Filmmaker Shonali Bose, who won critical acclaim for her film AMU back in 2005, is back with her next, titled MARGARITA WITH A STRAW which stars actress Kalki Koechlin. In a brief chat, Shonali talks about what inspired her to make the film, the challenges she faced and much more. Read on…
What inspired you to make MARGARITA WITH A STRAW?
I got inspiration from my sister Malini. I was one when she was born and we are extremely close to her. And she has been suffering from cerebral palsy and hence I was familiar to this disease. That is what inspired me to make this film.
How did you decide to cast Kalki Koechlin?
(Asks her co-producer Nilesh to answer on her behalf) I have met tons of actors around the country. When we finished the first draft of the film, I wanted a face of the actress in front of me. We were hunting for somebody who would match that and there is an image of Kalki on google which made me think that she is ideal for the role. When I showed it to Shonali, she agreed. And when we auditioned Kalki, we noticed that she immersed herself into the character. That is how we decided to cast her. I feel Kalki is that rare talented actress who is ready to do all those things that one does to get the character right.
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Now that the film has been received well at various film festivals, what are your expectations from its Indian release?
I am super excited about the Indian release. When I made the film, all I cared was that it should release in India. The response I got for the trailer has made me excited for the film’s release in India. I am very confident that Indian audiences are going to love the film just like the International audience.
What attracts you to make such offbeat films?
I just make something that inspires me. It should inspire me creatively and cinematically. Then those things are not run of the mill things. With 84, it was my personal experience and here it was my experience of growing up with a sister who is one year younger than me and wants to have sex more than me. This excited me.
What were the challenges you faced while shooting MARGARITA WITH A STRAW?
All films are really tough to shoot. Initially I thought it was a challenge to shoot disability, but that wasn’t the case and interestingly it was easy.
How do you manage to get your films funded?
Viacom18 came on board right away but they didn’t give all the money immediately because people are still nervous and scared when it comes to films like these which don’t have big stars and other things. So initially, we went about shooting by taking money on loan but I knew that the film was strong and that is what has happened. And later things have worked out smoothly.
Did controversies ever deter you?
No never, these controversies have never deterred me.
Awards are a great boost generally. Do they encourage you?
Awards do benefit and affect other people, but to me it doesn’t affect. Awards don’t drive me. My main excitement is audiences. I love meeting them and interacting with them. I appreciate awards when we get them, but then it doesn’t change things for me.
Though your films are loved by all, they do not generally get box-office success. Your comments…
A film works firstly because of its script and secondly the number of prints which are released. AMU was extremely commercial film and had someone put money into its marketing, it would have been a success. If someone puts in 2 crores into its marketing, AMU would have been a box office hit. It is all about marketing. Producers and distributors do not trust our audiences. They think audiences are dumb and so they will put money in a BANG BANG but they will not put any money in AMU.
Do you think now the audiences are appreciating meaningful cinema and not just masala entertainer?
The Indian audiences have matured not now, but 10 years back. But yes, they are evolving now. Today audiences want meaningful cinema. A film with huge stars, budget and marketing doesn’t work well because audience doesn’t accept shit. But I would also beg to differ that audiences have always loved intelligent cinema. We have had Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt films which did well with all but it was the producers and distributors who haven’t been trusting the audiences and have made this notion that people don’t enjoy meaningful cinema. In fact, Hindi cinema was great back then. It is now that Hindi cinema has declined.