With ‘Chandramukhi’, actor-director Prasad Oak says he finally got a chance to fulfill a long-cherished dream of making a movie that combines the folk culture of Maharashtra with its politics.
Written by Oak’s frequent collaborator Chinmay Mandlekar, ‘Chandramukhi’ is a musical love story between a rising politician Daulat and a leading ‘Tamasha’ singer and dancer ‘Chandra’, played by Adinath Kothare and Amruta Khanvilkar.
The movie is an adaptation of noted author Vishwas Patil’s novel of the same name.
“‘Chandramukhi’ was supposed to be my first film. For more than ten years, I wanted to acquire the rights of the story, but he (Patil) was not ready at that time. I felt he didn’t believe in me (at the time). Maybe after watching ‘Kaccha Limbu’ and ‘Hirkani’, he changed his mind,” Oak told PTI in an interview.
The 47-year-old director said his fondness for Patil’s work began when he first acted in one of his plays titled ‘Ranangan’ (1999-2000). He soon became Patil’s ‘fan’ and started reading his novels, including ‘Panipat’, ‘Zadazadati’, ‘Mahanayak’ and ‘Chandramukhi’.
“I'm crazy about his writing, it is very attractive. I am a fan of Mr Patil. When I read the book (‘Chandramukhi’) in 2004, I so wanted to make a film on it and thought it should be my first film. But I was a struggler at that time,” he said.
Oak made a foray in directing with 2009 comedy film ‘Hay Kay Nay Kay’ with Pushkar Shrotri, but the movie did not do well commercially.
"The movie turned out to be a super flop and I got a setback that my first attempt didn’t work, Oak said, adding, “The dream of becoming a director took a backseat as I got offers for acting.”
After acting in Marathi films like ‘Dharmaveer’, ‘Picasso’ and ‘Balkadu’ among others, he again pursued Patil in 2011-12 to adapt ‘Chandramukhi’ into a feature movie but nothing materialised.
Oak went to direct two feature films – ‘Kaccha Limbu’ and ‘Hirkani’ and again chased Patil, who agreed this time, provided the director could mount the film on a big scale.
“He said ‘Chandramukhi’ requires a good budget and asked if I have a good producer. Both Amruta and I happened to meet producer Akshay Bardapurkar (who started the first Marathi OTT platform) who was interested in backing ‘Chandramukhi’. We had a great team in the form of the cast, Ajay-Atul for music, Chinmay for the story, after he saw the team on board for the movie, Patil gave his permission.”
The key reason for Pune-based Oak to direct ‘Chandramukhi’ for all these years was his love for folk artists.
“My background is almost the same as that of folk artists, the director said, recalling how he would sing in chorus in a programme called ‘Maharashtrachi Lokdhara’, where all folk forms of the state like ‘lavani’, ‘Gondhal’, ‘Vasudev’ and ‘Dhangari’ were presented. My liking towards folk started from the show, where I have done thousands of shows for ‘Maharashtrachi Lokdhara’. And then I became the producer of the show. I was doing my college and started directing plays too. That’s how the career started,” Oak added.
The director said a lot of folk artists are struggling with their life even today and their ‘pain and sorrow’ should be ‘underlined’ in stories.
Khanvilkar, whose other movie credits include Marathi film ‘Natrang’ and Meghna Gulzar's Hindi film ‘Raazi’, was the first and only choice for the role of Chandramukhi, the director said.
“Amruta is a superb actress but has not got her due. She did everything to get into the world of ‘Chandramukhi’,” he added.
Oak, who had had worked with Kothare in a film called ‘Full 3 Dhamal’, said he is a very dedicated and passionate actor.
Made on a budget of Rs 5 crore, ‘Chandramukhi’ has emerged as a hit by earning over Rs 14 crore since its release on April 29. Oak is happy to see regional movies giving Hindi cinema a tough fight in theatres and on OTT.
“People love to watch regional cinema, be it Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Gujarati or Bengali. These movies are true to the culture and the roots of the region which is why people like them,” he added.
According to him, Marathi cinema has grown both in terms of commercial success and critical acclaim in the last few years with films like ‘Astu’, ‘Kaasav’, ‘Ringan’, ‘Paani’, his own directorial venture ‘Kaccha Limbu’ and others winning at the National Film Awards.
“We are growing critically and commercially also with films like ‘Pandu’, ‘Pawankhind’, including my film ‘Hirkani’ which did well commercially. Right now, we are giving tough competition. Because of films like ‘Chandramukhi’ and ‘Dharmaveer’, shows of ‘Runway 34’, ‘Heropanti 2’, ‘Dhakaad’ have been reduced,” he added.
Up next for Oak as a director are two biopics – ‘Bhadrakali’, based on Maratha leader Sarsenapati Umabai and another on Marathi cinema's celebrated actor Nilu Phule.
“The script of ‘Bhadrakali’ is ready and we are in the process of pitching it to companies and producers. The script work has just started on Nilu Phule biopic and it will take time,” Oak shared.
[With Inputs From PTI]