After yo-yoing between formulaic films and unconventional projects, actor-director Ananth Mahadevan has decided to stick to helming films that appeal to both his heart and intellect. His latest directorial venture, The Storyteller, based on a Satyajit Ray story, bears testimony to this move.
Excerpts from a conversation with the filmmaker:
What is it about Satyajit Ray’s story, The Storyteller, that compelled you to make a film?
I wanted to film Feluda many years ago, but Sandip Ray wished to do it himself and did not part with the rights. This time, he agreed when I explained why The Storyteller had to made in Hindi and not Bengali. The artful placement of characters and situations by Ray makes it a three-region subject. Also, it has one of Ray’s most memorable creations — Tarini Khuro, the storyteller whose life becomes a story and a lesson. The story is simple, humorous, and laced with cutting satire.
Are you an admirer of Satyajit Ray as a filmmaker too?
Just like Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves inspired Ray, each of Ray’s works have been master classes for me. He showed that a film, which is rooted in our soil and has universal values, could also have great international appeal. He has truly been a driving force in my career, and The Storyteller will be in keeping with his thought process in a modern world. It is fortuitous that I am getting a chance to pay tribute.
You have cast Naseeruddin Shah and Paresh Rawal, two accomplished actors, in pivotal roles. Tell us a little about the process of signing them.
Naseeruddin Shah and Paresh Rawal are extremely finicky when it comes to selecting their scripts. But the name Ray struck a chord and the subject was a winner in a mere 15-minute narration. The screenplay discussions gave rise to some intelligent brainstorming and added to the wonderful adaptation by Kireet Khurana.
You started with commercial films like Dil Vil, Dil Manage More and Aksar. And more recently, you’ve made The Expose and Aksar 2. What makes you keep returning to mainstream cinema even after your film Mee Sindhutai Sapkal bagged the National Award?
Dil Vil Pyar Vyar and Dil Maange More were interesting and irreverent forays. They helped me make the transition from television to films. But I have to admit that Expose and Aksar 2 were aberrations. I had no business making such films. They came at a crucial juncture when my work was just not translating into remuneration for me, and I had bills to pay. I will never return to such films.
What other projects are you likely to announce in the near future?
An endearing little film called Life is Good! is all set for release in August. Jackie Shroff plays a middle-aged man coming of age in this heartwarming story of life and death.
Since you are single yourself, ever considered making a film that revolves around the challenges of being single?
Actually, Jackie Shroff in Life is Good! is a chronic bachelor because he fears that the woman who comes into his life may not care for his mother. But when his mother dies, he is seized with loneliness. The film explores what happens thereafter.