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|March 11, 2002||
Ever heard of a metrosexual love story?
Plays made into films can often be powerful, especially when the play in question has an unusual theme. The celluloid version of Mahesh Dattani's On A Muggy Night In Mumbai, which has been staged all over the world, even Off Broadway, to critical acclaim, promises to be one such.
In Mango Souffle, produced by Lotus Piktures, Dattani debuts as film director. The cast includes Rajesh Khanna's daughter Rinke, who debuted with Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi; Naseeruddin Shah's daughter Heeba; Atul Kulkarni, who was appreciated for his role as gangster Potia Sawant in Chandni Bar; and actor, dancer, choreographer Faredoon Dodo Bhujwala.
The story goes thus: Kamlesh, a young, successful fashion designer, invites his friends over to brunch as his farmhouse, The Mango Grove. There's Sharad, a witty, intelligent man who has a relationship with Kamlesh; Deepali, a woman of the world and TV star Bunny whose public persona is that of ideal husband and father, but whose real sexual preferences are quite different. To the party also come Kamlesh's sisters Kiran and Ed, who once had a relationship with one of the men in the group.
The play, which Dattani describes A Metrosexual Love Story, takes place in the space of an afternoon in Mumbai.
M D Riti spoke to playwright Dattani at his beautiful studio in Bangalore about this film.
How did the project fall into place?
Producer Sanjay Shah wanted to adapt one of my plays on a film, something progressive and relevant to urban Indian society.
I asked him to read On A Muggy Night In Mumbai and he was struck by its humour and bold theme. By then we had already decided to work together since we had a mutual interest in cinema. Initially, I was a little hesitant to recommend my own work and we were looking at several novels and plays to adapt.
How did you choose your cast?
I held extensive auditions in Mumbai. When Heeba Shah and Ankur Vikal came together for the audition, I didn't know she was Naseer's daughter. She tried out for the part of Deepali, and I felt an instant rapport with them both. I cast Heeba as Deepali and Ankur as Kamlesh.
They are all fine actors; I'm lucky to have them in my film.
What locations have you chosen to shoot your film at?
The primary action takes place on a farmhouse outside Bangalore. In fact, the farmhouse will shoot in belongs to Shah --- a beautiful house with large windows overlooking a mango grove. Perfect!
It's a low budget film but we will not compromise on quality.
Will Mango Souffle be an art film? Or will it be a commercial mainstream flick? What audiences are you targetting?
It certainly is not mainstream cinema as we understand it in India. We are definitely targetting the urban audiences who are ready to see something in English that is Indian and reflective, in some ways, of their own lives.
Are you encountering any problems while adapting a play onto the cinematic medium? This entire play unfolds in just one location, won't that be dull?
The film is set on a farm with plenty of action taking place in the exteriors. There are flashbacks that take the audience on a different style of storytelling.
Principally, the difference is that for cinema, you are telling your story through pictures. It is a sensory medium with a strong emphasis on the visual component. Colours and use of light are significant. Art direction is a special category which is as important as cinematography. The director's job is really in bringing it all together to serve the script.
Many attempts at non-commercial cinema have flopped. For example, 20 Plus, made by film company Boiled Beans in Bangalore two years ago...
Many more attempts at commercial cinema have flopped, too. No one can tell what makes a film work at the box office. The important thing is to be truthful to what you want to say and how you want to say it.
When you begin to make compromises and feel a certain 'sales anxiety', you can be sure your film won't work at the box office.
What other projects are you working on? Are you scripting other plays?
I have another request from BBC for a radio play. I am also keen to adapt my radio play Clearing The Rubble for stage.
I am writing another play which will be directed by Lilette Dubey. So, as you can see, I have a full plate!
How do you visualise your future in cinema? And in theatre?
I would love to continue working with both mediums. But I strongly believe in following my instincts. Ultimately, as a creative person, you have to love your work.
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