Marathi audience difficult to please

Sai Deodhar, known for her work in television, is all set to make her acting debut in Marathi with her mother Shrabani Deodhar’s directorial Mogra Phulaalaa. In conversation with Padma Iyer, she talks about the film, working with her mother and her plans as a filmmaker

Why did you wait so long to make your debut in Marathi films?

Television took away all the time and energy and my life. (Laughs) I have been doing television for quite a while. But then, it came to a point when I was saturated and felt that I had it me to do something more than just play roles on TV. I needed to get out.

So I wrote a short film called D.A.T.E. I had no clue what I was doing. I bounced it off my mother. She said, 'It is a good script. What do you want to do with it?' I said I wanted to make it into a film. She then asked what I was doing about it. I should make it! So we pooled in money. My mother, my husband and I started a company called Purple Morning Movies. I had no idea that there was such a big market out there that showcases short films. I did a lot of research and I am lucky that D.A.T.E. received an overwhelming response. That was a catalyst and that is where the journey began. Then we got Sholay Girl, which was a huge canvas and then came Mogra Phulaalaa.

My mother had been writing the script for this film for over a year. She is one of those writers who take their time. Finally, when the script was ready, I had been buttering her to cast me in the film. She would bully me and say, 'You had better behave or I will throw you out of the film!'

So, this has been a very exciting year for me, as a director, a producer and as an actor.

Were you always the first choice for Mogra Phulaalaa?

Right from its nascent stage, I have been involved with Mogra Phulaalaa. From the ideation stage, Swwapnil (Joshi) who is opposite me in the film and all of us were wondering what we should make when mom cracked the story. As the film developed and progressed, it kept getting better and better. She had me in mind when she wrote the film.

What was it like working with your mother as the director of the film?

People say you are a different person on the set than when you are at home. But it has never been like that for us. Do we take our work home? Absolutely! It is our work that defines us. We are constantly talking about it. But on the set, mom was very strict, so I was very careful not to overstep. I was extra-cautious. I did put my thoughts across but I used to be very diplomatic.

I have learnt the craft from her. She has taught me everything. What I like about her is that if somebody gives a good suggestion, she will consider it. She lets the actors do what they want to do but she also knows exactly what she wants.

As a director yourself, what did you learn from your mother, the director?

Scripting – she taught me that in execution, things may go a little haywire or you may not be able to make it like you want to, but if your script is good, everything else can be managed. That is one thing she absolutely ingrained in me, a good script is the crux.

Tell us about your character in Mogra Phulaalaa.

There is a very interesting dynamic, which will be revealed in the film. My character's name is Shivangi Gupte and she is an assistant manager in a bank. She is a strong woman on the outside but is actually very vulnerable because of what she has endured. She meets a man of marriageable age who is a mamma's boy. The mother wants to get her son married but is also worried that she may lose him. Shivangi opens a new world for him and starts a love story between them.

The film features stalwarts like Neena Kulkarni and Chandrakant Kulkarni. What was it like working with them?

I didn't get the chance to work with them very much, but they are very close to me as they are from the film industry. And since this was my first film, they were very protective about me. To me, they are Neena maushi and Chandu dada, and I am fortunate that I could do this film with them.

What are your plans as a filmmaker and actor?

I am working on my directorial project. I have been away from it because of Mogra Phulaalaa. Also, today, the dynamics have changed. No longer are people only actors or filmmakers; you don't have to limit yourself. Hollywood has been doing this for years, where actors are actively involved in the filmmaking process. People used to tell me, 'Sai, if you want to concentrate on your acting, stop thinking about direction.' I never understood that because they are different crafts. You have someone like Farhan Akhtar, who sings, acts, writes, directs and produces. I think he started the whole movement that said, 'I can do everything'.

As an actor, I am really looking forward to Mogra Phulaalaa. People haven't seen me act in Marathi, Hindi audiences have. And the Marathi audience is difficult to please. They are very critical about what they see. So, I was careful not to lose the sincerity of my character. I am nervous because I want to be accepted by the Marathi audience and do more Marathi films. Organically, nothing came to me and I kept doing what came my way. But now,, I think I am at a stage where I can be choosy and not do things I don't want to.

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