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From Surabhi to Tribhanga – a journey well lived

Actor and filmmaker Renuka Shahane doesn’t believe in mincing words. Her comments on social networking sites are frank and objective. In a candid chat with NT BUZZ she speaks about her film which she has written and directed, her comments, television shows and projection of women in films

Actor Renuka Shahane who became a household name with the blockbuster movie, ‘Hum Aapke Hai Kaun?’ is now exploring her talent as a filmmaker with her new movie ‘Tribhanga’, written and directed by Shahane herself. She was at NFDC’s Film Bazaar, held on the sidelines of 47th IFFI, with her movie in the co-production market.
This movie focuses on three women characters and is one where men are not primary, which according to Shahane is a rarity in our films. “It was just the requirement of the script. As it is revolving around three women characters, men are not primary. That’s the way script is. It was not a conscious decision. Actually the germ of this script came from the fantastic relationship I share with my mother Shanta Gokhale who is a critically acclaimed author. But, unfortunately for most of the children I met of famous mothers, the relationships are not nice. The movie is looking at the relationship between a high achieving mother and daughter,” says Shahane adding that the story, that travels back and forth in time, will speak about four generations of women, the youngest being a 16-year-old.
This movie is Shahane’s second movie as a director but first as a writer. “My first movie, ‘Rita’ was adapted from my mother’s novel. This movie is written by me. The screenplay of this movie was mentored at Sundance Screenwriters Lab in the year 2013. I discarded many drafts in order to arrive at the correct balance. I brought the film here at the co-production market only when I was happy with it. Also this is not a mainstream film. I am looking at distribution even abroad as it will have universal audience.”
Interestingly this movie is in English and according to Shahane considering from where the characters come, it was an authentic decision to make them speak in English. “(I decided on English) To make it authentic, as that’s the way they speak. They are multicultural, well read, travelled people. Also when you see these acclaimed dancers, writers they are so well travelled, who meet people from different cultures and backgrounds. Thus, they communicate in English. I find it strange when I watch movie especially about young people who speak only Hindi or Tamil,” says Shahane.
When asked about closing down of studios (which supported small budget films) and being cost conscious, she says: “I think that we need to be cost conscious especially in a country like India where people are starving. Needless wastage of money should be stopped, especially on entertainment. I believe that art and entertainment are required. But, there should be a balance and sense of responsibility. We are making films and not changing someone’s life. Also we have to look at new avenues like crowd funding, online film financing, co-productions. There are so many avenues opening up now,” says Shahane who is also working on a Marathi film which she describes as a politically incorrect police comedy.
Shahane is also one of the few celebrities who is voicing out her opinion on her social networking sites. Be it the recent issue of demonitisation, or any other current topic, her posts on Facebook and Twitter are getting a lot of attention, predominantly, because she expresses herself well and in quite logical way.
Her comment that made headlines was that on actor Salman Khan’s infamous chinkara poaching case. In a Facebook post in the month of July she commented about Salman Khan’s acquittal by the Rajasthan high court in two cases related to poaching of chinkaras in Jodhpur. “First of all, Salman Khan is not my friend. And also that post was not about a person but was about our justice system,” says Shahane who further explains that one should not get special treatment because he/she is a celebrity and vice-versa. She also states that she doesn’t get bogged down by trolls as one can block or report them. “Everybody has a point of view and if they are abusive, block or report them. Once I had a long twitter battle on one topic. But, at the end of it, few people came and told me that they have huge respect for me. So, it does happen, but rarely. If someone is rigidly holding on to their point, it’s ok, as I am also doing the same. At the end of the day, social media’s supposed to be social and not anti-social or asocial,” says Shahane. She also expresses that she has a liberty to express herself as she is not an ‘A’ list celebrity and don’t have much to lose. “Their fan base has to be intact for them to remain as a star. So, if they say something it will affect their fan base and also their next film. It is difficult for them,” says Shahane about ‘A’ list stars.
Shahane whose radiant smile became synonymous with her image after the mega success of the Bollywood movie, ‘Hum Aapke Hai Kaun?’ starring Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit, believes that this movie didn’t show any disrespect towards women, even though it was patriarchal in its approach. Her role was of a typical Indian housewife. “In Rajshri Films women are shown with lot of respect even when they were a part of a conservative patriarchal system. Even the character is educated and is a housewife. It is her choice. Yes, that movie had that old world charm, chivalry, but no disrespect,” says Shahane who confirms that she is in no mood to do those types of roles again.
Shahane who first tasted success with the co-hosting of television show ‘Surabhi,’ while speaking about the content on television, commented that it will not change until and unless people don’t stop watching. She also spoke about the Marathi reality show, ‘Comedychi Bullet Train’ which she co-judged with actor Makrand Anaspure. “This show dealt with unusual subjects. There were satires of farmer’s condition, and it changed people’s perception. I think when you take up a serious subject it somehow gets even more tragic. We also maintained certain standard. We wouldn’t allow below the belt jokes and never endorsed them as judges as it was watched by families,” says Shahane who bid farewell to the show after two years.

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