Samit Kakkad can't frame a sentence in Marathi, he laughingly admits, but that hasn't stopped him from making a Rs. 2 crore independent film in that language.
"Cinema has its own language, just like dance," he says.
And it's a language Kakkad inherited from his father, Amar, a veteran producer and director of advertising and corporate films.
Kakkad, a commerce graduate who began learning filmmaking from his father's associates at age 19, has previously worked as a producer and creative director on Marathi film Huppa Huiya (2010) and assisted cinematographer Bashir Ali on Refugee (2000).
Now he is making his directorial debut with a Marathi film called Aayna Ka Bayna, which tells the story of nine youngsters trapped in a draconian remand home who dream of finding their identity through street dance.
"I do understand Marathi and its nuances completely," he says.
"After all, I grew up in Matunga. Unfortunately, I gave up Marathi for French in school."
The title of the film is a reference to the Konkani phrase aayna ka bayna, ghetlye shivay jayna, popular across Maharashtra, which roughly translates as 'We won't leave until we've got what we came for'.
It was Kakkad's friend, theatre actor Raju Khuste, who first suggested that Kakkad make a film involving hip hop dance forms such as popping, breaking, locking and krumping.
"I realised that that could work, given the popularity of these dance forms on reality shows such as Dance India Dance," says Kakkad.
That was in February 2011. It took the duo six months to write their script, after which they started looking for boys who could dance well in these styles and face a camera.
"We auditioned nearly 400 boys over 23 days," says Kakkad.
Eventually, the duo selected seven boys from Nallasopara, one from Karad and one from Ahmednagar. Their new cast was then sent off for a one-day acting workshop conducted by Hindi theatre personality Om Katare.
"We wanted it to be a Marathi film for financial reasons," says Kakkad.
"One doesn't have to shell out crores for big stars, and one is at least guaranteed a 100% return on investment, especially given how well Marathi cinema is doing these days."
With help from his father's production banner, Akshara Films Division, and an independent financier, a city-based builder and friend of Kakkad, the film received a budget of Rs. 2 crore, making it one of the most expensive independent Marathi films ever.
With that budget, Kakkad was able to bring on board the few professionals he wanted, to give the film polish - actors Sachin Khedekar (Astitva, Tere Naam), Amruta Khanvilkar (Natarang) and Raqesh Vashisht (Tum Bin); cinematographer Sanjay Jadhav (Mumbai Meri Jaan) and debutant choreographer Rohan Rokade, a pioneer of street dance in India.
The younger members of the cast are all praise for Kakkad - who also helped nine of them apply to the World Hip Hop Championship, to be held in Las Vegas from July 31 to August 5.
"At first it was extremely daunting for us to act in front of such experienced actors, but Samit Sir put us all at ease," says Nikhil Rajemahadik, 22.
"He's like a brother to us now."
Siddesh Pai, 28, a former Dance India Dance finalist who is also in the film, says he rejected Remo Fernandes's upcoming Hindi dance movie, ABCD, for this project because he liked the script more.
"It's a dark and realistic story," he says. Even without the dance element, the script is strong."
Will the audience agree?
"Marathi audiences are used to watching folk dance forms such as lavani on the big screen," says Kakkad.
"This will certainly be a pleasant surprise for them."
(Aayna Ka Bayna has a tentative release date of August 31 and will be screened at select multiplexes in Maharashtra. For details, visit aaynakabayna.com)