For nostalgia mongers, a movie like Akhilesh Jaiswal’s debut film Mastram, is like hitting a pot of gold. A fictional tale based on a very real person, Mastram follows the life of the mysterious writer of a series of porn books, who was quite popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s, mainly in North India.
Akhilesh, who shot to fame for co-writing Anurag Kashyap’s critically acclaimed film Gangs of Wasseypur, shares with City Express the story and experience of making Mastram.
I had the idea of making a movie about this porn writer for quite a few years now, even before Gangs... happened. But it was only sometime in 2009, when I was working on Gangs..., that I was at Dhanbad railway station and I saw the book again, after many years. I realised that the books were still being published, and this made me want to make the movie again.
Chasing the myth
We spoke to a couple of publishers as well as some writers - everyone knew some story, some myth. Some said he was a professor in Delhi, others said he was a bank employee somewhere in UP, others said he was a famous writer who was writing porn under a pseudonym. We decided to stick with the bank clerk narrative and developed it further from there, adding our own interpretations to the story.
Mastram, the character
I’ve imagined him to be a good person, you know? So what if he wrote porn? He could still be a family guy, trying to earn a living, make money for his family. I wanted to follow that train of thought. I don’t know if people will agree with me.
Erotica or porn?
A lot of readers that we spoke to told us that initially the content was quite artistic and poetic. But then, other writers started writing and using the brand name, then the content became vulgar and explicit. I think the change happened as soon as the Mastram name became a brand. In the film, we have shown what he writes visually, with a voiceover reading his works out loud. It’s been done aesthetically.
Working with Kashyap
Gangs of Wasseypur was like a film school for me. It was a massive film. I learnt everything about film-making, from pre-production to the final distribution of the film, on those sets, under Anurag Kashyap. He hasn’t watched Mastram yet, but I hope he’ll like it when he does.
Mastram hits theatres today.