A simple film with a simple story is how director Sagar Vanjari describes his Marathi movie Redu that released on Friday. “It is this simplicity of the story and narration that touched the hearts of so many people across the world,” says Vanjari about the responses the film got at various international film festivals.
Produced by Navalkishor Sarda, the movie stars Shashank Shende and Chhaya Kadam, and is the first mainstream movie to be shot in Malwani — a dialect spoken largely in parts of Maharashtra’s Konkan belt. “The story was originally written with the background of western Maharashtra. But when I read it, I realised logistically, Konkan would be a better option,” explains Vanjari, who marks his directorial debut with the movie. He has in the past edited a number of award-winning movies like Ranga Patanga, Investment etc.
The movie is set in the 1970s and hence the shooting had to be modelled around that era, which was quite a task for the crew. “We spoke to a lot of senior citizens who narrated to us various nostalgic incidents of their past. But the challenge was of creating those locales. At times, we had to cover an entire stretch of road with mud because tar roads didn’t exist then. Also, a major issue was to hunt for an old radio. Finally our art director did select one from the few old ones that he had found,” Vanjari says of the protagonist of the movie — the radio.
The movie’s central character Tatu (played by Shashank Shende) owns this radio — fondly pronounced as redu by the rural population — and that makes him a favourite among most of the villagers, from the powerful to the poor. “Those were the times when a gadget would bring people together unlike today when our so-called smartphones are making us alienated and anti-social,” says Shende, who belongs to Solapur and had no idea of the Malwani dialect.
“I had a very different image of the Konkani people. They had always been portrayed as loud and dramatic in popular culture. But after I visited the place, I realised the reality was different,” he says, adding that he then began his thorough study of Malwani and its nitty gritties.
“In a month’s time, he was speaking Malwani like nobody’s business,” adds Vanjari, who says that in case of the female lead, he always knew Chhaya Kadam was the one, since she belongs to that region and had told Vanjari long ago that she would be keen on working in a movie like this.
“I would always be annoyed with the way the region and its language was misrepresented in most movies/TV soaps. So this was a golden opportunity for me. As far as my character was concerned, I realised that it had a lot of similarities with my mother, and for that matter with every Konkani woman. So I started observing every move of my mother’s keenly, and prepared for the role by keeping her in mind,” Kadam explains.
The shooting for the movie went on for 23 days across the coastal belt. While Vanjari says that the entire team was a little sceptical about the Malwani experiment, the response from the audiences have been positive. “I was told in Cairo that the visuals and the simple narrative of the movie are so appealing that the language didn’t matter. It overwhelmed me,” he says.
Asked about his experience of being a first-time director and the way forward for Marathi cinema, Vanjari says that while content-wise it might be a golden phase for Marathi cinema, “Unfortunately it’s not turning into commercial success. We must go to the theatres for that,” he says, adding that his huge experience as an editor in the past helped him in directing this one. The music direction for the movie is by Vijay Gawande.