Director Sachin Pilgaonkar and actors Abhinay Berde and Hemal Ingle talk to Team Box Office India about their upcoming Marathi film Ashi Hi Aashiqui, their experiences while making the film, its music, their expectations and more
BOI: Sachin sir, how did the idea of such a young and fresh love story like Ashi Hi Aashiqui (AHA) come to your mind?
Sachin Pilgaonkar (SP): This happened because of the way I have been brought up, not only by my parents but also by the industry and the audience. My perspective towards life is about today and tomorrow, never yesterday. I do not live in the past. I am not a man of many words; I am a man of action. That makes a difference to your approach and the way you lead your life.
Every filmmaker’s personality reflects in his work. One doesn’t need to purposely do anything; it just happens. I can always relate to today’s youth. I can speak their language and converse with them. The reason I can do this is the people I have met in my life, first as a child, then as an adolescent and later as a young man. All the people I have worked with, starting as a child actor, came down to the level of my age and conversed with me. They never looked down on me, thinking that ‘yeh toh bachcha hai!’ Meena Kumari, Balraj Sahni, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Sanjeev Kumar, C Ramchandra (Anna Chitalkar), Sudhir Phadke (Babuji), Pu La Deshpande and Ga Di Ma (Ga Di Madgulkar)… these people made sure that I understood everything. I became used to that. The way my elders behaved with me created the environment for me to behave in a similar manner with the youth of today. I think that is why such a fresh thought came to me and ideas like this will keep coming to me in the future as well.
BOI: Abhinay, it mustn’t have been easy working with Sachin sir. How did you compete with his energy levels on the sets?
Abhinay Berde (AB): He is young at heart. By experience and his work, he is senior. I had to keep that in mind. I can relate to him, growing up in the cinematic world. I too have grown up in a similar environment though I had not worked in films as a child. But I have seen the industry at close quarters. My relationship with him is that of a guru-shishya. I don’t need to go to any film school now as I have learnt from THE institution.
I used to be scared, actually both Hemal and I were afraid. But he took care of us. So we have to credit him for all the good work we have done. SP: They have also worked equally hard. Also, there is no question of competing because there was never any competition on our sets. On the other hand, everyone complemented each other and especially these two, who will continue to do so even after the film releases. And they don’t have to say all these good things about me. Their work and what they have done will get me compliments. I am going to sit back and enjoy clapping for these people. That is my ambition.
BOI: Hemal, you do not have a film background. Did you, at any point, feel out of place?
Hemal Ingle (HI): There were many times I felt out of place because I didn’t know how to deal with things if I was not able to do a particular thing. Both of them have seen me go through this phase where I was lost. And Sachin sir would say, ‘Hemal, look at yourself the way I look at you. There is a reason you are there in this film and I have selected you for that reason which I have already seen in your eyes.’
And that used to give me a sense that I was accountable to this new name that is attached to mine; this new middle name, this new surname attached to me, which is Sachin Pilgaonkar. He said that in future whatever work I do, the compliment will come to him. That realisation took a little time but once I got it, I knew I was not out of place and that I was born to do this. Even he saw the change eventually. He said he was able to see that I was ‘getting’ things. That was all I needed.
SP: Abhinay too gave her a lot of support. He is the mature one.
HI: Yes, he did.
SP: They have to emote together so it is important that they are supportive of each other. This is the first time Hemal is working in a Marathi film. He has seen the industry and he has a little experience. He was very supportive of not just her, but of his other friends who are in the film.
It is a very youthful film. In fact, for the role of Abhinay’s father, I chose Sunil Barve. He has never done such a role before.
BOI: Sachin sir, you have worked with Laxmikant Berde and now you have directed his son Abhinay. It is like you have come full circle.
SP: The circle is not yet complete; I am going to work with his (Abhinay’s) son as well!
Lakshya (Laxmikant Berde) was a different personality and Abhinay is a different personality. And for this, I give credit to Abhinay. He did not get influenced by his father’s image. He is all out to offer his contribution, his style of acting. And why should people compare? Just because he is the son of a great actor does not mean he should be compared to his father. That would be an injustice to Abhinay. It should not be a factor. And he has the capacity to create his own niche. I have seen it. I have directed an entire film with him.
And the thing that is going to take both these young actors places is the constant drive to better themselves. Looking at them reminded me of Amjad Khan. He had done his first scene ‘Kitne aadmi the’ in Sholay. I was on the sets at the time, I was part of the production crew. After the scene was shot and edited, it was shown to Amjad Khan and he was not happy with it. He felt he could have done it better. But we did not re-shoot it. It was his introduction scene and today it is one of the most iconic scenes in Indian cinema. So what I want to say is that it is good to have that feeling, but let the audience decide. These two are going to feel that they could have done better, but they will get all their answers from the audience.
Cult films are never made, they become cult films. So, I look at these two buddies as the big stars of Marathi cinema. And it is up to them to realise it. Let the audience connect with them. The audience is very large-hearted and they take you home. And I want that to happen for this film and for them.
BOI: Abhinay, you have had an interesting journey in films. From Ti Saddhya Kay Karte to this film, how do you look at your journey so far?
AB: Ti Saddhya Kay Karte happened to me by fluke. I was doing theatre in Mithibai College and I was very happy doing that. I was enjoying that space. One day, I got a call from Satish sir (Rajwade), who said he wanted to work with me. But mom was against it because she wanted me to complete my graduation.
When I went to meet him, I liked the script and ultimately I did the film. Then Sachin sir saw the film. He had also arranged a special show of the film. And one fine day he called mom, and Ashi Hi Aashiqui happened. So in this journey as an actor, I have definitely grown, and I am still growing. I am learning the nuances of filmmaking, the technical aspects. Both of them belong to different schools and getting to learn from such directors at the beginning of my career is a blessing. Not many people get that chance.
It would be utterly foolish of me to let go of this opportunity. I hope to work with both of them in the future too, rather with every filmmaker out there, not only in Marathi but in every language. It is a big dream for me.
BOI: Hemal and Abhinay, when you are working with someone like Sachin sir, who comes with vast experience, did you feel any pressure?
HI: Of course, there was a certain amount of pressure, not just in the beginning but almost throughout the shoot. For Abhinay and me, it was like we had to make sure he was happy with our work. Are we doing everything? Are we satisfying what needs to be done for our characters? These questions were always there in our minds. Even when there were breaks between schedules, I used to always think about Amarja (her character in AHA). What she would do? But I wasn’t fully aware of these thoughts. So even though there was pressure, it worked out for the best. It helped me become better and do something that even I didn’t expect of myself.
AB: I was very young when the shoot started, I was just 20. I am still very young. So I was worried whether I would be able to do it, especially since he has worked with my father and we all know the kind of actor he was. So I always wondered if I would be able to at least live up to that. I wanted to carve a different path for myself, but he was a great actor. And that is a different kind of pressure. Everyone in the film had worked with my father. Pooja Pawar, who plays my mother, has done nearly 15 films with my dad.
BOI: Sachin sir, it looks like you did not make it easy for Abhinay!
SP: I never tried to make life difficult for him either! It is just that it is impossible to work with anyone who has not worked with or connected with Laxmikant Berde.
AB: That is true. It will happen with every film I do. But by then I will have some experience. I recollect a very fond incident. Sachin sir once told me about an incident while shooting Ashi Hi Banva Banvi. Manuja jag zara was their entry song and my dad was apprehensive because he had to dance with Sachin sir. He was not a great dancer, but he was able to act even with his dance. So Sachin mentioned my dad’s fear. And it was the same for me throughout the film. He told me that this reminded him of my dad.
SP: There is a scene in the film when they get married and it is their wedding night. He opens the door and comes into the room. The way he looks are her, it reminded me of Lakshya; his hair, the way he stands. I am sure even the audience will see that. There is nothing that Lakshya has done on screen or off screen that people have not liked. He has worked a lot for the welfare of people working in experimental theatre. People only know him as the actor who made them laugh through his films. Not many people knew his large-hearted side. And that is the quality of my friend.
BOI: Sachin sir, this is the first time you have composed all the songs of a film. What was your inspiration? Can you tell us something about the songs?
SP: Though I was introduced by babuji (Sudhir Phadke), I was not as inspired by his music as I was by C Ramchander – Anna Chitalkar. He had his own style. After I came back from school, my mom knew that the moment I stepped out of the door and turned right, I was headed for anna Madgulkar’s house. If I turned left, I was headed for Anna Chitalkar’s home, and if I went straight, then it would be to Rajabhau Thakur’s residence. I never went to babuji’s house. Anna Chitalkar used to pamper me. He did not have any children of his own, but he loved kids. He used to sit and play with me.
I once asked him how he made a tune, and he replied, ‘I run my fingers across the harmonium keys. If I get a tune, fine, or else I just keep it aside. I do this again the next day. It is a labour-intensive task, it is a creative art.’ Of course, there were many talented music directors, but he impressed me the most.
After that, the music composer who impressed me was Pancham da, RD Burman. There is no music director like him in India, and there never will be another like him. There was a huge age gap between us, but he made me his friend. I have spent many a long night with him because of music. He composed Bade achche lagte hain in front me, looking at my actions, my gestures, the way I talk.
With experiences like these, my way of making music will be different. I cannot comment on whether it is good or bad, that is for the audience to decide. My job is to make the music. And there is no compulsion for anyone to like it. Still, I will give it 100 per cent. I have made the same effort for all the five songs in this film. No two songs are similar or can be compared, composition-wise.
I want to also give credit to Nishad Chandra, who is the arranger of all the songs except the a capella song. It has been done by Arjun Nair and his team in such a beautiful way. I must mention their company, Voctronika. That song has been mixed so well by Vijay Dayal of YRF. I wanted to work with the best.
Sonu Nigam is the voice of AHA, he has sung all the songs. For Hemal, we have three singers. There is Priyanka Barve, who has sung the title track; then there is Jahnvi Arora, who has sung Kalay mala, a hummable track; and then there is the a capella song sung by Sonu and Shanmukhapriya, who is from Vishakapatnam. I heard her voice on a reality show and I composed the song after that.
BOI: How was the experience of shooting in Switzerland?
HI: We shot the title track Teri meri aashiqui in Switzerland. Sachin sir looked for some amazing virgin locations to shoot the song. There were many foreigners and local Swiss people who even picked up the dance steps.
AB: Switzerland was an amazing experience. I had seen these places only on TV or on screen in films like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge or all Yash Chopra films. The people there respect you a lot. We never had issues with immigration. We did a lot of dance there. In Mumbai, we were shooting in 40-degree temperature and there it was 6 degrees.
HI: On the day we shot Samjhe kya, it was 3 degrees.
SP: The place where we were shooting in is Arosa. There is not a single Indian there. Swtizerland was in the script from the beginning. But, sometimes, after you start shooting, the budget thins, and a Switzerland schedule has to be shot at Chinchpokli! But that didn’t happen with this film.
HI: Every couple dreams of Switzerland, and as Amarja and Swayam, we got to shoot there at such an early stage in our careers.
BOI: Ashi Hi Aashiqui is all set to release on March 1. What are your expectations from the film?
AB: After many years, we will be seeing the Berde-Pilgaonkar combination on screen, as director and actor. People used to always ask me when I would work with Mahesh sir (Kothare) and Sachin sir. I don’t know about Mahesh sir, but I am very excited and this ticks one of the boxes. I am sure this film will appeal to Sachin sir. We have made a good film and the rest is in the hands of the audience.
HI: Since I am very new, my expectation is to do Sachin sir proud. I want people to tell him he made the right choice.
SP: I have two expectations from the film. First, that Ashi Hi Aashiqui should be another Ashi Hi Banva Banvi; and second, that Abhinay and Hemal are here to stay.