‘Mehrunisa’ – where Nawabi Lucknow meets reality

A meeting with ‘Peepli Live’ actor Farrukh Jaffar in Lucknow, two years back, gave filmmaker Sandeep Kumar an idea for a film. This meeting gave birth to his fifth film, ‘Mehrunisa’, in which Jaffer plays the lead.

lucknow Updated: Dec 05, 2018 14:30 IST
Deep Saxena
Deep Saxena
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Mehrunisa,Farrukh Jaffar,Sandeep Kumar
Actor Farrukh Jaffar(HT Photo)

A meeting with ‘Peepli Live’ actor Farrukh Jaffar in Lucknow, two years back, gave filmmaker Sandeep Kumar an idea for a film. This meeting gave birth to his fifth film, ‘Mehrunisa’, in which Jaffer plays the lead.

“The story is a fiction but partly based on my lead actor’s life too. She started her film journey from Umrao Jaan (1981), did Swades, Peepli Live, Sultan and Secret Superstar but we all feel that she has not got her due. So, I wrote this story in which an 80-year-old is the protagonist, played by Jaffar,” says Kumar.

He shot the entire film in and around Lucknow for 25 days with his three-member Austrian crew with all-Lucknow based actors and support crew. “This film is about ‘nawabiyaat’. In the script, this old woman, who is from a royal linage, comes out of that Nawabi shadow and frees herself from the shackles she was living in. She starts enjoying her new-found liberation,” he said.

Director producer Sandeep Kumar shooting the film in Lucknow recently. (HT Photo)

In the film, she has a daughter (55) and granddaughter (22). “Experiencing freedom, she wants to become the change for her daughter and granddaughter. Casting Farrukhji was crucial, as it all started after meeting her and I personally feel she has lot of potential as an actor which has not been ulitlised,” Kumar said.

The veteran actor (now 86), has been a radio artiste since 1960 and only began doing films in 1981. “I have no complaints with my acting career. I have done some good films with important roles but the screen lengths have been either 5, 10 or 15 minutes. It, of course, feels nice to play a lead at this age and people recognising my talent,” the actor said. Within the film, there is a sub-plot about the making of a film on the 1857 mutiny in Lucknow.

In ‘Mehrunisa’, her daughter’s role has been played by Tulika Baneejee, while the granddaughter’s role has been essayed by Ankita Dubey.

The film’s costumes are by Ritika Tiwari. She has also done the costumes for upcoming feature film ‘Zara Mara’ starring Ravi Kishan. “This is a contemporary story and dresses are from today’s era. They are inspired by Pakistani serials. Most of the dresses in the film are either old, made from old material or aged to give a worn-out look,” says Tiwari.

Kumar said that they will complete the film’s post-production in Austria and later, send it to film festivals across the globe. “We shot the film in Aunty’s (Farrukh Jaffar) House on Havelock Road, Sadar, Chowk, Cantt and Barabanki. This is for the first time that an Austrian production is making a film in India,” he said.

Kumar hails from New Delhi and settled in Austria in 2010. During his school days, he did two plays with Shah Rukh Khan, who was his senior.

First Published: Dec 05, 2018 14:30 IST