Producers Kartik Nishandar and Arjun Singgh Baran, and director Rakesh Sarang, talk to Team Box Office India about their upcoming Marathi film Ranangan, its stellar star cast and why it will be a novelty in Marathi cinema
Box Office India (BOI): Rakesh, why did you choose this film to enter the Marathi film industry?
Rakesh Sarang (RS): After doing television for so many years, I had not done any Marathi film. If I wanted to do one, it would have to be special, it would have to have oomph. I met Swwapnil (Joshi) in my office one day. We had worked together before, right after he did the TV show Krishna. After that, we did a project together. We were just generally talking and he said, sir, ek film karo na, aap banao. I said I would do it. I have a subject in mind but will you play a villain in it?
He had played a chocolate boy in so many movies that I would constantly tell him that he needed to do something else. He said if I made the movie, then he would do it. Then, one day, he reminded me of our conversation. I am a creative person and hence these ideas keep coming to me. I don’t always keep track. But, he reminded me of the topic we had talked about and then we started working on it. After that, when we figured that we would target Swwapnil as the villain, the story fell into place. That was the beginning of this journey.
Kartik Nishandar (KN): We were very excited when we heard this script. Swwapnil is the third partner in our production house. When he came to us with this film, we were already making films like Fugay, Tula Kalnar Nahi and had just acquired the rights to Bhikari. He said we should do something different next, something out-of-the-box. It then came to Arjun and me. We then heard the story from Rakeshji and the process started.
The films before this one had been smooth sailing for us. We had entered Mitwa at the P & A stage, when it was already made; we entered Fugay in the beginning because we loved the story and just started to make it. But, this journey was very challenging, that a special movie could be made on this. (Laughs). It went into a year-long pre-production stage and we started shooting after that. Also, Rakeshji had been waiting for a long time to get into Marathi cinema. He just wanted a good subject and this was the right one. It is a dream film for us as well.
Arjun Singgh Baran (ASB): We have worked with many directors and one really good thing about Rakeshji is that he has focused on this movie for the last two years. We started making this movie two years ago, and he had been working on the story for six months before that. There is a lot of effort that has gone into this film. There are many directors who do multiple movies at the same time. They jump from one movie, one script, to another. When we heard the story, we were extremely excited because it was Rakeshji, with his name attached to this film, and Swwapnil playing such a different role… that made us feel we should just do it.
KN: Yes, that is how we came in and then Sachin (Pilgaonkar) sir came on board and Karishma (Jain). That is how we made this film.
BOI: What was that ‘something special’ you were looking for to make your debut in Marathi cinema?
RS: Marathi culture is actually slightly different. Marathi and Bengali cultures have their own nuances, novels and drama. They have their own literature. The Marathi audience is a different audience. As a television person, I can tell you why regional Marathi TV shows do better than those shown on GECs. This is because the Marathi industry is trying to do something different while GECs show saas-bahu dramas.
Marathi entertainment has an audience that has grown up on literature, theatre and it has many accomplished writers. To do a film for the Marathi audience is a challenge. Here, every creative person has their own ideas, which can be brought to the screen in the Marathi entertainment industry. In the Hindi film industry, if you approach people with a completely different idea, there is a good chance you won’t get actors for it. But, it is possible to do that, to get actors and producers, in the Marathi industry. I have seen a lot of Bengali films too. In both Marathi and Bengali films, it is possible to experiment. And this is because of the audience. The Marathi audience expects you to experiment and responds to all the risks you take.
KN: As he said, the audience takes a call. A few films of ours have worked and a few films have not worked. We have learnt the hard way that the Marathi audience is so evolved. If they want to watch glamour, they opt for Hindi films; and if they want to see an action film, they know what kind of cinema to consume.
But, when they want to watch content and are willing to spend good money on tickets for the family, they choose Marathi cinema. The research involved in making films like this makes us better filmmakers. And let’s not forget that even if the audience for Marathi cinema has money to spend, they still want to spend on one film a month, not every weekend.
ASB: Plus, the Marathi audience is very critical, not so much about Hindi films as they are about Marathi films. They do not expect too much from a Hindi movie, but in the Marathi space, they want the movie to be fantastic. If the film is critically acclaimed in Marathi, they will go for it, otherwise they might not. That makes it more difficult for filmmakers.
BOI: This film has a huge cast, especially Sachin Pilgaonkar and Swwapnil Joshi. How did you manage to bring them on board?
KN: I think this is only the second time they are working together in a movie. They have worked together before in Satte Pe Satta.
ASB: But, they were not together for a significant amount of time. This is the first time ever they are working together. As for managing to bring them together, it took us two years to make this film, that is how difficult or easy it was. Getting all these actors together was a Herculean task; juggling their dates to get them together to shoot was a massive challenge. It was also kind of frustrating for us and for Rakeshji because he had to just sit with this project between shoots.
KN: But, when we released the first look of the film with Swwapnil in it, it created a lot of buzz. Rakeshji has designed the poster and I would like to credit his wife, Sangeeta Sarang, as well. She was also the stylist on the set. Swwapnil’s look was bearded with long hair, and the day we launched it, the response was crazy. The audience, news channels, the entire industry, everyone was talking about it.
I think this was because, as Rakeshji said, Swwapnil is usually seen as a chocolate boy, a romantic hero, the boy-next-door. But, when you see him in this dreadful, villainous look, it is quite a surprise. The teaser gave only a glimpse of him and that’s when the buzz started. The audience has been really great.
RS: This is one of the oomph factors I was talking about before. Bringing Sachinji and Swwapnil together was not all that difficult. If you imagine both of them in their natural looks, it makes for a very bland photograph. But, if you see them in this get-up plus their expressions which depict the Duroyodhan and Raavan war, that creates more talk in the industry.
I wanted people to see them in a completely different way. I could have cast different actors for their roles. For Swwapnil’s role, I could have taken someone who had done a negative role before, but then usmein maza nahi hai. You may not have invited us for an interview too (Laughs)! Those characters, that storyline, that concept, everything together is what you will see in Ranangan.
BOI: Can you tell us what to expect from the story?
RS: I don’t think I can tell you a single line because it will expose the whole film. But, I can say one thing, it’s not what you expect. After seeing the teaser, people have been asking me whether this is a political movie. It’s not. Is it a thriller? Or an action-oriented movie? But, there are no fight scenes in the film at all. Neither does Swwapnil Joshi kick anyone nor does Sachin Pilgaonkar slap anyone.
Basically, it is a drama. And I chose this subject because Marathi audiences have missed drama for a long time. The films in between have been sweet movies, relationship-based. Our film is also about relationships but it is one step ahead. It is about family relationships but the characters, their thought processes, everything is one step ahead. When you see the film, you will feel as if it belongs to all genres. But, there are no fights. We tried to avoid stereotypical elements and delivered a dramatic story in a different way.
BOI: As producers, what kind of elements do you look for in a script to back a project?
ASB: We always just want the film to work. When we look at a script, we ask, is this what the audience is looking for? You look at the past and you find out which films worked, and try and find out why the successful ones have worked. But, it is difficult to identify those factors. We also look out for other films that are releasing… if those are the only films releasing, what will the audience like? Also, you wonder whether the story will come out on screen the way it was visualised. The main thing is will the audience like it?
KN: You are absolutely right! When you look at it from the research point of view, you will see, for example, that when Duniyadari was made, there was nothing like it earlier. Or when we did Mitwa, there was no film made like this before. It was the same with Sairat. As producers, we have to do different kinds of films and different kinds of genres. That’s the kick one gets as a producer.
A few films might work; a few might not. But, the newness around the subject is what matters. When we heard the story of this film, it was completely new. We have not seen something like this in the last five to seven years. Something like this was there in Saamna, 40 years ago, or Jenda but we have maintained the freshness around the subject.
So, as producers, we primarily look for a completely new genre because that’s what the audience is waiting for. If I would want to make a Sairat again, the audience wouldn’t accept us the way they accepted the film originally. A Sholay can be made only once.
The song Vinayaka gajanana seems to have been shot in a larger-than-life way. Can you tell us a little about the experience of shooting the song and collaborating with music director Avdhoot Gupte?
RS: Vinayaka gajanana has been done by Shashank Povar and the other song Naad karaycha naay has been done by Avdhoot. Both songs have grandeur. I thought every song should have meaning, every song should have a place in the film. The song should gel with the storyline. When I was writing the film, it had these two songs. The film even starts with a song which has a nostalgic theme.
These two songs needed grandeur because the first song introduces Swwapnil’s character. Usually, people need a scene to introduce a character but I chose a song to introduce the character. He comes and looks at the heroine and people realise there is something here. I gave every song a storyline. Even the four songs for which Sachinji has done the music have a complete storyline. All the songs are required to be present in the film. Nobody can tell me I can cut out this song. Both songs have been choreographed by Ganesh Acharya.
ASB: It has 200 dancers and they are each in different places. We have shot at Filmcity and in a temple in New Bombay. During the Filmcity schedule, we faced a lot of problems as there was a goof-up. There are two helipads in Filmcity and we ended up booking the one in a smaller area. The other one had already been blocked by an advertising agency. And Ganesh Acharya was coming with 200 people! So, we ended up moving around with a hundred people to shoot the song. When we look back at it now, it seems like it was a lot of fun but, at the time, we were wondering what we were going to do.
RS: Ganesh was looking at me and I just stared back. Then, we said to each other ho jayega without saying it in words. There was a lot of pressure. The call time was 7 o’clock in the morning and at 1 pm, we were standing in the empty place, and we were, like, okay let’s shoot here. But, with everybody’s help and cooperation, we finished by 5 o’clock without compromising anything. This is something that happens in the industry, and since I have worked for so many years, it doesn’t feel like stress.
BOI: The movie has an ensemble cast, which can be both challenging and fun to work with. How was the dynamic on the sets with the actors?
RS: If I had been a new director, it would have been a big challenge. I have been very lucky to work with everyone! Sachinji and Swwapnil know that I study everything.
My work technically is to then capture the actors in the best possible way. When I realise that the actor is not into his character, I prefer to stop everything. I take a break for an hour, sit with them and talk again. It is never like okay it is a Marathi film, let’s finish it quickly. You cannot do that! Also, I believe that artistes do their best work when they concentrate. When they don’t, it is my responsibility to make them concentrate.
Over the years, the industry has changed. I have worked with artistes who used to touch my feet. When I started, I was just 22-23 years old. Things have changed a lot since then. There are a few people like Swwapnil who respect their director and there are those who do not. I don’t work with them. All my actors know that I am honest and that I work very hard, so they too work hard. Jaise raja waise praja. It is always a team effort.
BOI: The film is getting a solo release. What kind of boon do you see in this?
ASB: We are just lucky and happy.
KN: We announced our film at least 3 months ago. At the time, there was no other film releasing with our film. Later, a lot of films were up for release. We got the right pockets and cinemas and everybody will get their share.
BOI: What do you want the audience to take back from the film? What are your expectations?
KN: We want the audience to walk out happy and spread the word. People have appreciated Duniyadari and Mitwa a lot and they have returned to watch these films. We want that nostalgia to be repeated.
RS: Basically, audiences have a very short memory. I want people to remember this film for a long time. And with the effort we have put in, I think that will happen. People will remember this film for a long time.
BOI: Rakesh do you track the numbers?
RS: I have to keep track. While coming here, I was going through the Box Office India magazine. I know which films have done well. I know the plus points of a hit film and the minus points of flop films. I can tell what made a film work and why it didn’t. So, when they started the publicity of the film, I said not to highlight certain portions.
ASB: Finally, the numbers say it all. And I feel Box Office India is the bible for this.