Baipan Bhari Deva actress Vandana Gupte: 'Our Film has made Women go Crazy'

The cast along with director Kedar Shinde spoke about the challenges to find a producer for the film to the overwhelming response that has been received from the audiences
Baipan Bhari Deva
Baipan Bhari Deva

Baipan Bhari Deva is a story of six sisters who take the centre stage in their lives to overcome the challenges that come their way, eventually breaking all the stereotypes through the power of sisterhood.

Baipan Bhari Deva which released in 14000 screens around Maharashtra has become the second highest grossing Marathi film after Sairat (2016). The film has recorded a total of Rs. 57.15 crores in 20 days and is still counting.

The film starring Rohini Hattangady, Vandana Gupte, Sukanya Kulkarni, Suchitra Bandekar, Shilpa Navalkar and Deepa Parab in the lead is directed by Kedar Shinde and produced by Madhuri Bhosle and Jio Studios. Shinde, alongwith his cast members including Gupte, Hattangady and Navalkar spoke to Film Companion on the humongous success of the film and the love and appreciation it has received from the audience.

Here are edited excerpts from the interview:

Firstly congratulations on the blockbuster success of the film. The film has broken the opening day box office record of the recent Marathi hit Ved, which in itself is a huge achievement for the team. How are you feeling about this?

Kedar Shinde: To break Sachin Tendulkar’s record, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli also have to come on the field. I hope another film comes that will break our record as well.

Vandana Gupte: I feel our film has made women go crazy so I think we have broken the record of Ved (group laughter).

In today’s time, when there is so much competition in terms of content-driven films, a film entirely headlined by women must have been quite a risk for a director. How did you take up this challenge?

Kedar Shinde: When Vaishali Naik, our writer, told me the one-line idea, I didn't think about whether men or women play the lead roles. My reaction was that I would buy a ticket to watch this film, and I am a man. I didn't feel that I wouldn't watch a movie about women. It’s a separate issue that women are coming into prominence and men are also giving them company and they are becoming more aware. But I liked the one-line idea and it was not only about the problems that women face. All of us have worked in theatre. All the six ladies — Rohini Hattangadi, Vandana Gupte, Shilpa, Deepa, and Suchitra — I had seen all their work in plays so I had confidence in their talent. I didn’t have to worry too much about that. But I had trouble finding a producer for this idea. Whoever I approached said, “Anyone will make this film, let’s make a jatra.” But I knew that not anyone could make it. I had to wait, but by God’s grace things worked out and in between I made Maharashtra Shaheer which gave people confidence I would make different kinds of movies. None of us know what is that one reason why women have loved it so much, but I feel that this film reached into kitchens and that’s why it became so successful.

Shilpa Navalkar, Vandana Gupte and Deepa Parab in Baipan Bhari Deva
Shilpa Navalkar, Vandana Gupte and Deepa Parab in Baipan Bhari Deva

Jhimma (2021), Vaalvi, Ved (2022) — all these had women in prominent roles and playing strong characters. When you decided to make this film how did you work on making every character distinct?

Kedar Shinde: That’s the thing — each of the characters was so strong. I have two maternal aunts at home. Rohini Ma’am and Vandana Ma’am’s characters are like these aunts of mine who have held on to small grudges for so long that there is no communication between them till today. However good a director I may be, I can’t solve their problem by showing them this film. But I realised that these characters are familiar and relatable even to me. We have all seen these stories in our families. I also feel all these ladies (referring to the cast of the film) have been taken for granted by the industry for the characters they have played in the past. If there is a mother role call Rohini Mam or Vandana Mam, if there is a role of a sister-in-law role call Shilpa. But I feel more characters need to be written for them as actors, and with this film it has begun.

Every character in this film teaches the audience something. What have you individually taken home from this film?

Rohini Hattangady: Every character gives me something, but while playing this character my reluctance to speak, my manner of speaking was new to me as a character. I am quite introverted as a person, but I can start talking a lot if I am given the right motivation. But compared to all the other characters I have played, I found this character quite different. I had a lot of fun playing this role. I didn't have a lot to say, but there was a lot to express. I admire Kedar for knowing what point needed to be conveyed through each character and which character needed how much footage. It’s not like one character after the other was just speaking. Kedar gives each of his actors space to perform. He first lets us perform and then he carved out a scene from our performances. Since we are all from the theatre, we just performed the scene. I didn't know on whom the camera angle was placed or who was focused during the scene - so even we were pleasantly surprised when we saw the final result. It’s ultimately in the director’s hands to decide what to keep and what not to.

Vandana Gupte: Women have watched the film two, three times, yesterday I met someone who had watched it six times. This lady came and whispered to me in my ear that the sixth time she paid Rs. 900 to watch the film with her family in those fancy recliner chairs. So women want to take back the fragrance, and the joy that they have experienced with this film. They want to fill their senses with the fragrance and beauty of each flower and its audiences like this who have made our film successful.

Shilpa Navalkar: I am articulating this to myself for the first time while speaking to you, but in the process of making this film, and especially during the first schedule when we were rehearsing for the scenes, a certain bond developed with all my co-stars. I realised that I do not need to put up a front or display any attitude and even if I take the first step towards someone whether my co-stars, family or friends whom I usually very happily kept at arm’s length and didn't let in. I have a very close circle of people to whom I am very loyal, but going through the process of playing this character has made me realise that I can reach out to those who aren’t a part of this circle.

A still from Baipan Bhari Deva
A still from Baipan Bhari Deva

Kajol in a recent interview said that the spending power is 99 per cent in the hands of the man. So when it comes to buying tickets to see a movie in the theatre, subconsciously many feel that convincing the man of the house to spend money on a film may become tough. But the success of this film and other Marathi films which have been released lately has questioned this belief. What do you think?

Vandana Gupte: We have suppressed women for very long by the upbringing we give them. Don’t talk loudly, and don’t laugh loudly, it doesn't look good in public. This is a flaw in the way we are raised. Women have always been great at saving money. If the husband gives them Rs. 10 to spend on the house, the women will spend eight and save two, and hide it in the folds of their saris at home so that they do things like watching this film. From the moment they saw our poster and then the trailer, I think they decided that they wanted to watch this movie. They found a chance to breathe freely. They are coming to theatres and experiencing freedom and enjoying that feeling of liberation while watching this film.

Rohini Hattangady: For many years women were dependent on men financially. So somewhere it’s in our DNA now with years of conditioning that we need to ask our husbands before spending money. To make any decision, women feel they need to ask their husbands first. Maybe that’s what Kajol was referring to when she said a woman’s spending power. I also feel that our profession is often thought of as just entertainment or a distraction. I feel this thought process needs to change and we need to think of cinema as a part of our culture. This is of course a completely different and vast issue, but only when cinema is accepted as a part of our culture, will the attitude of, “Oh you want to go see a movie, let’s do this instead” change.

Kedar Shinde: I want to add something from a man’s perspective here. I have been thinking about why women have been coming in hoards to see the film. We are a male-dominated society and no matter what we say about treating women as equals, the majority of men still feel like they need to be one up, whether it's in offices, our fields or even villages. Men have a certain arrogance, that "need to be asked before doing anything".

This is the first time that women have crossed these boundaries or restrictions and the man has not been able to say anything because the lady is going with a friend, a sister, or a mother-in-law, so the man can’t say “Where are you going? Why are you going?” Plus the women are coming home looking so pleased that the man feels, “Ok she seems to have had a good time and enjoyed herself.” It's the man who needs to see this film. If he changes then the condition of women in his life will also change, but at least for now he feels “Haan ok she has lived her life for two hours and come home”.

Vandana Gupte: Women are becoming aware that they need to be valued and appreciated, that’s what we are happy about. Sometimes you need that moment, like getting pricked by an injection, that suddenly makes you aware. We are getting many videos from ladies across Maharashtra going to theatres and watching the film. … These are women who have forgotten selves while slogging for the family, and this film is giving them a chance to celebrate life and find joy.

Shilpa Navalkar: More than spending power, it’s about the ability to make decisions. The concept of Mangalagaur was designed to be like therapy for women. Earlier women were not allowed to go anywhere at all. Mangalagaur was an opportunity for them to go out at night and freak out. They didn't need their husband’s permission because everyone knew that if there was a mangalagaur celebration then the women would go and stay up late.

Rohini Hattangady in Baipan Bhari Deva
Rohini Hattangady in Baipan Bhari Deva

Another important issue that isn’t openly discussed is menopause, which you have addressed in this movie. How did you plan to convey this subject to the viewers?

Kedar Shinde: The thing is because six women are talking about it, it seems acceptable or doesn't make you uncomfortable. Even the scene in the film where they are buying a bra could have easily sounded or looked very cheap. But the way the six of them performed and the natural expressions and reactions they gave in the scene immediately made it relatable. …

Ok, coming to the question of menopause. I had some idea about what happens to a woman in this stage, but I was not aware of the huge impact it has on women because no one is at that stage in my household. But in the process of making the film and interacting with these women and understanding what they go through physically and emotionally when they go through menopause made me more aware. There was a lady in my family who would run away from home and hide in someone else’s home because of the psychological changes she was experiencing while going through menopause. So not only have I become more aware today, but I feel like we have taken the first step towards discussing this issue with the movie. No film has discussed menopause so openly before and in a factually correct manner and some awareness has been created. It has also made women realise that they need to live their lives before time just slips by.

A still from Baipan Bhari Deva
A still from Baipan Bhari Deva

Vandana Gupte: When we talk about menopause, it's part of a woman’s life that is treated very lightly. Every woman is going to go through this phase in their life but we are not educated about why we go through it and what happens to us mentally and physically. People just say hot flashes, but what is the reason behind this, we are never taught properly.

Shilpa Navalkar: But it was necessary to discuss this issue, and this film became the vehicle to do that.

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