So far this has been the year of the Girls. On screen we’ve seen Anushka Sharma (NH 10), Deepika Padukone (Piku), Kangana Ranaut (Tanu Weds Manu Returns) and Bhumi Pednekar (Dum Laga Ke Haisha) take full control and behind the screen also the momentum is only growing. The success of Piku brings to the limelight its female producer, Sneha Rajani (the Deputy President and Head, MSM Motion Pictures). Rajani who has enjoyed a long innings as a television powerbroker speaks about her film foray and the journey of Piku.
What about Piku convinced you to make your debut as a producer with it?
It all began when Wing Commander Ramesh (CEO of Mr. Bachchan’s company) narrated the film’s one-liner to me. It stayed with me and when we at Sony kick started the film division, my boss NP Singh asked me what do you want to start with? And instinctively I said, Let’s make Piku. NP was equally convinced gave me the go ahead. Then I called for the script and I still remember the day when I read it. I put a DND sign outside my cabin and read it in one go. The script was so hilarious, so well written with such relatable characters that I just couldn’t put it down. What attracted me were the subtle little messages seeped inside the narrative. Bhaskor was such a progressive father. Piku was a modern character yet so rooted. I loved that bit where she says, we can’t judge our parents and after a while we have to keep them alive. Beyond the humour quotient these messages remained with me. My parents live in London and somewhere there is this guilt that I don’t spend enough time with them. I wanted my first film to be special and Piku’s script had special written all over it.
Is that how you take all your decisions? Based on instinct?
Yes, I’m a complete gut person. When I was moving to the fiction side from Max, one of the first projects I greenlit was Ekta Kapoor’s Bade Achhe Lagte Hain, which was also an instinctive decision and the show created history. Sometimes my gut goes wrong also. But 7/10 it works well for me. You know, I’m a trained CA but overnight I quit and changed my stream. I joined a TV channel in London. My family was aghast but that’s how I do things.
And did you always want to make a film?
Since I was 3-years-old, I’ve wanted to make films. I was always a filmi child. TV happened by chance. For 21 years I lingered on. I kept thinking that next year I’ll quit TV and make my movie but then cricket happened and being a cricket fanatic I gave it all with the World Cups and IPL. Credit to NP, Man Jit & Sony also who have always provided me with challenging opportunities. But when NP Singh called and said move to Motion Pictures, I declined the offer. Then my sister Mamta, sent an email to me and reminded me of my childhood dream. I read her mail and that was it. I decided to go for it.
You and Amitabh connection share a strong connect. You’ve done KBC, Yudh and now Piku with him. Comment.
Incidentally, in the 70s my father had partly financed The Great Gambler and Desh Premee which starred Mr. Bachchan. In fact, I met him for the first time on the sets of The Great Gambler. The first TV channel job that I got was in TV Asia, which was his brother Ajitabh’s channel and he was the brand ambassador. Then we did KBC and Yudh with him. When I was moving to Motion Pictures, I remember telling him that I hope my first film is with you and he said, “Let’s See.” But I had no role in the casting of Piku. The film came with him. Guess, it’s all destiny.
Did you anticipate the response Piku has got?
I knew the film would do well. Infact, I predicted we’ll hit 100 crore worldwide much before it’s release. But I didn’t expect so much love to come our way. My mom who is partially disabled went to see the film in the theatre after ages. My Dad said, “You are just like Piku.” And this is what I’ve been hearing since the film came out. There can be no greater success than when the audience feels this is their story. All credit to the A team of writer Juhi Chaturvedi and director Shoojit Sircar.
So what can we expect next from you?
The Piku journey is not over yet. We plan to release the film in non-traditional markets. We’ve already shown in Poland and very soon we’ll open in China, Japan and Korea. The film has long legs and it speaks of a universal subject so it’s something that we want to take all over the world. Our next big film is Azhar with Balaji. Azhar is not just a dry narrative of cricketer Mohd. Azharuddin’s life. It’s a powerful script written by Rajat Arora who is an outstanding writer. The film tells the incredible journey of what Azhar went through. We are in the midst of finalizing three more films which you will hear soon about. Rest assured, we won’t be doing projects. We will be making movies.