Did you expect such a phenomenal response, especially from the critics and media, for your film Fandry?
Vivek Kajaria: I believed that Fandry has very strong content which reflects the way our society functions. The critics and media are always very supportive if the content of the film is strong and practical. After being awarded the FIPRESCI India – Best Indian Film 2013 and The 2nd Best International Film (grand Jury Award) at MAMI (Mumbai), I gained some serious confidence that yes, Fandry has the strength to be accepted by a wider audience. At the Pune International Film Festival, we got goosebumps when we saw the entire audience giving us a standing ovation till the end credits rolled out. The same happened at the Mumbai Film Festival and BFI London. We were thrilled when Shyam Benegalji, who had seen the film in its initial stages, walked up to us and said, “It’s a very powerful film.” Although appreciation has been coming in from everywhere, we are still going all out to reach a wider audience.
Nagraj Manjule: I wasn’t expecting such a phenomenal response, but deep down somewhere, I had the confidence that this film will certainly strike a chord with the audience.
Mr. Kajaria, what was going on in your mind when you decided to back the film? Was there any particular element of the film that stood out for you?
VK: Fandry forces people to think about “us” as human beings and depict the wrongs in the society. It is very difficult for me to choose one element, because it was the entire script that struck me and since that very moment, I got pulled into it. Both Nilesh Navlakha (producer) and I believed in the script, which was first presented by Nagraj’s friend and immediately said yes. Our previous films like Shala (produced by Navlakha) and Anumati (presented by Navlakha and Kajaria) also had a powerful content and with Fandry, we thought of presenting a powerful way to bring about a change, even if it is a very small one.
Where was the film shot? Did you face difficulties, especially with location hunting or permissions?
NM: We wanted a location that looked real, with dry and humid weather conditions, barren land and mountains in the background. I went location hunting for a few months across Maharashtra, before zeroing in on Akolner village, near Ahmednagar. The film was shot over 26 days during summer, but we faced a few weather issues and the schedule got pushed due to untimely rain. So, we had to opt for another schedule of six days. Fortunately, we didn’t face any issues as the Gram Panchayat of Akolner and the villagers were very supportive and granted our team all the necessary permissions without any hassle.
VK: A couple of important scenes were also filmed in the Ahmednagar district during the second schedule. The authorities were extremely co – operative.
How did you zero in on the actors, since the ensemble cast has earned a lot of critical acclaim?
NM: I was invited as a chief guest in a village, where Somnath Avghade who plays the lead in the film, was a part of the musical group. He played the Halgi (Maharashtrian folk percussion) for the troupe and the moment I saw him, I knew he was my Jabya. Although Kishore Kadam is a known name in the industry, we see him as Kachru on screen and sympathise with the kind of work he is forced to do for a living. For me, the right selection of actors is important. The actor must look the part and not appear as a celebrity on screen.
The film highlights young love in a casual manner. There are several other films which have the same elements. Do you think the Marathi film industry is more open to such topics than it was a decade back?
VK: Love is just one of the elements, as the film revolves around the entire society, culture and humans at large. But yes, love is a strong emotional point in Fandry. The Marathi film industry has an amazing young lot of film-makers who are actually trying to put up the reality in a strong manner in front of the audience. Now, in this process, they have also opened up to various topics and young love is one of them. I see this industry growing every single day in terms of content-oriented and power-packed films.
How are you planning to take Fandry on the National platform? What are the promotional strategies?
VK: Zee Entertainment and Essel Vision have joined hands with us for the marketing, publicity and distribution of Fandry in theatres across India. We released the film on February 14 in 170 screens which was increased to around 270 in the second week. The film was released with subtitles everywhere so that even non-Marathi speaking audience can go and watch the film.
With the consent of Zee and the help of PVR Director’s Rare, we will release Fandry in cities like Kolkata, Bangalore, Delhi, Indore, Chennai among others on February 28. I hope this initiative will help us in reaching out to more people and will also boost the power of regional films on a national platform.