By Keyur Seta
(Taken from the website Halti Chitre.)
Pune 52 is one of the rare Marathi films to have released its first teaser around eight or nine months before the film’s release. Apart from this, the reason for it garnering excitement is due to the fact that it is the story of a detective; a concept not explored much in Marathi cinema. As the movie is finally nearing release after being postponed, the eagerness has only increased due to the actual trailers. Naturally, debutant filmmaker Nikhil Mahajan is keenly looking forward to the response. He gets talking about the actual genre of his movie and the inspiration behind it, among other things.
How would you describe Pune 52?
Pune 52 is a dramatic thriller. It’s a drama about urban relationships with a very subtle thriller undertone to it. The story is set in the 90’s about a private detective and the fall in his marriage due to another woman. It is set against the backdrop of financial reforms, how it changed the country and how the middle class was affected due to the reform policies. So it’s a personal story of this couple which is the representative of the society at that time.
How did the story idea originate?
I have a very close friend here in Pune whose uncle is a private detective. I met his uncle casually once and we ended up speaking a lot. He told me about his challenging, interesting profession. But what was more interesting was how it affected his personal life. This profession involves going against the law, meeting strange people, working at night and being in the shadow. It is not a very socially acceptable profession. There are multiple issues attached to it.
So I thought it would be very interesting to write a poignant drama about a detective. Hence, the story germinated and I slowly started adding layers to it. I worked on it for two years! The thrill element comes in naturally because of the profession. But the movie shouldn’t be mistaken for a thriller which a lot of people are doing. It is not a whodunit or a murder mystery. It’s a film which will get into your skin and make you uncomfortable. But it is not, not, not a conventional thriller!
Along with your film, Hou De Jarasa Ushir is also releasing on January 18. Don’t you think it can be risky for both the films?
No yaar I don’t think so. Both are different films. And when do you release a film? It’s always very crowded. BP (Balak Palak) released on January 4, this week it was Ajinkya, then our film and Hou De Jarasa Ushir are releasing on the 18th and after that, it is Aajcha Divas Majha. So some clash is bound to happen. Plus, Hou De Jarasa Ushir has a completely different genre from our film. So I don’t think both films will eat into each other’s business.
What is your background? How did you become a filmmaker?
I was studying to become an engineer. But I had this crazy passion for films since childhood. I started writing scripts for short films. Then I worked with Ram Gopal Varma’s production house. I assisted people there and even wrote with them. Nothing materialized but that fortified my idea of wanting to be a filmmaker.
Then I realized I need to be professionally trained and versed with the grammar of filmmaking. So I went to Australia and graduated in film direction from The International Film School in Sydney. After returning, I wrote Pune 52 while working as a writer with a company. I started hunting for a producer for my script. It’s been a long journey and struggle. It’s not at all been easy. I faced 40 rejections because of the content and the film not being conventional! Thankfully, I found producers and the film turned out very well.
Your film will also be released outside Maharashtra. How was this possible?
PVR Director’s Rare is a program by PVR Cinemas which releases path-breaking, independent cinema in as many screens as possible. Their idea is to support Indian independent cinema which normally doesn’t have the budget or capability to find a wide release. They might have heard about Pune 52 from those who saw it in MAMI Festival or somewhere else. Their director met me and said they will release the film outside Maharashtra on February 8.