Swanand Kirkire, lyricist, playback singer, writer, assistant director, actor and dialogue writer, who plays the lead in Marathi film Chumbak, talks about his character, the uniqueness about the film and why artists have to draw a line while taking creative liberty
The soul-stirring song Bawra Mann Dekhne Chala Ek Sapna (Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi) created a place for Swanand Kirkire in Bollywood. And then followed a series of popular hits like All Izz Well and Behti Hawa Sa Tha Woh (3 Idiots), Navrai Majhi (English Vinglish), Tu Kisi Rail Si (Masaan), Monta Re (Lootera), Sheher (Gulaal), Satyamev Jayate songs for three seasons, Ala Barfi (Barfi!) and so on. These songs have some of the most simple yet mesmerising lyrics. However, besides his prowess as a lyricist, the National Award winning songwriter has also made his presence felt through songs he has belted out and composed music for, dialogues he has written (Chameli, Eklavya: The Royal Guard, Lingaa etc), films he has assisted and characters he has played.
The artist, who has his roots in theatre, is now all set to enchant the audience as a lead actor in upcoming Marathi film Chumbak (The Lottery), scheduled to release on July 27. Chumbak, which has been helmed by Sandeep Modi and produced by Aruna Bhatia, Naren Kumar and Cape of Good Films, received an overwhelming response at Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (also known as MAMI) 19th Mumbai Film Festival last October.
Swanand says that the film is a ‘slice of life’ and reflects a heartwarming story of self-discovery. He plays an autistic middle-aged Prasanna Thombare, whose simplicity melts your heart. The renowned lyricist, who recently visited Sakal office at Budhwar Peth for the film’s promotion, elucidates the logic behind the title: “Chumbak (magnet) has a certain force that attracts the opposite. In the film, two diametrically opposite personalities — Balu, a teenager (played by Sahil Jadhav), and Prasanna — set off on a journey together to self-discovery. The title also symbolises how right and wrong, two contrasting phenomena have a certain pull and push with each other.”
Bollwood actor Akshay Kumar, who is presenting the film, is all praise for Chumbak. This means a lot to Swanand and Chumbak’s makers. “Akshay Kumar loved the honesty and purity about the film. He has been gushing about not just the film but even its music, performances of the boys — Sahil and Sangram Desai, another teenager who is part of the film, as well as my performance. It is a huge support when an actor like him associates himself with a film out of love and appreciation for the work that you have put out,” says Swanand adding that the ‘Chaplinish goofiness’ in his character was intended but not even once he made a caricature of the mentally-challenged person he was portraying.
“We approached the character Prasanna in two ways: how he would look — his behaviour and clothes, and secondly, how does he think. We tried to understand the autism spectrum and then came to creating his look — the kind of trousers and shoes he wears. His socks too have a particular print. He is punctual and there is a certain way he looks at his watch. So this way I started adding little quirks to his character. He is a very simple guy who doesn’t understand subtext and goes by the literal meaning of things you tell him. In our smart world if someone tells you, ‘I love you’, you begin to think and dissect the words and start to find selfishness and self-interest behind those words or question if s/he is real. We try to see things beyond what is said but Prasanna doesn’t understand all this. If you tell him, ‘Wait here, I’ll get you money’, he will wait there endlessly till he realises that it was all a lie,” explains Swanand.
When asked what appeals well-known Hindi film actors to Marathi films he says that content is a big factor. “Thanks to the theatre culture and inclination towards literature, the audience is well prepared to embrace good content. Besides, they are not starstruck and only like to see big stars in their films. Marathi filmmakers are ready to take risks even with a person like me — they could have gone to a Marathi filmstar instead of considering me for this part. Not everyone becomes an artist to earn money. They want to tell a story and Marathi films give you an opportunity to do so,” says Swanand who is soon going to direct a romantic musical film.
Do artists have to draw a line while taking creative liberty, we ask. “You have to!” laments Swanand adding, “As a nation, we have become sensitive about everything in life; there is no sense of humour left. We have stopped laughing at ourselves. They have put artists into a censorship zone so that you are compelled to sit and think before making a film/ writing, in the fear of offending someone. I don’t think that it is a sign of a healthy society. However, as artists and creative minds, you sometimes have to be very responsible when you say something that can actually offend or hurt an individual / a group. It is a bilateral process — audience must learn a little and so should artists,” he concludes.