He’s been on an interview-giving spree for sometime now. However, he fears talking too much about his films might jinx them. Well, if he’s fed up, he’s hiding it well. He laughs, "I don’t mind talking about my films or a social issue. But I don’t like to comment on my personal life." Ahem.
His latest film, Lalbaug Parel (City of Gold), made on a Rs five crore budget, is supposedly the most expensive Marathi film till date. Set against the backdrop of the 1982 mill workers strike in the city, Manjrekar has cast real-life mill workers’children in the film.
“It would definitely have been easier to work with professional artistes, but the other kids were from well-to-do families and it showed. Their eyes didn’t reflect poverty,” he says.
Luckily for him, the kids he finally selected, turned out to be good actors. “Initially, they would just deliver the lines and stare at me. I had to tell them not to look at the camera. Some basic training… and they were better than professionals within a few days,” he says.
An acclaimed actor himself, Manjrekar admits that he tends to enact scenes for his actors, but doesn’t insist on them copying him. He explains, “It’s like working with a group of violinists. They may be brilliant individually, but collectively they will only make noise. Similarly, even if I have a team of brilliant actors, they have to be shepherded to deliver a good scene.”
Manjrekar asserts that from its inception, Marathi cinema was far ahead of its time. “But somewhere down the line, we lost the plot. We started churning out comedy. In fact, some of the recent Marathi movies make me hang my head in shame,” he says.
He even analyses the mindset of a majority of regional filmmakers: “If they spend Rs one crore on a movie, they will recover their investment by showing it in different cities. They are hesitant to invest another one crore for the film’s publicity.”
It’s been more than four years since he did Hindi mainstream cinema, but Manjrekar insists that it’s not time for a goodbye yet. “What does mainstream even mean? Your so-called ‘mainstream’ movies are bombing left, right and center,” he taunts.
“At least in regional cinema, one recovers the amount invested. I’m working on the Bengali version of Mee Shivaji Raje Bhosale Boltoy and some other regional projects,” he reveals. Quiz him on who he is thinking of casting in the Bengali version and he guardedly divulges, “Mithun Chakraborty will be playing the lead. That’s all I can tell you now.”