Neerja’s Producer Atul Kasbekar On Protests Against Padmavati: Those Who Have A Problem With The Film, Don’t Watch It

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Vidya Balan starrer Tumhari Sulu released in the theatres on November 17 and the film had a pretty nice weekend. The film collected a total of around Rs 12 crores in its first days, when it was made on a low budget of Rs 20 crores. The film has got good response from the audience and critics as well.

In an Exclusive interview with Business Of Cinema, the producer of the film Atul Kasbekar, who also happens to be the producer of Neerja, talked about the film, Vidya Balan as the main lead and much more.

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Here are the excerpts from the conversation:

1. Your professions range from being a fashion photographer to a producer to an owner of a firm which does celebrity management. How does it feel doing great in all these fields?

– It means you have no life (laughs). I think it needs a lot of time management and you have to trust people to delegate things to and take it from there.

2. You had first produced Neerja which came out as a very impactful and strong film. But Tumhari Sulu is very different from that one. So what convinced you to produce this film? What was so different about it?

– It is very strange that after I made Neerja, people were asking me ‘which is your next biopic?’ I’m like I have just made one picture. It’s not like I made two biopics before Neerja and then I made this, where you can ask me what is my next biopic. For me it’s all about the story. If the story is good and it’s possible to do it with the correct economics, then we are interested in it. So, the script of Tumhari Sulu is kind of a re-visit to a Hrishikesh Mukherjee kind of space, where all the characters were very relatable. It feels like you know the characters personally. Sulu could be your neighbour and Manav can be any nice guy you know who is just a nice guy. I felt like we could do a modern day homage to Hrishi Da with this movie.

3. Vidya’s last three films couldn’t perform very well at the box-office. Why did you still decide to produce a film with her as the main lead?

– There are certain stars who are above box-office failures and successes and I think Vidya is in that list. Everybody accepts that there was no lack of effort from Vidya Balan’s part. So in any of the movies that didn’t do well when people were hoping that they would, Vidya still did her job with 110 percent of effort. And people like this should always get more chances. It was an author backed role. It was written for her. If she would have said no, then we would have not even done the film.

4. Any interesting or funny incident that happened through the course of making this film or on the sets that you want to share?

– We had a 42-day schedule. And Vidya is someone who becomes the character closest to her in real life. She is constantly making fun, constantly sending messages from somebody’s phone. Whenever she walked onto the sets, everybody would applaud, for no reason. Everyone used to clap saying ‘Yayyy, Vidya is here.’ And this used to happen everyday. Sulu is the engine of the movie, the same way Vidya was the engine of the set.

5. The film has already released and is doing pretty well in the cinemas. What do you feel about the audience’s response?

– Word-of-mouth has been absolutely fantastic. In the critics’ reviews also, we have mostly got 3.5 stars, many 3s and quite a few 4s. So, I’0.m very happy with the critical acclaim as well. People are coming out of the theatres saying ‘I’m going to come and watch it again with someone else’. This was not something I anticipated, and it adds a repeat value which is great.

6. We are seeing that nowadays the filmmakers have to face a lot of issues due to their different subjects of their films. Sometimes it is with the censor board or some other time it is with some external forces, as is happening in the case of Padmavati. The filmmakers even had to postpone the release date. So, what is your opinion on a person’s freedom of expression in India?

– At a very simple level, I would say that people should make the films they want to make. When it comes to censorship, CBFC is called the Central Board of Film ‘Certification’. So they should just certify the film. In the age of the internet, I personally feel that certification doesn’t make sense. Because the adult rated content is available freely for the underage people as well. To me the whole thing has now become redundant and that’s a fact. It makes no sense to me that you can see a thing at home but you can’t watch it in the theatre. Also, for the people who keep protesting, it’s like sir this is the movie I want to make, you don’t want to watch it, don’t watch it, simple. If you have a different version of events to give, then you make your own movie. And we’ll all come and watch it. And I hope that it’s a blockbuster.

7. We have also heard that you are planning to produce web series because there is less censorship there. So, do you think that censorship decreases the quality of films or takes away your freedom of expression in any way?

– We are getting into web because it is an interesting place to get into. It’s not only because of censorship not being there, because that would be very irrelevant. I think your creative boundaries are definitely bigger. What’s happening with the web series is that just because you can use the bad language, you are using it. Just because you can have raunchy scenes, you have it, no matter whether it is required or not. But I think a certain amount of maturity will set in after a while, where people will focus on the content more. If the content happens to require bad language, then okay be it. In the background of something, let’s say Narcos, it makes sense. And there are some bunch of others which are so bad, like Spartacus which I thought was terrible, I couldn’t even go through it. We are at the stage where we are very happy with the new found freedom that the digital medium is offering. In a year or two, I predict that our content will become much more mature and good.