After the success of your first directorial venture Prem Mhanje Prem Mhanje Prem Asate, a social film, your second directorial Rama Madhav is a historical. How did that come about?
This subject is very close to my heart. My first role, as an actor, was that of Ramabai in the serial Swami. I was just 16 then. With Rama Madhav, I am reliving that serial. For me, it is a feeling of nostalgia and that of coming to a full circle in my career. However, unlike the serial, which was more about Madhav being a Peshwa, this time I shall focus on Rama and Madhav’s love life.
As Prem Mhanje … was a huge success and has won several awards in various categories, I wanted to make another socially-relevant project, but producer Bhopat Boder read my story and wanted to make the film. Obviously I was thrilled about the opportunity to make a big-budget film.
What is Rama Madhav all about?
My first serial was based on a very popular novel Swami by late Ranjit Desai, that is still considered as one of the best-sellers in Marathi. A historical love story, it is based on Peshwa Madhavrao’s life and his wife Rama who committed sati (jumping on his funeral pyre) when he died. Madhavrao became a Peshwa when he was just 16 years and his wife was 12 years old. While fulfilling his duties towards his state, he had no time for his young wife and at the age of 26, he died of tuberculosis and she gave up her life too. It is a very touching story and I had to rework on it for the film as I wanted to concentrate on their childhood.
Did you have to do a lot of research?
Yes, there is literature about their young lives. I had to try and find stories about their childhood. For this, I took the help of my grandfather G.N. Dandekar, who is an historian and a novelist. Having acted in so many historical serials like Great Maratha, Meera, Draupadi in Hindi; and Raja Shiv Chattrapati and Swami in Marathi. I am very interested in history and it is in my genes, literally. So I decided to make a historical film.
You said, this is a big budget film. How much did the film cost in all?
So far it has cost me Rs.3 crore. The film is complete and the dubbing is presently on. Made on a massive scale, it has been shot in and around Pune. Nitin Chandrakant Desai was a great help in constructing the sets at his ND Studios in Karjat. Cinematographer Rajeev Jain has done a fantastic job. There is Ravi Dewan for action and Saroj Khan for choreography. Poornima Oak of Balgandharva and Raja Shiv Chatrapati fame has done the costumes. Late Anand Modak composed the music while late Sudhir Moghe penned the lyrics We may spend another crore for publicity and marketing. Fx Factory is doing the VFX work for the film. We are yet to lock a date for release.
Besides directing the film, are you acting in it? And what about the other cast?
I do not want to reveal the cast at this stage as I want it to be a surprise. All I can say is that many big names from the Marathi film industry feature in good roles in the film. The lead from the TV series Swami, that is me and Ravindra Mankani, are in cameos. We are playing the elder Peshwas. The main lead is a fresh pair.
What are you expectations from Rama Madhav after Prem Mhanje’s victory?
Rama Madhav is a dream come true for me. Swami, as the novel and the serial, was close to the hearts of the Maharashtrian. Moreover, after several years, a historical is being made in Marathi and it is a love story. Prem Mhanje… was my first attempt at film-making and I was raved for making such a good, message-oriented film. That boosted my confidence. Himmat aa gayee. I got so much help from my friends and colleagues that I plunged into making a big budget historical as my second film. I shot it in just 37 days. As for this film, I am expecting more from myself.