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Interview Gujarati

Rajesh Mapuskar was excited about Gujarati Ventilator, says director Umang Vyas

The first-time director was an assistant to Ashutosh Gowariker. He also played Hrithik Roshan's best friend Hojo in Mohenjo Daro.

Keyur Seta

Filmmaker Ashutosh Gowariker made a comeback to acting with Rajesh Mapuskar’s Marathi film Ventilator (2016). The Gujarati remake of the film, which is also titled Ventilator, also has a Gowariker connection. The film is directed by his long-time assistant Umang Vyas. In Gowariker’s last film as director, Mohenjo Daro, he was the chief assistant and also played Hrithik Roshan’s best friend Hojo.

Speaking about how the Gujarati version of the film happened, Vyas said in a conversation with Cinestaan.com: “Our writers Niren Bhatt and Karan Vyas had watched this film at MAMI [film festival] and were overwhelmed. I had seen it separately. It’s outstanding as a film as it takes you through the entire emotional graph in a subtle, sweet manner. It talks about the family coming together and relationships,” he said.

He elaborated, “I and Niren had been thinking of doing something together in Gujarati cinema for a long time. And being a Gujarati born and brought up in Mumbai, I wanted to take it to another level. We discussed Ventilator and I said I was equally affected by it. We thought it would be great if we could make it in Gujarati.”

The first-time director said with a smile that Mapuskar himself was excited by the project. “When Niren spoke to Rajesh Mapuskar, he was equally excited because Gujarati and Marathi are closely related communities,” said Vyas. “He said, ‘If you guys wish to make it, just go ahead and do it’.”

Umang Vyas

Surprisingly, the casting of the film was the biggest test for Umang Vyas. "The challenge was to bring the entire family together," he said. "After the casting and shooting, I realized how important this process was. The cast has equally owned the film. We have someone like Jackie Shroff, Sanjay Goradia and others. And Pratik Gandhi is outstanding. I feel 90% of my work was completed once this cast came on board.”

The obvious question was whether they have made any major changes in the remake. “As it is an official adaptation, the major drama and conflict remain the same," the director said. "It is a cultural adaptation about how a certain community sees a certain situation. Gujaratis take certain things too seriously and there is a certain amount of loudness. So, the humour quotient has gone a bit higher. And the Marathi Ventilator had Ganeshotsav as its backdrop whereas we have Navratri.”

Of all the artistes, casting Shroff was the biggest milestone for Vyas. “One of the challenges of casting was him," he said. "As we know, the Gujarati film industry has limited veteran artistes in that age group. I always thought we needed a certain personality or celebrity who can fill those boots. We had limited options. In fact, I would say we had no options.”

Umang Vyas had assisted on a film starring Shroff. But as Shroff had never acted in a Gujarati film, though his mother tongue is Gujarati, the director was not sure how he would take it.

“He doesn’t speak much Gujarati with his family," the director pointed out. "So, we were not sure, but we thought of giving it a try. We approached him and, luckily for us, he had seen Ventilator. The effect of the film was so strong on him that when we said we are making it in Gujarati, he just jumped and said, ‘Mereko karneka hai'!"

A still from Ventilator

Shroff is known for his trademark term 'Bhidu'. Asked if he utters that word in the film, Umang laughed, “It is here and there. He is playing Jaggu himself. You will see his jhalak because Jaggu is Jaggu. But we have tried to maintain his celebrity status within the family.”

The film also stars a legend of Gujarati theatre, Sanjay Goradia. Vyas was stunned when the actor himself called up and said he would like to be part of the project. “When we announced that we wish to make this film in Gujarati, the first person to call me was Mr Sanjay Goradia. Youngsters like us would be inspired to make more films if we get support from people like him,” he said.

Expressing how overwhelmed he was by Goradia’s gesture, he said, “He does so many plays that he has no time. But still he took the time out and himself came on board and revised his schedule. He has gone out of his way [to do this film]."

The original Marathi version had become a success at the box office. But the film’s performance at the ticket window isn’t a worry for Umang Vyas. “My biggest worry was to make this a good film," he said. "As the [Gujarati] industry is still coming up, it needs quality films rather than too many films.”