Renuka Shahane in conversation with Bhakti Mehta, discusses her role in the film Bucket List, working with Madhuri Dixit-Nene again, and what this industry means to her.
You are very choosy with your projects. What is it about this film that attracted you to it?
The kind of role that was narrated to me, I felt like I should do it. For me, accepting something is very instinctive. I had known director Tejas (Vijay Deoskar) for a long time. When he had come from Nagpur, he wanted to do a documentary and had approached me. I had not really kept in touch but I knew that he was consistently working.
Then he came up with this offer. He narrated my character in 20 minutes and I decided that I wanted to do this film because there is a very strong emotional undertone to the role. As a mother, I could relate to this character immediately. That is the reason I said ‘yes’. Then he told me that Madhuri (Dixit) is doing the lead, which gave me a hundred more reasons to do it.
Madhuri and you are working together after 24 years. How was the experience?
We had a blast. It was just amazing. I am so happy that I am a part of Bucket List. It is comparatively a small role. Getting to work with Madhuri is a great thing. The movie leaves you with an inspiring message of organ donation subtly woven in; it is not preachy.
I think shifting the focus to the recipient of the heart was amazing. It is also a slice-of-life film. It is full of joy and is not heavy. It could have easily gone into that zone but they avoided it. When you walk out of the theatre, you begin to take another look at your life and, maybe, make your own bucket list.
Your character has an emotional depth. How was it playing the role?
It is something that I discussed at length before we started the shoot. The audience is not going to see the parents grieving at all. The loss of a child is devastating and I don’t think anything can compensate for that. They are strong parents who, despite the huge loss, look at their daughter with pride.
Eight people get a new life because of their daughter. And because you interact with the recipient, you realise that so many lives have been changed and you feel blessed. You see only one person, but there are many people who depend on that person and have blossomed because of that person.
The first few scenes are edgy where the feelings of grief and sadness are definitely there. But, Tejas did not want to go into a depressing or emotional zone. He wanted everyone to look at the silver lining.
Realistic cinema is a part of Marathi movies. Do you think a movie like Bucket List borders on fiction, fun and realism?
It is an entertaining film, but the approach is very realistic. There is nothing loud or out of the ordinary about the characters. They are relatable characters; characters that you have grown up with. That is definitely there in the realistic cultural milieu that Maharashtrians belong to. You can see this even in the kind of clothes Madhuri is wearing in the film. It is very real. Yet, there are some glamour, dreamy and larger-than-life elements too.
Do you think the realistic tone will connect with the audience?
Yes, I think so. Sometimes, you see a film where the first half sets the tone and the second half is completely mishandled but this film is not like that. I think the way in which the screenplay is structured is nice. It is an inspiring thing for women. They are not usually seen doing this.
Marathi cinema has seen huge growth in the last few years. What is your take on this?
We have realised that our strengths are our content and our actors. If you don’t have the budget, that’s fine. In Marathi cinema, we cannot expect a 100-crore budget for a film. It is better to make a strong, content-driven film with experimentation rather than a big commercial entertainer, which will go beyond Marathi audiences. If anyone wants to see that, there are Hindi and Hollywood films. The essence of Marathi films and theatre is content. We have realised that. We need to give the audience good content. I think that is working.
How do you choose your scripts?
It is an instinctive process. It has to be something that excites me and that I would like to watch as a member of the audience. I check if my character is worth watching and whether it is something that I have not done before. I don’t want to do the same things over and over again. I want something that is challenging. I also look at people behind the camera, especially the director, because he is the boss. If I see conviction in the director and the writer, then I am excited about the project.
What is your biggest takeaway from Bucket List?
There are some basic things that you want to do in life that you have not yet done. List them down and try to do them. Many people do not know what they want to do; especially women. They will say, ‘My husband loves doing certain things and my kids love doing certain things’. No. It is about you. You must have something you are passionate about. One needs to give oneself the time to create that space where your talent can shine through. There are so many options to choose from.