Did the response to Mardaani meet your expectations?
I have no clue about the figures, but Mardaani has won a lot of hearts. This is very overwhelming because a film has to connect with the audience. I am so grateful that people are liking it despite the movie being given an A certificate, and does not have any songs or item numbers to promote it. It’s catching on because of the good word-of-mouth publicity. It has been given a tax exemption in states like Madhaya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and now Maharashtra, so that more people can watch it. It’s fantastic! I wish, however, it could be seen by 12 year olds. I don’t know if the certification can be re-done, but if those kids see it, they would comprehend their parents concern for their safety.
Rani told me how several parents were calling her up and saying they wish their children could see the film. What kind of response have you been getting?
People are saying that we have shown reality about how girls are treated in an honest manner. The one thing that made me very happy is that after watching Rani’s impassioned and consistent act as a crime branch officer in the film, the word ‘mardaani’ is now part of everyone’s dictionary. The word existed, but now people know that it denotes valour. And that’s a big thing. If people equate heroes to Dabangg, now heroines will be equated to the word mardaani. When people start using a word in a film to explain something, that means we have touched a chord.
The industry response has also been great. Aamir Khan has tweeted about the film and Sujoy Ghosh called me from London to say ‘kya film banaya hai’ which was very encouraging.
Has there been any kind of negative response?
Not as yet! Actually I am waiting. I became very pessimistic after two of my films (Laaga Chunri Mein Daag and Lafangey Parindey) did not do well, so much so that I am finding it difficult to feel happy despite the good response to Mardaani. I feel someone will turn around and slap me with a negative comment. But thankfully, nothing has happened so far.
The pace of the film is rivetting. How did you perfect that?
The credit for the editing goes to the entire team. All of us including, Adi (producer Aditya Chopra, Rani, the editor and myself repeatedly watched the film. And every time we sat down, there were ‘fights’ about what we should delete and what we should retain to maintain an engaging pace. There are no songs and we chopped off anything that we found would ‘pakao’ the audience. This the reason why the pace is so fast, and before the audience could think of what was going to happen next, it was there on screen.
As a director what do you keep in mind when you make a film that is realistic?
The one most important ingredient of making a realistic film is the story. The subject should emotionally connect with the audience. Realism is not what has happened, but you think can happen. The idea is to get a cue from real life, relive the moments and create them in such a way that the viewer actually thinks that it has happened. Also, one has to be honest to the subject. We were very sure that despite the story being based on child trafficking and young girls who are drawn into prostitution, the content should not be titillating. We wanted it to be a mix of rudra ras (valour) and karun ras (sadness).