“My Latest Marathi Film Mai Ghat Crime No 103/2005 Was Not Made. It Just Happened”- Ananth Narayan Mahadevan
How did you stumble upon the plot for your latest Marathi film Mai Ghat: Crime No 103/2005, which was not only premiered at the recently concluded International Film Festival of India in Goa, even before its release all over Maharashtra but also fetched Usha Jadhav who played the titular role the Best Actress award?
It was an editorial which I read in Times of India that prompted me to make a film on a grave subject like this which has been plaguing not only our country but also the world at large for quite some time recently. I felt that the subject had a huge potential attached to it for me to make a real slice of film based on hard core reality. It shook me very strongly when I read the first draft as it deals with custodial death, which has increased all over the country of late.
What is your film all about?
It is about how a poor and totally uneducated mother sets out to seek justice for her dead son who has been falsely involved by a corrupt cop in a case and done to death while in illegal police custody just for the sake of snatching away Rs 4200 from him. Then case takes a toll on her life as it takes as many as 15 years with judges being manipulated. The film sets out to question such loopholes in our legal system and the effective role that organisations like Human Rights Society play in bringing the spotlight on such cases.
Where did this incident happen?
The plot actually had unfurled not in Maharashtra but in Kerala where an old mother called Padmavati Amma undauntedly fought against the cops and what’s more also won the case in her favor and the two cops were sentenced with death and life sentence respectively for their heinous crime
When the backdrop could have been Kerala, why did you not set out to make the film in Malayalam which is your mother tongue?
That is only because today it is extremely difficult to produce a film in Malayalam. My film has been premiered in IFFI. I shot it for 19 days and in a period of 40 days could wrap it by shooting in Maharashtra country side without short changing in any way. The budget also was under control and I made it a point not to let the budget affects the quality of work at any cost. I not only wrote the screenplay in tandem, with C.P. Surendran, also a journalist but also edited the film, while Alphonse Roy was the Director of Cinematography for my film.
How did you bag the offer from producer Nikita Gupta? What is her background?
I had met producer Mohini Gupta who had earlier co-produced the Tamil hit film Super Deluxe besides producing a bilingual web series called White Matter in Tamil as well as Hindi with actor Nasser from the South for Hotstar. Unlike the corporates in general, Nikita took just five minutes to say yes to me when I set out to narrate my subject to her. She did not listen to the narration at all and told me that she had confidence in me and saw the film only after I completed it. I’d say that as far as I am concerned, it was a miracle and not an obstacle to get a producer like her as she gave me every facility to go ahead and make my film in a span of just four months. My film was not made. It just happened.
What is your mantra as a director?
There is no mantra for me as a director. I feel that mindless formula films are not my forte as you cannot call them Cinema. They are more like gully cricket. I wanted to make sure that my film has real faces and not stars. I picked up actors like the national award winning Usha Jadhav, Suhasini Mulay, Kamlesh Sawant, Girish Oak, Vibhavari Joshi and Vivek Chabukswar and set out to make an ensemble character driven films. I am totally against type casting and playing to the gallery. Remember I had set out to cast Vinay Pathak in Gour Hari Dastaan, when every other film maker was casting him in comedy roles?
How many films have you directed till date? Which out fo them are your five favorite films till date?
Till date, I have directed as many as 17 films. Out of them, my five favorites are Mee Sindhutai, Gour Hari Daastaan, Doctor Rakhmabai, Mai Ghat Crime No 103/2005 and last but not the least Rough Book.
What is your next film, after Mai Ghat?
My next film will also be in Marathi. It will be my third film in Marathi after Mee Sindhutai and Mai Ghat. If you ask me why in Marathi do I want to make my next film too, I’d say that a film today does not at all need any language as such and even subtitles in English are enough for a viewer to see a film with engrossment. It all depends on where the story of the film is set. If the setting does not warrant that you set out to make a film in Hindi, why bother to make it in Hindi? I made my films like Gour Hari Daastaan and Rough Book in Hindi because they were essentially subjects which needed to be made in Hindi and not in any other language.
What is your genre as a filmmaker?
My genre as a film maker is world cinema.
Who are the film makers who you really admire?
They are Shyam Benegal, Shaji N Karun, Satyajit Ray, Ritwick Ghatak, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and last but not the least Aravindan who have greatly inspired me as a filmmaker.
Has acting taken a backseat ever since you made your transition to being a filmmaker?
Not at all. Even now I am saddling with my assignments in acting as well as directing. I am playing the main villain in a film called Haathi Mere Sathi in which Rana Daggupati is playing the main lead. It is not at all a sequel or for that matter a remake of the hit of the 70’s Haathi Mere Saathi. It is about how a herd of elephants set out to break a wall in Assam. Besides Haathi Mere Saathi, I am also acting in a Kannada-Hindi bilingual called Mohandas directed by P Seshadri and a couple of web series which are being produced by Applause. They are Scam 92 and Avrodh, which is based on Uri Attack.
How would you rate yourself as a filmmaker? How has your transition from being a film critic like me? I remember the time you and I were watching films at press shows as critics three decades ago.
Ratings are given by others including film critics. I do not rate myself or take myself seriously. As far as your second question is concerned, my journey as a critic as well as film maker has been a great schooling. Truffaut was also a film critic and hence made great films.
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