Gulshan Devaiah remembers being balked at by a stranger while shooting for Hunterrr in Pune. It was a natural reaction from the man, whose instinctive question, like any enthusiast passing by a film set was to know who the “hero” of the film was. Devaiah, dressed and made up in his character of Mandar Ponkshe in all its ordinariness, obviously disappointed him with the deliberate lack of glamour normally expected of a film’s leading actor. Devaiah felt bad at that time. But he looks back at the incident as an indicator of a job well done, of playing the character of a sex-obsessed average Joe with honesty.
This also forms the hook for Hunterrr, a film that explores the life of one such guy that we have all met in real life but rarely seen on screen. As described in the cheeky title, Ponkshe successfully seeks women for sex. But the real spin lies in how he isn’t the cool, rich Casanova but one among the crowd, a middle-class guy.
Writer-director Harshvardhan Kulkarni says he has met many such people in his life, especially in his all-boys school and engineering college and always found them to be fascinating character studies. In the film’s trailors, this breed is introduced to us as a “vaasu”, Marathi-slang for a lecher. Kulkarni, who makes his debut as a director with Hunterrr, has added more layers to his main character — he’s not a sex addict like Michael Fassbender in Shame, but neither can he let go of the habit. “They are very discreet about it. They have learnt the art of seeking women who would also be eager to sleep with them. It’s almost like a primal call. They even have their own rulebook of how they go about it,” says Kulkarni, who also wrote Hasee Toh Phasee.
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Contrary to what people may perceive from the trailors, the film isn’t a sex comedy, rather it is a comedy drama about a man with an abnormal sexual appetite. “It may seem like the film is full of expletives and titillating stuff but its less about the physical aspect of a character’s sexuality and more about his psychology,” says the director, who doesn’t fear that a strict Censor Board may make major cuts.
“It’s a subtle film,” he says. Devaiah brings it down to a more human level. “It has a lot of innocence, like a 14-year-old who discovers changes in his body,” says Deviah.
It may appear that the reference point for such a film would be Hollywood or foreign films that have historically dealt with sexual subjects but surprisingly, the name that comes up is of Amol Palekar. “The only actor in Hindi cinema we associate with the middle class everyman is Amol Palekar. The script has the sensibility of his films and Ponkshe’s character is like today’s Palekar. After reading the script that’s the first thing I told Harshvardhan,” adds Devaiah.