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Deb Medhekar Interview: My film Bioscopewala may be small but it’s ambitious

Writer-director Deb Medhekar’s directorial debut Bioscopewala, which is an extrapolation of Rabindranath Tagore’s seminal work Kabuliwala, has opened to an extremely positive response from critics. The film has not only been praised for its great storytelling and competent direction but also for its terrific ensemble cast. In an interview with our Mumbai correspondent, Mohnish Singh, Medhekar talks about why he took up the project and how he managed to bring together such an incredible cast that includes the likes of Adil Hussain, Danny Denzongpa and Tisca Chopra.

Bioscopewala is an extrapolation of Rabindranath Tagore’s great work Kabuliwala. What made you pick up the subject and present it in a film form?

In all honesty, this is Sunil Doshi’s pet project. He had been working on it for some time and had had a basic framework of the story in place even before I came on board. It’s a tribute to his father and to his son, Ilann. When he spoke to me about it, I was thrilled. My mother is a huge Tagore fan, she taught herself how to read and write Bengali so she could read Gurudeb’s writing in the original, which is also why I have a Bengali name.

When a filmmaker decides to make a film on a subject that is already known, how does he ensure that a high level of novelty is there to draw the audience?

Once I was on the project, as a writer I knew I had to make it my own, to put my own indelible mark on it that would give me the satisfaction of having truly put myself into it – which is how the extrapolation happened. I know I’m walking on the Holy ground here, with Tagore’s story but that’s what kept me honest, kept pushing me – so that I can do justice to Tagore’s characters while contemporising the context in which they are placed and the conflicts with which they are faced. We brought in topical issues about the loss of homeland for refugees, dealing with personal loss, estranged relationships. The film is also not treated like a traditional drama piece, it has a ‘whodunit’ aspect to it where she (the lead character) pieces together the puzzle that is the Bioscopewala and in doing so discovers herself as well.

The star cast of your film looks quite promising. How did you manage to bring such great talents under one roof?

We had a great casting team on the job; I give them all the credit for bringing such a great ensemble of actors together. I would like to believe that the script had a big part to play in getting these great actors to come on board as well. Adil loved his character, Tisca had grown up in Afghanistan when her father was stationed there and wanted to do something that allowed her to use that part of her childhood in a character.

Danny Denzongpa returns to films after a long time. Was it difficult for you to bring him onboard?

Sunil Doshi with all the good karma that he has gained in the industry over the years made that possible. Once we had the foot in the door I think the script did the rest. What a handsome man and what presence in front of the camera. Once the idea of him playing the Bioscopewala came up, I couldn’t think of anyone else playing the character.

Earlier your film was clashing with Vikramaditya Motwane’s Bhavesh Joshi. But now his film has moved to 1st June, leaving an open field for you. How do you feel?

Honestly, I never thought of it that way. I have a lot of respect for Vikramaditya Motwane’s work. My film may be small but it is ambitious and made with immense honesty and heart, perhaps this change of dates will ensure greater footfall on the weekend and then word of mouth will take it further. There’s never too much good content. The film-going audience would’ve seen both, I would like to believe.

What is your take on much-publicised INR 100 club in Bollywood? Almost every filmmaker and actor is running after joining one club or the other.

Here’s what I would do with the 100 CR – I would make 10 films – 10 CR each, with great content, great actors. I’m sure the maths would play out the same. Besides, 10 films are 10 shots at the National awards (laughs). I’m a single child. I have never been good at being part of clubs.

Who are you targeting at with your film – the multiplex audience or the mass audience in single screens?

I wonder if audiences think of themselves like that. I would like to believe audience today is coming-of-age. Content is driving everything. If there’s good content, they will go wherever the film is playing.

Tell us the one USP of your film the audience should notice and throng theatres to watch it.

The feeling of nostalgia! I feel a lot of people will relive their own childhood through Minnie. To be able to go back in time and savour memories in vivid detail is a luxury that cinema affords us. A lot of detailing and effort have gone into this and yet we have tried to keep memory like memory – sweet incidents are remembered sweeter and dark things loom large and ominous in memory.

What is next after Bioscopewala?

I have a truckload of original scripts that I will swing around my neck and go out and try and make into films. Perhaps more adaptation and extrapolation of classic literature might happen. The great gods of the Friday box-office will decide – Fingers crossed!

Bioscopewala released on 25th May, 2018.