A week after his film Angry Indian Goddesses has released and garnered both, critical acclaim as well as box office numbers, director Pan Nalin is a happy man.
What I thought would last for a few minutes, my conversation with him clocked nearly 30 minutes, where the ecstatic Nalin talked about how he is overwhelmed by reading blogs, articles, tweets and Facebook posts regarding his new film.
“On a flight I was in recently, I saw that the entire crew was female. Even the pilots were women. That does not happen even in Europe. Such is the story of Indian women. It is incredible,” he says.
His film may be titled Angry, but Nalin anything but that.
Excerpts from the interview.
Q) After years of struggle, your labour of love Angry Indian Goddesses has finally released and is doing well.
A) All my films have been a struggle but fortunately not a single film of mine has lost money. People trust my instincts and they have always paid off. My films can’t be like Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. The aim was to create a film which people will be talking about and create a thought pattern… When we were facing rejections, I told my team that when people reject something, it means it is something really important.
Q) No wonder the film is being appreciated all over…
A) It is a simple story. It has nothing in it, I am telling you (laughs) there is nothing. See simplicity has become so rare in our industry. My film is just about these 7 women, who meet, spend time… it is like smoking a cigerate, putting your arms around your buddy and asking, ‘How have you been?’ It is that simple… But also, there is a story. If 7 women in India meet, there will be, if not more, 7 different stories coming out from their life.
Q) So is there a sense of relief that you have proved the cynics wrong who didn’t believe in the project earlier?
A) The people we approached never had the time. Now everybody is saying that they have contributed to the story with some suggestions. That is good too. But when I set out to make the film, no one stood behind us. Jungle Book came in, the girls were there and an investor from Bangalore who had seen the film and wanted to back it.
The first question the studios used to ask was ‘Who is in the film?’ In 21st century, it is a wrong question to ask. You must instead ask, ‘What is in the film?’ People today are opening up to great content, let us provide them that.
Q) And audience has reacted very positively to the film.
A) It is humbling that people are connecting with the film. It is a small film with epic ambitions. We had to struggle to ask the distributors to give at least one show for the film. We were like at least give the audience a chance to watch it. Whether they love it or hate it, let them decide.
Q) Do you think we limit our audience’s intelligence?
A) Indian audience should not be judged, that is extremely wrong. Sure we love watching the Khans and the Kapoors and they will always be there, but they come up with one film a year. What about other weeks? There are 52 weeks and we need to keep the momentum rolling.
Q) But then you may get typecast as a certain filmmaker making a certain type of cinema.
A) I personally never differentiate between an indie film or commercial, off-beat or mainstream. I say, make a film which will fight with Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. You have these films and they will continue to exist, you can’t escape. There is an audience for that too. But don’t say ‘watch my films because I am a different kind of a filmmaker’.
When I made Samsara, people said I have made a regional Ladaki film. It then travelled to various international film festival and people said ‘oh it is a festival film’ and then it bagged 30 awards and people said ‘it is an art house film’. Finally when it got released, they said ‘He is an Indian trying to make an exotica, selling sex to the western.’ They will always doubt and label you, because your film does not have any stars so there must be something wrong with it.
Q) Interestingly, the success of a female buddy film like Angry Indian Goddesses comes right after the success of Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2, which many deemed a women-bashing film.
A) The audience doesn’t think if it is a male-bashing film or female-bashing film. They want to be entertained and if they are getting inspired by it, like what is happening with Angry Indian Goddesses then that is great. I haven’t seen Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 but is a franchise film backed by studio, it works differently.
Q) This year, there were two big women centric films, Piku and Tanu Weds Manu Returns and both had stars. Angry Indian Goddesses had no A-lister and yet it is doing very good.
A) We would’ve loved to bring in talented important stars too but it would have been difficult. I believe Deepika and Priyanka, both are amazingly talented. They can open a film alone on their own merit. They don’t need a man to do that.
But you cannot venture out to make a ‘women centric’ film alone, that would be a failure. You can have a central women character with a beautiful, sensible well-crafted story around it.
Q) So will we see you taking the story forward and making a sequel?
A) Right now we are totally engrossed in the success of the film. But I would really love to do a sequel. Even the actresses are saying that the journey should continue and I cannot stop it. The film’s story is endless and we will always keep finding some journey similar to this.
We have just taken a breath and are still living the dream. We have a big international release lined next year for the film, including a big German dubbed release. We are still in dialogues with the audience, understanding what they liked, how are they reacting to the film. That gives us the clear picture of what to do next and take it forward.
Q) There were reports the film would be adapted as a TV series…
A) We have got an offer from a big Hollywood network which is coming to India. Right now I cannot divulge any details but they loved the film. They have asked to adapt it as a TV series, chronicling tales of Indian women because they can sustain the series with great content of their stories.
Q) You recently released a list of dialogues and scenes which were chopped off, censored by the censor board. You think it has hampered the film in anyway?
A) Impact of the film has not been lost but certainly when the words are muted and images are blurred, it breaks the flow of the movie. I never understood the logic behind muting words anyway. As filmmakers we work on every little detail. If there is a garden scene then we add the sounds of birds chirping and so on. And when you see little details getting away from the film, it takes away the joy.
We have in writing whatever they asked us to remove. For decades Indian men were shown teasing women and it was normal. They can say ‘gandi baat gandi baat’ but women cannot even say ‘Look, my lunch is coming’? (Laughs)
Q) Is it an unnecessary controversy?
A) Today people are awaken and smart. You cut 30-second kissing scene from James Bond, they will imagine 30-hour of the kissing scene. At this age, where information is available freely, where porn can be accessed at our finger tips, I don’t see the point… Censor Board needs to rethink what it is doing.
Q) The ‘Gods’ are angry over our sanskaars it seems.
A) (laughs) If the kissing scenes were not cut out, nobody would have even spoken about it anyway. They did that and highlighted it themselves.
Interview done exclusively for PTI.