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Producer Akash Chawla of Fresh Lime Films talks to Bhavi Gathani about his web series Karenjit Kaur and upcoming films

It’s been a year since you launched Fresh Lime Films. How has the journey been for you?

It was a very interesting journey. A web series named Karenjit Kaur has come out which we are making with Namah Pictures. Besides that, we have announced a film with Ajay Devgn which is a biopic on football coach Syed Abdul Rahim, and there will also be a Marathi film which will release later this year. Apart from this, there are other projects in the pipeline but we wanted to talk about them once they took shape rather than make announcements when the company was being formed. Now I can give you some concrete information about what we are doing.

What made you back Karenjit Kaur?

It’s a great story. It’s about a personality who is most-searched on the Internet. Surprisingly, most people don’t even know her real name. Everyone knows her as ‘Sunny Leone’, but not by her real name, Karenjit Kaur. It’s a very extraordinary story of a person from a simple Sikh household. A simple Punjabi girl who goes on to become a big porn star, falls in love, comes out of that industry, comes to India and becomes a Bollywood star. It is a very different story of a personality who has had an extraordinary life. We just wanted to show the lady, Karenjit Kaur, rather than talk about a brand called ‘Sunny Leone’.

You mentioned a movie with Ajay Devgn that you are co-producing. How did you come on board for that?

At Fresh Lime Films, we had decided that we would work on two verticals, feature films and the web platform. When we came across the story of Rahim saab and met the players from that era, we were completely taken aback by what they told us about him. There are players who are 75 and 80 years of age, legendary players who are completely unknown today. People keep talking about contemporary European and Brazilian players, but nobody talks about Indian players.

Here is a coach who made India known as the ‘Brazil of Asia’. But nobody remembers or even knows him. Even Google throws up an incorrect picture of him. That’s the reason we loved the idea of making a film on him. When we approached Ajay Devgn for it, he was very excited. Football is the most popular sport in the world and a sport in which we haven’t made our mark in recent times. If this film can inspire a new generation of Indians to come forward and take the sport forward because of a legend we have forgotten, then we would have done our job. 

What makes Ajay Devgn a perfect fit for this role?

When we met all these footballers and they described the personality of the coach to us, we needed an actor who would look very convincing as a coach. Ajayji is one actor who can reach out to the masses, who can play this character to the best of his ability. And when we came across more details about the film, we realised that there was a lot of similarity between the personalities of Ajay and Rahim saab. We thought Ajay would be the best possible match we could hope for.  

You entered the regional market with a biopic on Anandi Gopal. How different is the regional market compared to the Hindi film industry?

It’s a completely different ball game. When you are catering to a particular language, you have to stay true to the sensibility of that language. The way you make a Hindi film, you can’t just make a Marathi film and vice-a-versa. We are making a Marathi film on Anandi Gopal, who was India’s first lady doctor in the 1880s. It’s a love story between Anandi and her husband Gopalrao Joshi, who actually pushed her to become a doctor. She was the first woman to travel overseas to study medicine. Imagine India in the 1870s and 1880s, when education for girls was taboo. It’s the story of how a husband encouraged his wife.

As a producer, what difference or similarity do you find between producing films and producing digital content?

There are many similarities between both these things. Whether it is a film or a web series, the rigour and the process is the same. You have to go through the grind. For example, we worked on the script of Karenjit Kaur for two years. It’s the same with films. The obvious difference is that a film is a two or two-and-a-half hour content whereas a web series is serialised content. So, the style of writing is different from that of a film. Also, the audience on the web is far more fickle-minded as you can watch it on your phone any time. They do not give you a second chance, so you had better be very true to the quality of your product.

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