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Niche film seeks mainstream space

Saibal Chatterjee finds Mixed Doubles different from the regular Hindi films.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2006 18:45 IST

Hindi films that deal with sexually charged narrative material invariably fall prey to the temptation to take recourse to titillation. Mixed Doubles, writer-director-actor Rajat Kapoor’s third film, is refreshingly different. It does not work itself up into meaningless froth, nor does it go conveniently philosophical, while addressing the issue of urban marital mores.

Incidentally, Mixed Doubles also happens to be alternative film producer Sunil Doshi’s third venture. He has reason to be happy with the way the film was received at the recent International Film Festival of Rotterdam (IFFR) as well as with the excitement surrounding the release of Mixed Doubles.

The response in Rotterdam was fantastic,” says Doshi. “The theme of the film is universal. Even a predominantly White and affluent audience could relate to the story. A mid-age crisis like the one faced by the central characters – a couple that has been married for ten years – can happen anywhere in the world no matter how well-off your society is.”

Doshi is proud of the way Mixed Doubles has shaped up. He has, after all, been involved with its evolution from day one. “Rajat and I were at the Locarno Film Festival when the idea of the film germinated,” he recalls. Rajat reportedly developed the draft of the script at an airport between flights on the way back to India.

Mixed Doubles may not be blockbuster material, it has enough commercial viability to deserve a fair shot at attracting its target urban audience.

Doshi clearly isn’t a conventional film producer. His other two credits, separated by a span of six years, are both Santosh Sivan films – the internationally acclaimed

The Terrorist

(1999) and

Navarasa

(2005), which, like

Mixed Doubles

, was in the Rotterdam line-up this year.

I do not see myself as a mere financier who brings the funds to the table,” he says. “I back the jockey, not the horse. If I like the jockey and want to work with him, I follow my instincts and help him ride the horse of his choice.”

Mixed Doubles isn’t, of course, a mainstream film. Its release strategy has been planned in accordance. Says Doshi: “It has been positioned in the Page 3 kind of slot. “We have released 35 to 40 prints in the big cities.” The implication is obvious: while Rajat Kapoor’s film may not be blockbuster material, it has enough commercial viability to deserve a fair shot at attracting its target urban audience.

Mixed Doubles, starring Konkona Sensharma, Ranvir Shorey, Koel Purie, Rajat Kapoor and Naseeruddin Shah, presents a tongue-in-cheek portrait of a modern, metropolitan marriage. A DINK (double income single kid) family has everything going for it in material terms. But the sexual spark in the relationship of the couple is gone. Desperate to bring some excitement back into his humdrum life, the husband hits upon a plan to rejuvenate the marriage but the gamble, as with all gambles, is fraught with risks.

Besides hinging on the obvious novelty of its treatment of urban sexuality, Mixed Doubles draws its strength from the consistent technical gloss lent to the film by cinematographer Rafey Mehmood (who shot Kapoor’s Private Detective and Raghu Romeo as well), sound designer Resul Pookutty and editor Suresh Pai.

It was with stray donations made by friends and sundry well-wishers in response to a mass mailer that Kapoor had made Raghu Romeo, which went on to garner a National Award as well as a decent enough play in the media and the multiplexes. The making of Mixed Doubles, thanks to the involvement of Sunil Doshi, has been an infinitely smoother ride for the director.

Going by the initial response that the film has received, it seems well on its way to making an impact that could go well beyond the size and scope of the production.

First Published: Feb 13, 2006 20:00 IST