Touted as the first fantasy-thriller in Marathi cinema, Rakshas delves into a little girl’s love for fairies and the devil, which she fears could have harmed her father. Releasing today, the film directed by Dnyanesh Zoting, stars Sai Tamhankar, Rujuta Deshpande and Sharad Kelkar.
“Sai (Irawati) and Sharad (Avinash) are parents to Rujuta (Aru). So at its core, Rakshas is a family movie. But it also talks about environmental issues. Avinash is a documentary filmmaker, who is filming the tribals protest against a township project. One day he goes missing, and his wife and daughter set out to search for him,” explains Dnyanesh, who is making his debut as a director with Rakshas.
The script and even the protagonist’s role has resemblance to Dnyanesh’s life. Sharad, who is playing the documentary filmmaker, says, “I have got this ‘dude’ image. So I found it difficult to connect with Avinash’s portrayal. I have always played guys who are careful about their appearance, how they look etc. But Avinash was completely different. His hair is dishevelled, he has rough facial fuzz. It struck me quite late that to get the physical aspect of Avinash correct, I had to look up to Dnyanesh!”
The director was born and brought up in an ashram shala (residential schools for tribals/villagers) where his parents taught. “Dnyanesh has closely observed the lives of the tribals and has a fair understanding of their issues. All I needed to was model myself on Dnyanesh,” he adds.
Consequently, the cast got a chance to experience Dnyanesh’s early life in the countryside — they had to trek through the Western Ghats, to shoot the film. “I was called ‘monster’ by the cast and crew. We had to trudge the equipment to caves situated at a height; wait for sunlight to capture that one shot; and then there were the hassles of co-ordinating with various units. There was no mobile connectivity in the jungles,” informs Dnyanesh.
All this has translated into a rarely seen visual language for the film. “We shot ‘live’. There was no studio recording of the sound. British composer Andrew T Mackay did the sound for us. And, he insisted on it being natural. We also made appropriate use of VFX,” he adds.
The cast also had umpteen goose-bump inducing moments, which they experienced while shooting, to narrate. “Rujuta, who plays Aru, was scared to shoot for some scenes. She was in Std III then. Sai’s character, Irawati too was spooked out. But they didn’t flee or give up the shoot,” says Dnyanesh.
Sai says, “The genre of the film interested me. A fantasy-thriller film in Marathi hasn’t been explored that well. So that was one reason I chose to do Rakshas. Also, Irawati’s character was another reason. I have played a mom before, but Irawati is a different character — she is gritty, determined and practical. I also share a special bond with Rujuta. I think she is my favourite screen daughter.”