Rajen C Kothari, Director
My earlier film Purush did not work at various levels. In retrospect I think it was because it was an issue-based film released soon after the Babri Masjid demolition on a very wrong scale and post haste. Not getting selected in the Indian Panorama or winning any National Awards, the producer Shivanand Shetty, in desperation to make whatever money he could out of it, doled it out to the first buyer that came along. Also, while scouting for an actual jail as a probable location for some of the sequences of Purush we came across a jail superintendent Mr Yelmelwar who cursorily asked about the subject. When I narrated in brief what the subject was he minced no words to tell me why he would not be interested in going and seeing a film with a subject like that. He had rightfully raised some pertinent issues about an issue-based film and those views seem to linger at the back of my mind even15 years later. Though I was about to venture on to another message oriented film, it was not to be. We had worked on a subject with the consent of a Independent Producer who for some strange reasons lost faith in the subject and backed out two months before the shoot.
Meanwhile I was to photograph a project that Sunit & Sunil Jawadekar were producing. It was an extrmely interesting and sensitive subject about an old couple but unfortunately did not progress too far. And Sunit wanted to get started. He then asked if I had any subject ready. I had nothing readily available st the time but tapped two friends who write - Vikram Bhagwat & Amol Gupte. They came up with a concept each. One was a thriller while other was a comedy. Sunil felt he could raise the funds easier for the comedy. So we cast our vote in favour of the comedy and so that is how Panga Naa Lo was conceived.
Even though things were falling in place, every such film has its own travails and unique funding problems. As we scheduled the principle shoot to begin in August 2005, the flood of 26/7 happened in Mumbai and almost all of Sunit's funds got washed away. A friend from Solapur bailed us out. This was the fact of life throughout the making of the film. But to Sunit's credit none of the artistes' dates were ever wasted for the paucity of funds. He always managed to raise enough for us to get through on a schedule to schedule basis.
When we cast Om Puri & Satish Shah, we were not aware that they were being paired together for the first time since Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983)! Initially Om and Satish were just among the names we contemplated, others being Boman Irani, Paresh Rawal and Manoj Pahwa. Eventually things fell in place nicely as Om and Satish came on board. Supriya Pathak Kapoor was slightly unsure but once she agreed she went full steam ahead while Navni Parihar was ever willing. The young lead pair, Kunaal Roy Kapoor and Priyanka were the finalists in auditions.
Arun Varma was with me on lot of work I did in the mid 1990s. He is very cool to work with under even the most excrucaiting circumstances so he was the chosen one to head the cinematography component of the film. You shoulder a lot of responsibilities when you direct. To direct and photograph is an awesome task was what I discovered on Purush where also I was literally supported on cinematography by my associate Vijay Arora. He had brunt the massive burden without getting due credit. So this time on I decided to give credit where it really belongs and stopped taking those decisions temporarily. Arun was in total command and was responsible for everything to do with that aspect of film making. Eventually I was better off. Deep Dudani who doubled up as Associate Director & Editor was a close confidant on Shyam Benegal's Netaji Subash Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero. He slogged with us at every stage of the film with a never say die spirit. The rest of the crew was a part of my Purush team except Rahul Ranade & Piyush Kanaujia who scored for the film. This film would not have come too far without Nivedita Kothare's unstinted support with back stage string pulling including the last few pennies from her bank account. I would say she was almost a minister without a portfolio!
The film was shot in precisely 32 Days. At 32 days you do not have any leeway. During the making of the film, Satish & Om rediscovered their friendship. Both were batchmates in the acting course at the FTII having graduated in 1976. It was heartening to see Satish getting out of his black buck mess and reporting for a crucial schedule straight out of the Jodhpur Court and bothof them like buddies gorging on Paplet fry, Jingha curry and Pithla Bhaker. I had worked in Purush with Purisaab but fatso Satish was a discovery for me both as an actor and human being. He is grossly under rated!
We have tried to follow a Sasta Sunder & Tikau (SST) a la Hrishida estyle of filmmaking. In fact we have dedicated the film to Hrishida.
Once the shoot was over and as the film came to the editing stage, of course there were jitters to start with - how would the film shape up but there was also fullfillment at the end of it all. Of course, you cannot help but think as you see the completed film how you could have done it better.
The film is being released courtesy Adlabs. We could not have achived it without Manmohan Shetty stepping in. That there is a market today for our kinds of films, is heartening for filmmakers wanting to make smaller budget films with different ideas. As for me, it is now time to move on to another project.