Punarvasu Naik’s debut film has not hit the theatres yet but there’s already a feeling of achievement; if not for him then at least for Marathi film industry. The young writer-director has not only impressed Anurag Kashyap, Guneet Moga and Bohra Brothers – the courageous and respected faces of contemporary Indian Cinema – but has also got them to produce his first Marathi film Vakratunda Mahakaaya that stars Vijay Maurya, Naman Jain, Shashank Shende, Rishi Deshpande, Jayant Sawarkar and Usha Nadkarni. In an exclusive interview to Rang Marathi, Punarvasu Naik speaks about his film, its producers and today’s Marathi cinema.
Tell us something about the film?
The story of Vakratunda Mahakaaya revolves around an inanimate object, which comes into the lives of some people during the Ganeshotsava festival. And then the news of a possible bomb attack by terrorists comes and makes everybody to panic. Vakratunda Mahakaaya is a satire on the society, a dark comedy.
What was the inspiration behind this story?
I, and my friend Yogesh Joshi, were looking for a story idea when we were hit by this one. We liked it and initially wanted to make it into a short film. While writing it, we got inspirations from many things and events that happen in general in our society. But when we developed it, we found it to be the length of a feature film. So we decided to keep as it was.
The film looks very different from what we normally see in Marathi. How difficult it was to find a producer for this script?
Oh, it was really very difficult. And not only in Marathi, we don’t see such kind of scripts in Hindi also. We have an inanimate object playing the lead role and all other characters are secondary. Some of these characters speak Marathi while others speak in Hindi. We are not used to such content.
When we started meeting producers, all of them liked the script but they were not confident. Thus we got 17 rejections before someone finally said yes.
How did Anurag Kashyap and others decide to take up the project?
Ajay Rai, one of my old friends, had decided to produce it. He put in some money and we shot some parts of Vakratunda Mahakaaya. Soon he suffered financial crunch and we had to stop there. We discussed the issue and concluded that we needed a co-producer. By that time, we had edited whatever we had shot.
I then approached Anurag Kashyap with the edited parts. He liked the work and promised that he would back the project. Later he introduced me to Guneet Moga, who, along with Sunil Bohra and Anshuman Jain, financed the film further.
Have you worked with Anurag Kashyap previously?
No, we are working together for the first time. We know each other since 2008 when we had first met in a party. Our offices were nearby and therefore we used to meet regularly.
For Vakratunda Mahakaaya, Anurag gave me total freedom. He neither asked me any questions nor gave any suggestions. Even though he is a producer, he saw the film only twice - first when I had shown him the previously shot and edited parts, and for second time when the film was complete.
How important it was to have these names backing your film?
It was very important! Anurag Kashyap and Guneet Moga are world-renowned faces of Indian cinema. People across the world want to know about their films. Almost all of their films have visited respected film festivals like Cannes. Sunil Bohra is known for making innovative and path-breaking movies. People watch their films with that same approach because they know the film will not a run-of-the-mill product.
Last year, we screened Vakratunda Mahakaaya at the Melbourne Festival and later at Mumbai Festival.
When it’s going to release for public?
It will release probably after the Ganeshotsava festival. We are working on the dates.
What are your earlier works?
I have worked as assistant director for Nitesh Tiwari’s Bhootnath Returns; Nitesh Tiwari and Vikas Behl’s Chillar Party; Nishikant Kamat’s Mumbai Meri Jaan; and also for Kamat’s first Marathi film Dombivli Fast.
What kind of response you are expecting for your film?
I’m very much hopeful! The audience has matured a lot. And Marathi audience has always supported newer ideas. I hope they will like Vakratunda Mahakaaya.
Now around 100 Marathi films are being made every year, but not even 10 of them are good in content. Do you think Marathi cinema is really going through its good phase?
Our country makes maximum films in the world. And where there is quantity, the quality is bound to suffer. Even in mainstream Bollywood, only few people can make good films. So I think it’s okay if we are making 10 good films in Marathi. What’s important is producers are putting in money. I couldn’t have been able to make Vakratunda Mahakaaya eight years back, but today I can. So, I think, Marathi cinema is surely going through a good phase.
Which Marathi films you watched and liked recently?
Your next film?
I’m writing, one in Hindi and one in Marathi. Let’s see which one goes on the floor first.
A lot of young writers and directors are trying to get into the industry. Would you like to say something to them?
Analyze your script. Criticize yourself even before people do that. And when you are ready, keep walking on the road until you reach the destination. There will be a lot of NOs, but the YES also comes. Take initiatives at your end. Work on the budget, bring it down from four-five crores to one crore, and start shooting your film with whatever funds you have. The costs of a lot of things have dropped drastically in this digital age. But keep in mind that only a good idea is not enough, you need to have all information and follow the method.