The director resurfaces a decade after his last, Split Wide Open. His Road, Movie, featuring Abhay Deol, Tanisshtha Chatterjee and Satish Kaushik, is ready to hit the theatres in two weeks. It has already wowed the international audience at various film festivals. However, Dev Benegal insists that the response to the film back home matters the most. Excerpts from the interview.
What kept you busy for a decade?
I do plenty of other things apart from making movies, dude. I have other passions like photography that kept me busy. I also have a 16-year-old son. I wanted to spend time with him while he was growing up.
What drew you to the subject of a travelling troupe for Road, Movie?
My film is a work of fiction. I got the idea through my experiences. I’ve travelled a lot and more so, on the roads. As a child, I remember going out with my family in our ambassador car. Ten minutes into the film, you’ll be on a journey away from the world we live in. I thought that Rajasthan, where the film is primarily shot, might be turned into a Special Economic Zone.
So before that happens, I wanted to make a movie on it. Travelling cinema is an incredible Indian phenomenon. Sitting on the ground and watching a film on the big screen is like Facebook in flesh and blood, social networking in real life. After I had written the script, I met someone who operated this kind of cinema. He is an elderly gentleman who just couldn’t sit at home after retiring. He had this urge to travel, so he took this up. That also drove me to make this film.
Given that you’ve worked on two of your earlier films with Rahul Bose, why did you choose Abhay Deol for Road, Movie?
I was looking for someone young, who could do justice to Vishnu’s character. I met Abhay in New York. I felt that this is the guy I’m looking for to play Vishnu. I had not seen any of his work until then. Later, I saw Manorama Six Feet Under. I wanted to work with Satish Kaushik for years. When I wrote this film, he came to my mind and I called him. He fell in love with the script the minute he read it. Tannishtha (Chatterjee) is huge in Europe and the US. So, the combination clicked!
Why have you included the Pyaasa track; ‘Sar jo tera chakraye...’ in your film?
When I was writing the story, this song kept playing in my head. In a strange way, it became central to the story. I decided to include it in the film. At the same time, I wanted it to match the contemporary look and feel of the film. I got a composer and singer from New York to work on the track. When I saw a 60-year-old lady in Kansas dancing to it, I felt great. The song reflects the character’s mindset, what he’s going through and the transition.
You’ve already started working on your next, called Samurai.
It’s still too early to talk about it. We can talk later in the year when I’ll have finalised a few things. And this time, I won’t go away for 10 years!