Faith is chaste, until it is monetised. Caught up in our stressful lives, one is on a perpetual hunt for peace of mind. And to meet this burgeoning demand, every other day brings forth a money-spinning ‘spiritual guru’. Director Gajendra Ahire’s upcoming Marathi film, Swami Public Ltd — to be released in August — is a commentary on such unabashed commercialisation of faith.
The National Award-winning director, famous for his works such as Not Only Mrs Raut (National Award for Best Film in Marathi in 2004), Anumati (its lead actor Vikram Gokhale won National Award for Best Actor in 2013) and Postcard (2014), is also known for his unique choice of subjects and characters. “What’s unique about this film is its name. You may say it is controversial. People ask, ‘How can ‘Swami’ be a public limited firm?’ They say it hurts their sentiments; but the truth has to be spoken,” he says.
The film was conceived in 2012, when its creative producer, Vijay Munde, discussed this idea with Ahire. “The smog of fear and depression has clouded the brains of people. We have shown spiritual gurus amass wealth in the movie. Everyday, a new ‘enlightened person’ comes along to exploit us and yet we stand vulnerable, ready to get fooled,” he says.
After writing the script, Ahire took on the responsibility of directing the film and selected powerful performers who, he believed, would justify the characters he had penned, such as Vikram Gokhale, Subodh Bhave, Chinmay Mandlekar, Nina Kulkarni and Vinay Apte. “Bhave and Mandlekar show two aspects of human behaviour. One has the power of telling good from evil, while the other can’t and thereby often surrenders to evil,” says Ahire. While the film marks Sanskruti Kher’s debut as an actor, it is also Apte’s last project, who passed away last December. According to Ahire, Apte plays a significant role in the film and his
contribution will always be remembered.
Produced by Pune’s Poonam Shende, the film has been shot at various locations across Maharashtra, including Pune. Lyrics for the songs in the film have also been penned by Ahire, while the music has been composed by Uttam Singh. Classical singer Pandit Ajay Chakrabarti and Sukhwinder Singh have sung a song each.