Riteish Deshmukh is back with his next Marathi home production Mauli, directed by Aditya Sarpotdar, after four years (Lai Bhaari). The movie has all the action-packed masala it needs to have as it releases this week. And a far cry from his next release, the comedy entertainer, Housefull 4. We caught up with the actor-producer ahead of the release.
Tell us what Mauli means?
Mauli means Vitthal, maa, or whoever is your protector. It can be your brother or sister. Lakhs of people who go on the pilgrimage to see Vitthal are all called maulis. Everyone addresses each other as mauli, so mauli is synonymous to anything that is divine or good and every household in Maharashtra knows the name Mauli. Mauli is a story about a village that is very close to Pandharpur and Kolhapur. We were to shoot in Kolhapur but it rained heavily so we put up a set in Mumbai. We shot one portion in Mumbai and then on the outskirts of Haltan but interestingly, my co-actor Jitendra Joshi pointed out that eventually, we shot the film in all those towns jahan ki Vitthal ki vaari jaati hai. When people go on the pilgrimage they pass all these towns and it was just a coincidence that we shot in all those same two-three towns.
And do you play a corrupt cop in the movie?
No. I am a cop who thinks that coming to a small town, one doesn’t need to show aggression, you can sit and solve cases outside the police station by saying sorry. Little does he know that Nana (Jitendra Joshi), who rules the town is actually the owner of all the illegal supplies of alcohol all over and has shut the Vitthal temple in the town because he wants everyone in that town to drink alcohol. So nobody dares to go the Vitthal temple as Nana has shut the doors. The entire village wants to put the Vitthal deity inside the temple and the entire climax is about getting it back inside. The story starts with how this guy fears not wanting to get into the mess that Nana has created but there’s a girl Renuka (Saiyyami Kher) who makes him realize that there are times when you have to take a stand. If every cop who comes keeps quiet, who is going to get our town out of its misery? He is a cop, simple when in his uniform but to address certain issues you need to get that off and show aggression.
What was the core story that you liked?
We had a core idea which the director and writer Kshitij Patwardhan worked on and we all sat together and developed it. It's about what people want to watch in that genre that is very important. We wanted to cater to the audience in Mauli as we did in Lai Bhari but at a much bigger scale and make the experience better. It wouldn't be wrong to say that Mauli is also an experience in Marathi cinema as you will see songs and actions larger-than-life but all these are peripheral - the core of a film should be the story. The rest you can figure out as it's a matter of scale which includes some magical action just to give them a high as they have come to enjoy - the high I get when watching Dabangg or Rowdy Rathod and that's what we can bring to Marathi cinema too. We have tried to do that here.
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How involved are you while producing a movie?
Right from Faster Fenne to Mauli, Genelia and I have been 100 per cent involved in the film itself. We like to get into every different aspect but the best part about any production is to get competent people and telling it. You don’t have to sit and do everything because that’s not possible. You have to find people who are better than you in that job, delegate and trust that technician to do his job and you do your job. You have a good director or music director, or co-actor, let him do his job - don’t get into his/her space because you have taken them for their competence in their work. The segregation of job as a producer is very important.
What role does Genelia play in your production house?
As far as Genelia and I are concerned, one of the reasons, we work so well together is because as couples we give each other space. We are very clear that we don’t get into each other’s space – I handle the creative section while she handles production and there’s a very clear-cut line. Two people in a marriage need to have space. We are great partners in work and best friends off screen and have clear distinctive roles. She may be a bouncing pad for a script but Genelia won’t get into it as that will be my call and vice versa if it’s a production call. We have a very clear understanding as to what we do.
Riteish and Genelia come together in a song Dhuvun Taak in Mauli after four years. When do we get to see them in a movie together?
Hopefully, Genelia and I will soon do a film together, we are looking for a good script. I would like to see her on screen as a producer - may be in a good Marathi film. If there’s a role for me in it, I would love to do it but irrespective of me being there or not, I would love to see her on screen again.