Till a year ago, actor Kangana Ranaut was supposed to star in director Ketan Mehta’s “heavily researched” dream project Jhansi Ki Rani: The Warrior Queen. Months later, the actor, however, moved ahead with the same character but a different filmmaker (Krrish), giving shape to Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi, and leaving Ketan with a life-long lesson.
“Be careful before you trust,” the director tells indianexpress.com on being asked about the takeaway from the experience.
Ketan Mehta announced the film with Kangana Ranaut in 2016 and it was supposed to be produced by Kamal Jain. A year ago, however, the director learnt that Kangana and Kamal had gone ahead to make another film on Rani Laxmibai, Manikarnika.
Ketan sent a legal notice to the actor and the producer last year accusing them of breach of trust.
Talking to indianexpress.com about the episode, Ketan had said, “She had confirmed her commitment to this project. Over this period of time, we shared all our material with her. We were planning for an international co-production for a global audience. We were planning on making this movie in Hindi and English simultaneously, to make the best advantage of a local audience as well as the global audience. That was the plan of action. And now we suddenly read in the newspapers that she is doing the same film with somebody else!”
“We had shared several drafts of the script, all the visual material and references of the film and designs over a period of time with her. We had already tied up with an international co-producer and we were looking out for an Indian co-producer. That’s when Kangana introduced us to Kamal Jain as a prospective co-producer. We shared all the information and the entire project with him. We had some meetings with him too. And then we suddenly hear that they (Kamal Jain and Kangana Ranaut) are doing the project together, independent of us. That came to us as a complete shock.” the director had added.
Kangana Ranaut is yet to address the allegation publicly. While she is gearing up for the promotions of Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi, Ketan is looking forward to the impending premiere of his film Toba Tek Singh. Based on one of Sadat Haasan Manto’s best stories, the film will premiere on the OTT platform ZEE5 tomorrow.
It stars Pankaj Kapur as the protagonist Bishan Singh, an inmate in a mental asylum in the newly-formed Pakistan. Singh has only one question on his mind and lips, “Where is Toba Tek Singh?” which is his native village. The film also stars Vinay Pathak.
The film was ready in 2016 but it took two years for it to see the light of day. The cause of delay wasn’t the usual absence of buyers.
Toba Tek Singh was a part of an initiative by Zee, which was green-lit in 2015 to promote peace across the India-Pakistan border. It included six filmmakers from India and six from Pakistan, who would develop films that will travel across two countries.
As the tension on the border resurfaced post the Uri attack in 2016, among many other things, the initiative also came to a standstill.
At Toba Tek Singh’s special screening, Ketan Mehta revealed that when everything was going fine, the film was supposed to air on Zindagi channel, an arm of Zee that introduced hit Pakistani dramas to Indian audience.
“Since, it was a Zindagi channel production, it was supposed to air on television. There was some kind of indication that they will try to release it theatrically as well. As a filmmaker, you always want to see your film on a big screen, larger than life. When this film was made, everyone was gung-ho about India-Pakistan friendship,” said the director, whose last big screen outing was Nawazuddin Siddiqui starrer Majhi: The Mountain Man.
“By the time it was completed, the relations had soured completely and they haven’t improved since. It was supposed to be a gesture where films will travel all across Pakistan and India to give message of peace and harmony. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, because of the real politics.”
As for his future project, the filmmaker said that he is working on a script and the only thing he could reveal is that it will not be a historical. “I will take a break from history for a while and I am still writing a script. Very soon, you will get to know.”