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'The CGI Was Very Challenging Because Nothing Like That Has Been Done Here'

June 07, 2024 12:04 IST
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'Not many films have a reference to a creature who talks, emotes, acts in a film. And Munjya is doing all of it.'

IMAGE: Aditya Sarpotdar's new film Munjya released in theatres on Friday, June 7, 2024. Photograph: Kind courtesy Aditya Sarpotdar/Instagram

Aditya Sarpotdar burst onto the film-making scene back in 2008 and helmed several successful Marathi films: Classmates, Faster Fene, Mauli.

His most recent film Zombivli introduced the zombie genre in Marathi cinema and this cool experiment was very well received by the audience.

Aditya now makes a leap into mainstream Bollywood giving a new direction to his filmography.

He directs Munjya, the latest entrant in Maddock Films' ambitious horror comedy universe, starring Abhay Verma, Sharvari, and an eerie-looking villain created completely by using computer-generated imagery (CGI).

"The Hindi film industry is realising that regional film-makers are very good at telling stories in small budgets," Aditya tells Mayur Sanap/,

This is your second horror-comedy film after Zombivli. What draws you to this genre? How tough is the horror and comedy blend?

Making people scare and laugh are two drastically different emotions.

To try to combine both makes it very difficult.

When people walk into theatres they want a certain cinematic experience, more so after the OTT platforms that are so easily available.

The combination of horror and comedy genres lends to that cinematic experience.

Zombivli was an attempt to see whether I can do well at this.

I got some fairly decent feedback and really good reviews for that film. It gave me a little more confidence to see whether I could do it better with another film. And then this movie happened. There was no way I could say no.


IMAGE: Abhay Verma in Munjya.

Munjya is apparently based on Marathi folklore from the Konkan region. What fascinated you about this subject?

I have spent a lot of my childhood during my vacations going back to my ancestral town in Konkan and spending time there.

I used to hear all these very interesting stories that happened to people or somebody knew of. Stories generated from Konkan that talks about creatures, monsters, spirits, ghosts.

The world of Konkan is so unique because of the nature that it lends to. It can be pretty creepy in the night or in the monsoon.

Growing up, I've heard a lot of stories about Munjya. As a kid, I used to be terrified to go to a peepal tree.

The belief is that Munjya resides on top of the tree. At night, kids or birds should not go near the tree because it will attack you.

When you grow older, you realise that this is just folklore and it doesn't have any logic to it. But these stories stay with you.

How did you ideate this film from those stories?

I used to feel that in a country like ours there are many such folklore. So why do not we tell stories that come from the origins of where we all come from?

When I happened to meet the team at Maddock Films (the production house) we wanted to collaborate on something. They had this story of Munjya and I knew Munjya.

I just jumped at it and I started building on this story.

How did you envision the title creature, which is a CGI character? What were your key challenges during the production?

The CGI was very challenging because nothing like that has been done here. I didn't have a reference point.

Sure, RRR had so many animals and creatures. There was a humanoid in Rajinikanth's Robot.

But not many films have a reference to a creature who talks, emotes, acts in a film. And Munjya is doing all of it. He's an actual actor emoting and performing.

For that we needed the best VFX team, so we approached DNEG (Double Negative, the British VFX studio). They have done a lot of films from Dune to Marvel and so many others.

I'm not making it too technical, but there's this one basic thing called motion capture where you have an actor performing. He's performing in a mo-cap suit on the studio floor and he's captured by more than 60 odd cameras. His movements are then recreated in the model of Munjya that we see on screen.

It was a good one-year long post-production process that we had to go through to achieve the desired look.

IMAGE: Sharvari and Abhay Verma in Munjya.

So far Maddock's horror comedy universe has featured big names like Varun Dhawan (Bhediya), Rajkummar Rao (Stree), Janhvi Kapoor (Roohi). Munjya, on the other hand, is led by fairly new actors.

Unlike all the films that you mentioned, you will see Munyja throughout the film. He is the main character.

For us, our entire focus was to build this creature character the most and support him with some real actors. We did not want to take the focus away from him.

We needed good actors who will be able to perform and deliver. We are in the phase of the industry when you really do not care about a big actor anymore.

You have Kantara where you don't know the actors but it still did super business in Hindi. Same goes for Manjummel Boys, where you don't know the actors but it did great business outside Kerala also.

You have Laapataa Ladies, you have 12th Fail, these films had mostly newcomers.

I feel we should not put too much of pressure onto the film by demanding a cast there. We should go with actors, whether known or unknown, who best fit the role.

Munjya is trying to do that.

As a regional film-maker, what is the lure of working in Bollywood? Is it the budget, stars or a bigger pool of audience?

It's the other way around.

It is the Hindi film industry that is realising that regional film-makers are very good at telling stories in small budgets.

The way Marathi cinema, Malayalam cinema, or other regional industries are able to tell great stories in limited budgets, puts the Hindi cinema in those spaces where they want to tell similar kind of stories but on a larger national platform.

People like me who have been working in the regional industry know how to make a film purely content oriented and in a budget that doesn't go overboard.

For me, it's been very organic. I had never decided that I want to make a Hindi film. I am very happy making Marathi films because it gives me that space to tell my stories where the director, the film, the story is the hero. Marathi gives me that.

What Hindi gives me is a little better budget to make a more ambitious film. A film like Munjya would not have been attempted in Marathi because the budget wouldn't allow it.

I am glad that works because now people are open.

IMAGE: Aditya with Riteish Deshmukh and Jitendra Joshi on the sets of his Marathi film, Mauli (2018). Photograph: Kind courtesy Aditya Sarpotdar/Instagram

You are the fourth generation in a family of film-makers. What was your fascination about cinema while growing up?

My great grandfather (N D Sarpotdar) was a film producer and director, who set up his company in 1927. It was called Aryan Film Company. We did around 40 plus movies.

The whole environment growing up used to be about cinema.

I come from Pune. We used to run two theatres there. I have spent most of my holidays and post school time in the theatres, projection room, and back office.

From a very, verym young age I realised that this is what I wanted to do.

Because this world of cinema was something I've known so closely, I could not think of anything else but this.

When you're watching movies and seeing how they're made and seeing the way this whole magic unfolds behind the camera, you just cannot stay away from the excitement of it.

I started making short films at the age of 15 or 16. Since then I have always been sure about this as my career.

Who were your favourite film-makers back then?

It's been different directors from different genres and different industries.

There are two directors who have really, really, been a major inspiration for me. One is Steven Spielberg, for the of range of cinema he does. All of them are extremely fascinating.

Another name is Mani Ratnam sir. He is a prolific film-maker and highly iconic in the way he told his stories on a very commercial level.

What are your all-time favourite films?

It would definitely be The Shawshank Redemption. I think that it is one of the best films ever made. I watched it at a very young age and I was blown away.

Then I am a major fan of the Dark Knight series. The Dark Knight is one of the best films I have seen. It has an amazing blend of commercial cinema and great storytelling.

IMAGE: Aditya with Ritiesh Deshmukh, Sonakshi Sinha and Saleem Saqib who feature in his next film, Kakuda. Photograph: Kind courtesy Aditya Sarpotdar/Instagram

Your next film Kakuda is also from the horror genre.

Yes, it is a horror comedy. It stars Riteish Deshmukh and Sonakshi Sinha.

It is going to have a straight to OTT release. We will make an official announcement very soon.

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