Interview Marathi

There is a sacredness to the relationships that is retained: Mrunmayee Deshpande on Soppa Nasta Kahi

Deshpande leads Mayuresh Madhav Joshi's emotional relationship drama web-series which was premiered on Planet Marathi OTT yesterday.

Photo: Courtesy of Mrunmayee Deshpande on Facebook

Shriram Iyengar

The idea of polyamory is not one often explored in Indian cinema, particularly in Marathi. With Soppa Nasta Kahi, Mayuresh Madhav Joshi seeks to break that taboo. The web-series revolves around three individuals whose relationship dynamics collide and collapse into one another.

Mrunmayee Deshpande is at the heart of this emotional rollercoaster. The actress and director plays Anuja who is faced with the tough choice of holding the reins of her relationships, one from the past and one in the present. Asked about the complexity of the subject, Deshpande said, "I would not call the subject complicated, rather [it is] interesting, different."

The actress returned to face the camera after completing the shooting of her second directorial venture, Manache Shlok. The film, now ready for exhibition, is awaiting the reopening of theatres in Maharashtra. 

"My respect for directors has gone up several times after making two films," Deshpande said, adding that the experience has also taught her to become a better actress.

Soppa Nasta Kahi was premiered on the Planet Marathi OTT platform yesterday along with four other original web shows. "I think OTT has changed the space a lot," said Deshpande. "I often turn to films when I am in the traffic on my mobile phone. OTT platforms have made original content more accessible."

While director Deshpande has an interesting project ready for audiences as and when theatres are allowed to reopen, the actress is also part of the Amazon Prime web-series, Mumbai Diaries 26/11, which will be released on 9 September. Following are excerpts from a telephone interview:

The subject for Soppa Nasta Kahi is complicated. How did you get offered the role, and what convinced you to do it?

Well, your question has the answer in itself. I would not call the subject complicated, rather [it is] interesting, different. Because it is interesting, different, there is room to showcase progressive thoughts, I said yes.

The film tackles the subject of an open marriage, which needs sensitive handling to deal with the many complex emotions involved. Were there any apprehensions?

I never say yes to a film unless I am convinced by the script. We were convinced by the story. To explain, there is a sacredness to the relationship, and we kept that in mind when working on the show. Simply because we have a subject that offers space, we did not push in romantic sequences. [The relationships] were handled so beautifully that at no point do you feel put off. That was the reason I knew the show would work. It was trying to say something progressive. But the manner in which it is trying to say it is also family-oriented.

Abhijeet Khandkekar, Mrunmayee Deshpande and Shashank Ketkar in the trailer for Soppa Nasta Kahi

Marathi cinema/content has always brought in progressive issues and thoughts, but the courage to back them with high production investment has increased in recent years. What has changed?

Nothing. It is a generational change. As new generations emerge, they bring with them new thoughts, ideas, conflicts and approaches. This generation has now emerged with its own voice and way of saying things. Hence, you see more of it now. 

You turned director with Mann Fakira (2020) and Manache Shlok is now ready. How have these experiences shaped you as an actress, and vice versa?

As an actor, one thing I have learned is to work with the director's word as a command. I never was an actor who interfered, but as a director, I learned that they speak while looking at a scene from multiple angles. Secondly, to never get angry at anyone on the set. I realized as a director how difficult it is to hold the crew together. I always try to ask the directors/assistants how they want me to approach a role, or if they need me to help. My respect for directors has gone up several fold after making two films.

What is the progress on Manache Shlok?

The film is complete. We are waiting for the theatres to reopen.

So, you are looking for a theatrical release?

Yes, we are.

This brings me to the question of OTTs. The space has expanded and changed. Audiences are no longer limited by the language, genre or scale of a film...

I think OTT has changed the space a lot. I often turn to films when I am [stuck] in traffic, on my mobile phone. OTT platforms have made original content more accessible. Forget Malayalam or regional languages, Korean films, Japanese, Iranian films can be watched.

This has spread so far that people are aware and watching all forms of cinema and content. People are no longer limited to region or language. Hence, a world-class production is necessary for every project.

It might take some time to come through. The budgets of regional productions and mainstream Hindi films are vastly different. But this difference has led to productions choosing new, niche subjects. You may not be able to put up a large-scale production, but choosing a unique subject is still appreciated.

Yes, but now productions are aware that there is a demand, an audience, for such subjects. They do not need to shy away from them.

Yes, that is an interesting aspect. More interesting is that if there is a Malayali character in the film, she can speak in her language. There is no forced stereotyping necessary. An Englishman working in a Hindi film does not have to speak in heavily accented Hindi any more. It only means we are becoming more honest as creators, and we should try and create more honest works.

In such times have the criteria for selecting a project changed? What is your necessary element when choosing to do a film?

I have to love the script (laughs). When you speak to the director, you can spot that the project is interesting. If I like the story/script and feel comfortable about it, I choose it. These are two elements. Sometimes, even if you have doubts about the story, if you trust the director, you trust them to make up for it. There are several permutations and combinations which go into saying yes to a film.

What next for you?

There are a couple of projects, including a big one, but it would be better if the announcement came from the right source. I will be making my debut in Hindi cinema soon.

Any more ventures to direct?

Definitely! I am going to wait awhile till Manache Shlok releases. I have done two directorials back to back. As important as it is to complete a film, it is also important to take a break. To regain that composure is just as important. You understand a lot of things, not in the process but when you step away from it. Travel is a source of inspiration for me. So, I will take a short break and then begin my next project.

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