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Interview Marathi

Panghrun is one of the best films I have done: Mahesh Manjrekar

The actor-director-producer says he now wants to make the film in Hindi with Aamir Khan. 

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Panghrun won the Best Film award at the Bengaluru international Film Festival (BIFFES), for being "a film which shows complexity of human emotions and relationships in a very aesthetic manner with cinematic excellence." The Marathi film is set in the era before Independence and looks at women’s situation at the time. Widow remarriage was hesitatingly accepted and underage girls were being married off to much older men. It also delves into the desires and emotions of women trapped in traditional roles, with no outlet for expression. 

Mahesh Manjrekar, the writer, director, and producer of the film, joined us for a conversation, where he spoke about what the award meant to him, his disappointment at the film not being selected for the Pune International Film Festival (PIFF), and his future plans for the movie. 

Congratulations on winning the award for Best Film at the festival. What are your thoughts on winning?

I’m absolutely elated because the award has been given in a place where they do not know me. There is a lot of bias in Maharashtra. I though this film would be there at the PIFF. The problem is that they have these grouses. Jabbar Patel runs the festival with a proprietary air. I was a little hurt that it was not there in the selection and there were some trash films there that were selected. It was obvious that the film was purposely overlooked.

I did a film Bhai: Vyakti Ki Valli (2019), which was about PL Deshpande, humorist, playwright, stand-up comedian, lyricist, music director, and a fantastic person. So I did his bio-pic, and Jabbar took it up as a mission to try and prevent me from doing so. He went to the relatives and said don’t give him permission. It was so obvious and he was doing it so blatantly. I don’t know why. And from that time, he has had this chip on his shoulder. So I was hurt that the film was not at PIFF and realized that his personal choice is also a criteria. 

The film was selected at Kolkata and at MAMI.  So Kolkata said that if the film has been screened earlier [at MAMI], we won’t take it in competition. So when the film was selected here, I was extremely elated and I was a bit hopeful since the judges were from all over. I think this is one of the best films that I have done. So, somewhere I was more than happy!

You have made many landmark films in Hindi and Marathi cinema, and many of your films deal with issues that were not being looked at in other films. Which is the industry that you are invigorated by?

Marathi cinema, because I can experiment here. I can do the films that I want. Nobody is forcing me to do those films. I write my films and sometimes I narrate this subject of the film, they will say it won’t work in Hindi. So I would really like to see this film [Panghrun] made in Hindi as that is how it will get a wider audience. The only person who can do justice to it is Aamir Khan. I am going to try my level best to do it in Hindi. It’s important for the younger generation to know what the culture at that time was. 

Besides cinema, you are also acting in a web-series. As an actor and director, what excites you about the form?

As an actor, it's money! I am not a very passionate actor. I do it because of the money. Acting tires me. If I make money there, I can make these films. Otherwise how do I make these films because nobody backs these films.

There seems to be a constant negotiation between making content-driven cinema and commercial sentiments. You have even moved on to do web-series now.

I have also directed a web-series, which I cannot tell you much about at this stage. It will be out in August on Hotstar. That's all I can say. But I don’t know if I will try and make another one, because it is too tiring to make content that long. I am very content and happy doing Marathi films because I can do films that are close to my heart. One day, I will see to it that this film is made in Hindi. That is my priority.

Related topics

Bengaluru International Film Festival