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I refer to documents written in Modi script while doing research for period films: Digpal Lanjekar

The filmmaker-writer's next historical epic, Sher Shivraj, will be released in theatres on 22 April.

Digpal Lanjekar

Keyur Seta

The fourth film in Digpal Lanjekar's Maratha cinematic universe — Sher Shivraj — is set to be released in theatres on 22 April. The other instalments in the franchise are Farzand (2018), Fatteshikast (2019) and Pawankhind (2022)

Speaking about his fondness for Maratha history, the filmmaker told Cinestaan.com, “It is believed that after the Ram Rajya, the next golden period in India was Swarajya. I enjoy the whole process of reading, creating and being in that period through these films.” 

In all the films, the historical figures Shivaji Maharaj and his mother are played by Chinmay Mandlekar and Mrinal Kulkarni. The actors playing the rest of the characters keep changing.

Asked about his research process, the writer-director said, “I keep reading books and the scriptures. I take help from reference books written by historians. I also look at documents that were written back then in Modi Lipi [script] by people who knew Shivaji Maharaj. This is how I go ahead [with the script].” 

It is a little-known fact that Lanjekar started off as an assistant director on Rama Madhav (2014), which was directed by Mrinal Kulkarni. “It proved to be very useful,” he said. “I had always wanted to make a historical. So doing Mrinal Tai's Rama Madhav proved to be very useful; like homework. I got to learn a lot about execution in the commercial space because of her.”

Lanjekar has four more films based on Maratha history lined up for release. Speaking about the importance of ambition, he said, “It is necessary to dream. Unless you dream about something, it won’t come true. A lot of people have specific life goals. I came to know mine very early on. We keep saying that some things are impossible to achieve. But I feel there is nothing that you can’t achieve.” 

Digpal Lanjekar as Bahirji Naik in Sher Shivraj

Citing an example from Swami Vivekananda’s life, he added, “There was a sadhu who was unable to walk towards his destination, which was far away. Swami Vivekananda told him to take the first step and then keep taking one step at a time.” 

Sher Shivraj will also see Lanjekar play the spy Bahirji Naik, a major character. “I used to act in Marathi serials and was even nominated for various awards. But I decided to focus on direction because making such historical films was a new and challenging experience. I didn’t want to take a risk and act just out of temptation.”

The filmmaker opted to don the greasepaint again now that he has everything under control. “Besides, the actor we had in mind for this role couldn’t do the film due to some issues. My friends and close ones suggested that I should do the role,” he said. 

Sher Shivraj's predecessors have been successful at the box office, but the filmmaker says he prefers not to think about the money factor. “I don’t think about the box office. I only think about how I can make an excellent movie. We have a few myths about films working at the box office if you do certain things. This gives rise to formulas,” he said.