Producer of Saand Ki Aankh, Nidhi Parmar, talks to Titas Chowdhury about donning the hat of producer for the first time, collaborating with Anurag Kashyap and her perspective on the ageism debate surrounding the film
Saand Ki Aankh marks your debut as producer. What made you start your new journey with this project?
The project chose me more than me choosing it. My final goal has always been to be a producer. Tushar (Hiranandani) and I would talk about it a lot. Then Tushar saw the interviews of the dadis in Satyamev Jayate and he immediately felt that this is a project that he wants to make. This happened five years back. He was completely convinced and I wanted to back him. I also knew that we had to develop it alone. I immediately helped him get writers onboard, reach out to the dadis and secure the rights. The first time I met the dadis, I heard their entire story and I was completely sold. I thought that if we are involved in it so much, then I should formally become a producer since we would be putting in money also. It totally made sense to me because by then I was so much invested in the project. The story had become extremely close to my heart. So I left my job and came onboard as a full-time producer.
Did you have any creative involvement in the film?
The only creative involvement that I had was in supporting Tushar throughout the process. I was very much involved in the music because we started doing the music at the same time as the scripting. It was a very satisfying process.
What were your inputs as far as the cast is concerned?
I most definitely gave my inputs in the casting process. But by the end of it, none of my inputs mattered. (Laughs) We are very lucky that we got stellar actors like Taapsee (Pannu) and Bhumi (Pednekar). They have been completely committed from the word ‘go’. They are a very strong part of the entire journey and we are very grateful because I believe that everything happens for the best. We cannot think of any other actors who could have done these roles better than them.
There is a debate going on about ageism where netizens, including veteran actors like Neena Gupta and Soni Razdan, have raised their voices against the casting of younger women to play 60-year-old shooters in the film. What do you have to say about that?
I really respect both Neenaji and Soniji. They are fantastic artistes and there’s no doubt about it. But it is not really my call. I don’t sit and decide on whether I will get funding if I cast certain actors. The film has to be financially viable. It has to make some finances and there has to be some return on investment. In fact, we did go through older people as well but that didn’t work out. Yes, we didn’t go to Neenaji and Soniji, we didn’t go through everyone in that age because we quickly realised that we’re not going to get funding if we go that route. I don’t think it really matters. The feedback about the cast comes from the audience, right? If the audience goes and sees a film that is based on two ladies and which is headlined by two older women, it would be great. But in the financial sense, investors would give less money to make the film. Why would Tushar and I have any problem working with great artistes like Neenaji, Soniji, Ramyaji (Krishnan) or even Shabanaji (Azmi)? They are amazing people and are great actors. We would be privileged to work with them. But somebody needs to put in the money for that as well. Talking about financial gains, I know people keep giving the example of Badhaai Ho. And I keep saying that people did take home Neenaji and Gajrajji (Rao) but they entered the theatre to watch the film because of Ayushmann (Khurrana).
Saand Ki Aankh is the story of two women. As a female producer, are backing films like this a priority for you?
We weren’t consciously told to go for a female-centric subject or a subject on women empowerment. Doing Saand Ki Aankh was a matter of instinct. Tushar and I have a company called Chalk And Cheese Films, which is also producing the film. Both of us need to agree on doing the same film since it is being made under our banner. This is a company that both of us feel very strongly for. Now we are developing other stuff as well and we realised that we tend to gravitate towards inspirational stories. There are so many inspirational stories of great women out there which haven’t been tapped yet. Saand Ki Aankh came to us organically. It is a great wave which is taking place right now because people are accepting female-centric films and they are doing well. It is a good time to be doing this and it is high time that more and more of such films are made.
Anurag Kashayp is the creative producer of Saand Ki Aankh. How has the collaboration with him been?
It was excellent. I don’t think we could have done it without Anurag. We were running around trying to get funding for the film and we weren’t getting it anywhere. It was Anurag who came onboard and told us to not worry and that he would sort things out for us. And he did! He got us the funding and gave us all the creative freedom. We got to make it the way we wanted to. He has been a tremendous support. The faith and the trust that he has shown is incredible. I hope we do him proud. We kept hounding him for his inputs but he was sitting there and smiling and saying, ‘Tum theek toh kar rahe ho naa! If I don’t agree with something, I will let you know. Baar baar kyun poochte rehte ho?’ He had a lot of faith in Tushar and in the script, which he loved. After he said okay to the script, he didn’t interfere at all. In fact, he used to tell me to not confuse myself between being a producer and the director’s wife. He said to me, ‘You’ve to keep your creative inputs to yourself now that the film has gone on floors. Now it is Tushar’s film.’