Three months after it released in theatres, Seema Pahwa’s Ram Prasad Ki Tehrvi has found a whole new audience on Netflix, maintaining its spot as one of the platform’s top 10 most-watched titles over the past weeks. It’s a small measure of vindication for the film, which has faced a bumpy post-release ride. A meditative contemplation of grief and loss, it follows the family members of a deceased patriarch (Naseeruddin Shah) as they reunite to conduct his last rites. The film would’ve been a tough sell as a New Years’ Day watch, but the pandemic cut into its audience too. By the time it dropped on Netflix, the platform had released Sanya Malhotra-starrer Pagglait, which also follows a woman in the 13 days following her husband’s death. Comparisons between the two were inevitable, despite Ram Prasad Ki Tehrvi’s first mover advantage. Pahwa talks about the decision to release the film in theatres, comparisons to Pagglait and what she’s working on next:
On the decision to release it in theatres on January 1
I don’t have any sense of marketing. I am a simple actor and now, I am simply a director. I don’t know the politics or manipulations that go into releasing a film. I have made a film pure-heartedly. Releasing it was not my responsibility. The producers and marketing had their own ideas of releasing it in theatres on January 1 and after then on TV and on then Netflix. I appreciate Jio for taking the risk of releasing it at a time when people were not going to theaters. I was also doubtful of whether people would come but surprisingly, people did and it ran for 60 days. Some of the days were even housefull, not just in Bombay but also Delhi, Lucknow and all over India. So the decision worked out well. Now the film is out on Netflix and it feels like a new film, people are watching it and it gives me a great feeling.
On comparisons to Pagglait
We made Ram Prasad Ki Tehrvi in 2018 and released it before at MAMI and other film festivals. Pagglait came after that and had some similarities, which was painful to see. The location it was shot at was the same as ours, there were similarities between the characters too. I thought that this was because both films have middle-class families, in which you find the same kinds of characters. Maybe that could’ve been a coincidence but the location being the same was a problem because the audience got confused between the films. Pagglait released on Netflix first and so people had watched it by the time our film released on Netflix and they started drawing comparisons. The timing was weird, but I don’t know whose mistake it is. Either they should’ve held the film for longer or we should’ve.
On what could’ve been done differently
If you’re working on a film and you know that someone else is also working on something else or has already made something similar, we are mature enough to be able to talk to each other about it. There should’ve been some conversation between us and we could’ve changed some things to make our films more individualistic. There was ignorance on my part too because I found out too late that a film just like ours was being made. I feel cheated because there were people who worked on Pagglait who had also worked on Ram Prasad Ki Tehrvi and who knew about the film. It’s a little surprising that they didn’t see it as a second chance and make some changes. I haven’t spoken to them yet, but it was shocking.
On her next film
I only understand subjects related to relationships because I have spent a lot of time at home. I like talking about relationships and their problems so the subject of my next film is relationships. I’m working on it so hopefully it will be made soon.