Nikhil Mahajan fascinated many quality cinema lovers with his teaser and trailers of “Pune 52“. It demonstrated that the visual and technical quality of Marathi Cinema (which is already known for its content quality) is increasing by leaps and bound. It was the most anticipated movie in that year. Stylishly shot in a Neo-Noir fashion with captivating story line about a Detective’s shattered married life while he himself makes a living by collecting proofs of infidelity for his clients, Pune 52 won a lot of awards and was appreciated at many International Film Festivals.
He is back again with his new offering “Baji” which is an epic action story. It promises never before seen action in Marathi Cinema with an equally engrossing love story along with. There is also an epic mystery to enthrall the audience even more.
“Baji” is making buzz from its first look itself. The superbly done graphic design of teaser posters got many people talk about it in excitement. Nagpur Today got a chance to interview Nikhil Mahajan, Director of the film and here are the insights about the movie and himself from him.
NT : From your first film itself, it seems like you have decided to raise the bar of quality in Marathi Cinema. From the neo-noir treatment of “Pune 52” to stylish picturised super-heroish “Baji”, there feels like an urge to do something different. Is that a conscious effort?
Nikhil: Not really. I want to makes films which will appeal me as an audience and in Marathi Industry, I do not get to watch the kind of films I like. That means there must be many like me who would like to see different, not necessarily art house or parallel, but different type of cinema. So I try to create what I would like to watch and hope that others will like too. And my cinematic language is little different so it feels even more different but there is no such conscious effort.
NT: Yes, your cinematic language is very visual….
Nikhil: Yes, and I pay special attention to sound also. Other film makers are also making technically and visually high quality movies but mine is little more visually exciting as I like visually striking story telling. I like to tell stories visually, through sound and without unnecessary dialog.
NT: So this choice of cinema which you like has been a result of watching different world cinema or something like that?
Nikhil: Not only world cinema. I am a hardcore movie buff and I like to watch all kinds of movies. Be it world cinema, art films or Mainstream Bollywood and Hollywood movies, I watch almost each and every movie. While watching, I do not watch it as a film maker but just as a common audience. While I enjoy watching “Chennai Express”, I like watching “Old Boy” too.
NT: Your films are visually exciting and technically superior, is this because you have some training in those technologies?
Nikhil: I personally am not trained in visual effects but wherever in the visualization I feel the need for such imagery, I work with my talented friend Sameer Talwalkar from a VFX company Toolbox and tell him what I want. But after 2 such graphically intensive projects, now I somewhat know how things are done but I am not trained in it.
NT: So what did you study to get into film making? What is your background? How did you decide to join to the industry?
Nikhil: I wanted to get into this industry so did film School. I studied film making at International Film School in Australia. My family background is totally normal like everyone else. Everyone is academically highly qualified. I had no connections in film industry. So after coming back from Sydney and struggle of around one and half year, I got to do Pune 52.
NT: In Pune 52, the teaser gave an impression of a suspense Detective movie of “Byomkesh Bakshi” Style. But while watching the film, it turned out different and felt little self indulgent.
Nikhil: I won’t say it was a self indulgent film because if you watch those type of films, you will come to know that how far self indulgence go. Regarding having a feeling of getting something different than projected, I would say that my trailers had shown everything including the drama part of the movie. If audience went to the theater expecting an “Byomkesh Bakshi” style Detective suspense drama, then there must have been some mis-communication. One can not control what audience picks from the trailers and creates what kind of expectations. Our audience are used to very simple story telling, they do not read in between the lines. I think audience should be more open while watching the films.
NT: Would you like to share something special about “Baji”?
Nikhil: “Baji” was extremely difficult film to make and for one and half years, a lot of efforts of around 500 people went into making this movie. Anyway this action genre is physically taxing for the actors and production crew needs to be extra careful. Apart from that there is special effort taken on visuals and sound design. “Baji” is about s mysterious super hero but he is not a super hero in conventional sense with some super powers like flying or throwing fire or something like that. For me Mr. India was also a super hero film even without his ability to be invisible. He is a super hero even before that because he takes care of many orphans and fights for them. That is a super hero for me. “Baji” also fights for his village but does not have any super or extra ordinary powers. He is a super hero because he goes out of the way to protect his village.
NT: While listening to this, I just realized that your movies have a similarity that your protagonist is either from a very unusual profession (like Detective in Pune 52) or very unique like a Super hero. But then you show them in their normal life and not exactly like the Detective or Super hero movie templates. So is this a deliberate effort to pull the audience?
Nikhil: Honestly, I do write, direct or produce a film with an intention to draw an audience. I make films to tell stories which I would like to tell. I can not do anything just so that audience likes it. It is not possible to create something which a mass audience would like and I have respect for those who know what needs to be done to get audience like it. I approach films as a story and I believe that films are to entertain. While doing the same, I do like to challenge the audience.
NT: But then doesn’t it create a different kind of image from the marketing and promotion and what one gets inside the theater?
Nikhil: I think that is not how one should watch the films. People should watch the films without any pre-conceived notion. They shall be ready and open to experience the story which the film maker wants them to narrate rather than the image they have in mind about it. I urge the readers to not go to theaters expecting a super hero film like superman or batman. Our campaign nowhere says it is an super hero films. Press is saying it. We are trying to make it visually extra ordinary but promising an “Epic Action Love Story” as in our tagline, but not a typical super hero film with extra ordinary powers. So please go to the theaters with open mind and enjoy a nice Marathi movie. It is an out and out commercial entertainer with a good story and lots of vfx.
NT: So what are the new projects planned in future?
Nikhil: I am in talks about a Hindi film named “Dainik” but everything is at very early stage for it to be discussed. Apart from that I am producing a movie named “Saat” (Seven) which will be directed by my current associate Ashish Bende and it will be an Atul Kulkarni Starrer.
NT: Any specific big dreams you would like to make into reality?
Nikhil: I like to live in the present. Currently, “Baji” itself is the biggest project which can be done in Marathi Industry. But I have a lot of ideas and stories to tell and films to make. Once I can get into bigger and bigger scale, I would like make them all in reality.
NT: Thanks Nikhil for your time. Thanks for pushing the envelop of Marathi Cinema in terms of visuals, sound and technicality. We wish you all the best for “Baji”
Interviewed by : Prashen H. Kyawal