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“I am nervous because the Marathi audience is difficult to please”

Sai Deodhar, who is 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 her film, working with her mother, her plans as a filmmaker and more

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 I felt 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 up 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, all of us, Swwapnil (Joshi) who is opposite me in the film, all of us were wondering what we should make and then 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 step over that line. I was extra-cautious. I did put my thoughts across to her, 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. It is therefore comfortable and an absolute pleasure working with her.

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

Scripting. She taught me one thing, 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, which is the crux of anything.

Tell us something 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 gone through. 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 then 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 as an 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 a production house, we are working on a couple of ideas. As an actor, Mogra Phulaalaa is what I am really looking forward to. People in Marathi haven’t seen me act, Hindi audiences have. And Marathi audience is very difficult to please. They are very critical about what they see. So I was careful not to lose the honesty and sincerity of the character. I am nervous because I want to be accepted by the Marathi audience. I want to do more Marathi films as I always wanted to do films in Marathi. 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 do.

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