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Interview Hindi Marathi

Sooraj Barjatya encouraged me to start my own production house: Pipsi's Vidhi Kasliwal

In an exclusive interview, Kasliwal shares her journey, her criteria for choosing subjects for films, and how Pipsi's child artistes kept the unit going in Vidarbha's scorching heat.

Keyur Seta

Vidhi Kasliwal has had an interesting journey so far. After entering the film industry by chance through uncle Sooraj Barjatya, she became a filmmaker and later started her own production house, Landmarc Films, which is churning out a number of acclaimed Marathi films.

Her latest offering is director Rohan Deshpande’s Pipsi, which has child artistes Sahil Joshi and Maithili Patwardhan in the lead roles. The film tells the story of the kids' efforts to revive their ailing mother.

In an exclusive interview with Cinestaan.com, Kasliwal shares her journey so far, her criteria for choosing subjects for films, and how Joshi and Patwardhan kept the unit going in the scorching heat in Vidarbha. Excerpts:

How did the idea for Pipsi originate?

Saurabh [Bhave], the writer, and Rohan [Deshpande], the director, had a two-page synopsis when they came to me. As soon as I read it and they narrated it, I really connected with the hope the film stood for. I instantly decided that I must be part of this film. That’s when the entire journey started.

We took around 11 months for the development of the script. After that followed the entire pre-production, shooting and the post-[production]. We went to festivals first. We have been to MAMI [the Mumbai film festival] and also at Busan [the Busan International Film Festival]. Now it’s out for people to watch, so I am excited.

It was a different genre for me. We were shooting in the scorching heat of Vidarbha. But the entire team stuck together, believed in the film, and made it. There weren’t proper facilities where we were shooting. So, there was extra pressure on the production. 

The kids must have found it difficult in such heat.

Actually, the kids were the ones who kept everybody going (laughs) by being happy and excited. Even now, during 12 hours of promotions, the kids are enthusiastic and energetic even during the last interview. All of us get a little tired, but when we see them energetic, that energizes us as well. 

You have always chosen simple subjects revolving around simple, everyday people in all the films you have produced so far – Sanngto Aika (2014), Vazandar (2016), Ringan: The Quest (2017), Gachchi (2017), Redu (2018), and now Pipsi. What are your criteria to pick projects?

The criterion is to tell any good story that is compelling and touches my heart. By the grace of god, we have had varied subjects. Right from Vazandar, which is more urban, to Sanngto Aika, which is more commercial, to Ringan, which was rural, and Gachchi, which was again urban and more intimate. Then we had Redu, which was rural, and now also Pipsi. 

Pipsi review: Must-watch tale of innocent faith and dogged hope

Did you always want to do something in films?

No, actually it happened by accident. I love films, I love watching films. While growing up, I was a complete couch potato. I was glued to the TV; only watching movies.

Of course, I would go to the theatres. My entire family loves watching films. To date, we go out to watch at least one film a week. And we have grown up watching my mama [maternal uncle] Sooraj Barjatya’s films. We were lucky to see the rushes and also go to his sets.

He was making Vivah (2006) when I passed my graduation and didn’t know what to do in life. I asked him if I could assist him. I thought he will ask me to come for the next film as they had already started shooting Vivah. But he asked me to come for the next schedule and see if I like it. If not, then I could do something else.

On the first day on the sets, Soorajji had given me the responsibility of ensuring all the pillows are okay and straight to match their continuity in every shot. From the minute I was on the sets, I felt why wasn’t I doing this all my life? 

How did your first film as director, Isi Life Mein...! (2010), happen?

After Vivah, I was chief assistant director on Ek Vivaah... Aisa Bhi (2008). I think it was all the teachings and confidence of Soorajji. He told me I was ready to be on my own.

There was a story I had in mind. I had also lived it during my wonderful college life. So I wanted to pay homage to it somehow in my first film. Soorajji stuck by me and stood by throughout the development. We got a wonderful cast. We were all so young and fresh that we all felt we were on a picnic.

But we had very long hours; sometimes 11 to 12. And we shot for 125 days together. But that’s where we made friends for life. When we meet, it’s difficult to meet at a public place because we end up disturbing everybody around. But even when we meet at home, my neighbours have come and said we are too loud and it’s 3am and asked us to be quiet (laughs). It’s really nice to see that even today it trends and does well on digital. 

You were associated with Rajshri. So, what was the reason for bringing out your own independent production house Landmarc? 

After Isi Life Mein...!, Soorajji was very sure that he wanted to concentrate on television followed by his own directorial [Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (2015)], which would take time. This was in 2010-end, 2011-beginning. He didn’t want me to wait around. In fact, he was the one to encourage me that I should do something by myself. He was sure I was ready, If he hadn’t shown that confidence in me, I would have still been in Rajshri; that is home for me. With his encouragement, Landmarc Films was formulated.

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Any particular reason for making only Marathi films?

It’s not that we are making only Marathi [films]. But Marathi is happening faster. There are other language films in the works also, including Hindi. But they are taking longer to happen. That’s the only thing.

We started off thinking we would do a Hindi film with Jag Mundhra. Unfortunately, a couple of weeks before we were going on the floors, he passed away. It became another struggle to start from square one.

What is your take on the current scenario in Marathi cinema in terms of the kinds of films that are being made?

I think it’s great as far as the makers and the creative side is concerned because everybody is daring to make [films on] different subjects. Different subjects find different viewerships also. The other really good thing is that all the actors and technicians work in the true spirit of indie [independent] filmmaking. Like they shoot from start to finish. Everybody knows it has to be made only at a certain budget.

But the aspect that needs pushing further is to get more audiences to the theatres. I guess that is all we as an industry are working towards and hoping that things get better. 

There are Fridays where two or even three Marathi films are released together. What do you think of this?

It’s never okay to eat into each other’s business. But I don’t think anybody is to be blamed because if there are more than 150 [Marathi] films made every year, there are only 52 Fridays. So, there will be more than one Marathi film per week. That can’t be helped. I think that puts a little bit more responsibility and pressure on all of us as makers to make better films, so that our film is appreciated and recognized.