Satish Rajwade is a busy man. When he is not directing, acting, writing or collecting awards, he is thinking about some new movie or a TV-serial. “My mind is constantly whirring with ideas. I often cannot sleep at night!”- he confesses with a smile. Of course, he also has many other reasons to smile about. Asambav- his last TV-serial was a smash hit; Gaiir, his last Marathi movie got screened in the US; Agnihotra- his ongoing TV-serial led the nomination lists in all award ceremonies and his upcoming film is all set for a Dubai-premier this May. His path-breaking success over the last few years has made Rajwade the new young and confident face of Marathi cinema and television. And with successful Hindi-serials like Babul Ki Duaayein Leti Jaa, Shagun, Rishte and Duniyadari, he has also made quite an impact at national level.
I recently had an opportunity to meet Satish twice- once after the special screening show of Gaiir and once when he had come to Dubai to attend Marathi Sahitya Sammelan. Intense and intelligent, Satish spoke to me on many topics in confident measured sentences. Here are the excerpts.
From the title of the film 'Gaiir', there seems to be a conscious effort to make a Marathi – Hindi crossover film.
For long, Marathi cinema is playing the poor cousin of Hindi cinema. As a Maharashtrian, I am aware that many Marathi people stay from Marathi films because they lack gloss and style. With Gaiir, we have tried to change that perception. We wanted to show that even in Marathi, we can make lavishly mounted movies and which if well-packaged should prove successful at the box-office. From the conception stage, I and my producer Sanjay Ghodawat were sure in our minds that we wanted to make a rich and stylish film, which would bring those Marathi skeptics to theaters.
So has the traditional Marathi film's budget and economics changed for the better?
I don't agree with this traditional and non-traditional budget theory. I feel that if I need 10 rupees to make the film, then I should have them to make it. If someone tells me to make it in 7 rupees, then I should not compromise! The same way, I should not charge the producer 11 rupees for that film. The budget should always be for the film and not the other way round. Today, if someone is promising to make a film in the so-called traditional budget, then producers need to be very careful because a lot rides on the fate of the film.
Zee Talkies has made a lot of difference in the making, presenting and promoting of Marathi films. Films like Mee Shivaji Raje Bhosle Boltoy and Gaiir have brought the audiences back in the theaters.
How do you look at this change in Marathi cinema?
It was bound to happen. You can't keep a good man down for a long time. Marathi language has such rich tradition of literature and drama that others have often borrowed ideas from it. We have always had good material to make films. Two Oscar entries in last 8 years is a no mean achievement. But now the mindset is changing. A lot of new film-makers, myself included, now want to move away from the typically poor- looking social films and make glossy glamorous entertainers. We don't just want to make serious films for the middle aged mature audiences; we want to make entertaining films that would also appeal to contemporary youth.
You began as an actor, then became an editor and then turned a director. How did that journey happen?
In a college setting, the opportunities were through one-act play competitions and there I began as an actor. After working in the hugely successful Marathi/ English play All The Best, I got to work with directors like Mahesh Manjrekar, Mansoor Khan and Govind Nihalani. From each of them, I absorbed many things. I was impressed by Manjrekar-sir's flamboyant confident style. Then while working with Nihalani-sir, I saw what difference editing could make. I saw that the film could be made so much better on the editing table. Anyone can give birth to children but to groom them well is real parenting and I felt that a good editor is like a good parent. So I became an editor.
As a director, I never wanted to make arty films. I want to make good films that are commercially viable. Being an actor myself has given me the know-how to deal with my actors' psyche and that comes in quite handy. In 2000, I wrote and directed my first film Mrugjal, which won many awards and I was on my way as a director.
Many of your popular serials and movies are mysteries full of suspense. Are you very fond of that genre?
Yes, I like mysteries a lot. As a story-teller and as a film-maker, I like to keep the audiences on the edge of their seats. I like to keep them guessing what happens next and I like to present something which they have not predicted.
Is Hitchcock an influence?
I am not directly influenced by anyone in my style and approach. I like Danial Steele mysteries. As a film-student, I have read and analyzed Hitchcock's films. If at all, some of my directorial treatment gives that impression, then it is purely accidental and unintentional.
What do you do not to get typed as a one-genre director?
I have tried handling different genres. I consciously try to give everything different each time. My first film Mrugjal was a psychological thriller; second Ek Daav Dhobi Pachhaad was a rural comedy and Gaiir was a crime thriller. My upcoming film Mumbai Pune Mumbai is a romantic comedy. It is about two youngsters accidentally meeting up and falling in love. I am also thinking of a new film on a Mafia theme, which would be shot entirely in Dubai.
Looking at the last two years' successes, one can certainly say that 'You have arrived'. Now what do you think looking back at your struggle period?
I could not have survived the struggle period without the help from my family. Through my failure and success, their affection has remained the same for me and that has helped me tide over that difficult phase of 3- 4 years when I was practically doing nothing. I must say that God has been kind to me. He has made sure that I keep moving forward in my life. Whatever I have achieved so far I'd say that out of that 75% is thanks to God, 20% thanks to my family and the rest 5% is because of my own hard work.
I would never say that I have arrived as an artist. Because the day I start feeling that it would be the end of the creativity in me. I would like to keep arriving all the time with new projects! I won't like to add that 'ed' to 'arrive'- I will be happy adding 'ing' to it!