedy actor, and how would I be able to hold my own in front of an actor like Sachin Khedekar?

It was Mahesh sir who first told me that I was not just a comedian, but an actor and I am capable of much more than making people laugh. He kept challenging me as an actor with his films. My role in his film Lalbaug Parel as Speedbreaker was one of the most difficult characters to play. So I never think about whether my role is that of a leading man or supporting actor. I am just extremely excited about the film.

Becoming an actor was never on the cards; it just happened. I was offered this role in the film Bhairu Pailwan Ki Jai Ho. The director told me to get into the look of a wrestler. The first image that came to mind was that of Salman Khan. So I am that member of the audience who dreamt about cinema and then found their way to the big screen. I therefore try to bring a hint of realism to all my characters.

Over time, I have learnt that it is not the length of your role but the strength of the role that matters. In all the movies I have done in the recent past, whether Ye Re Ye Re Paisa, Mauli or Simmba… the characters are strong and there is also a bit of me in them. I think that is what my audience expects of me as well.

Whether it is just one scene, or one dance, a supporting role or the main lead, people connect with me irrespective of how much time I am on screen. Also, given the way I look, I feel they think I am one of them. And for those aspiring to be in this field, I give them hope that ‘If Siddu can do it, so can we’. And every actor has some motive to be a part of any film. Sometimes it is money, sometimes it is the team that you want to be part of and sometimes it is the script. In this film, Sarva Line Vyasta Aahet, the people are really good.

Saurabh Gokhale (SG): I had done a music video with Amol and it was a good experience. I am more concerned about the person I am working with and how comfortable I am with them. I had a good rapport with Amol, so when he approached me for this film, there was no reason to say ‘no’. The only thing was that I had never done comedy before and I told him that. I didn’t know if I could pull it off.

But when I heard the screenplay and Ganesh Pandit’s involvement and, of course, the fact that Siddu was there, I heaved a sigh of relief. I knew I was in good hands. Interestingly, all the Marathi films I had done till then were with first-time directors. So they are as driven as you are. They give you the space to do your thing and it has worked in my favour and for the film.

If you ask me what was challenging about doing comedy, I would say that playing a simpleton was. In real life, I am a very aggressive person and I look like that as well. I get angry very easily. So, to play a simpleton, who is docile and subdued was not easy. But this kind of challenge is not new to me. All the roles I have played to date have been different and there have been no repetitions.

How was the overall experience of working on this film, especially with the five actresses?

SJ: I have heard about actresses not getting along but it was completely different with them. They had so much camaraderie. They seemed to be good friends and they brought comfort to the set as well. Also, they were sure about what they were doing in the film. We were all working together for the first time. I have worked with Hemangi Kavi before and we are on the same wavelength. It was the first time I had worked with Rani (Agrawal). I have seen Neetha Shetty’s work in Fugay, but this was our first film together. I was part of Smita’s (Shewale) first film and this is my first film with Sanskruti (Balgude).

Another wonderful aspect about the film is that the makers are focused. They knew they wanted this to be a comedy film, a film that would deliver pure entertainment. That dictated the choice of the cast and its final presentation. All in all, it was a wonderful experience. And I want to congratulate Amol. He has done a lot of work in Marathi, but this is the first time he is lending his name to a project. This movie has been a learning experience for all of us and a genuine effort too.

Mahesh sir would always say that there are two friends of every actor on a film; the director and the cameraman. Pradip gave us a lot of freedom on the film. He used to listen to our suggestions, but of course implement them only if he was convinced. I feel the director’s call is very important and it worked well on this film.

PM: Siddu knows me from my assistant direction days. This is the first time I am working with Saurabh, Neetha Shetty and Rani Agrawal. I have worked with Smita and Hemangi before. I had done an experimental project and Sanskruti was part of that. If you see the movie, you will realise that Saurabh and Sanskruti are go-with-the-flow performers. Smita is a very simple girl. I have never seen her lose her cool; rather, I think she doesn’t even know how to be angry! She is a beautiful actress. Neetha has very good screen presence. Rani has done a very good job of her role as a non-Marathi girl. Siddu is like Virendra Sehwag. He had said that he wanted to hit every ball; Siddu is like that. Even Hemangi has the same approach. They want to rock every scene they are in, and they do!

The experience on this film has been amazing. This is my first film as a director. I have worked as an assistant director on many films. I don’t usually get stressed and, with this film, there was no reason to feel any pressure. It was such a relaxed working environment. And the producer too put me at ease. He just asked me to focus on my work and he took care of everything else.

At the end of the day, movie making is all about box-office collections. How do you look at that and what are your expectations for this film?

 

AU: There are different stages in filmmaking. Till the film is made, it is in the hands of the makers, but after that things can go awry. Thankfully, for me, I met the right people at every stage of the film and things have worked in my favour. This film will release not just in Maharashtra but in the US, the UK and Singapore. Talking about the box-office, Marathi films have been doing well irrespective of the other movies showing in theatres at the same time. I am confident that the box-office collections of this film will be more that I expect, just as it has been with every other aspect of this film.

SJ: I have done my job as an actor, and now I want people to come to theatres and have a good time. That is my box-office collection. Amol is a new producer and I want this film to work more for him than anything else. That’s because he supports Marathi cinema.

SG: Of late, we have been talking about the box-office more than ever, especially for Marathi cinema. At the end of the day, if the film is good, it will be well received regardless of the competition. The audience always welcomes a good project. And, for a first-time producer, if the film is well-received, it helps them bring more films.

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