The trailer of the Shashank Khaitan-directed Dhadak was recently released, to much online buzz. A remake of the 2016 Marathi drama Sairat, the film seems to have retained the core of the original – a tale of two star-crossed lovers – while revamping a few other elements. While the original film was set in rural Maharashtra, the events in this Ishaan Khatter, Jhanvi Kapoor-starrer take place in Rajasthan. Sairat achieved major success, going on to become the highest-grossing Marathi film of all time. Ahead of the remake, we revisit what director Nagraj Manjule told us about the most challenging part of making the film, getting the best out of non-actors and why music played such an important role in the movie:

HE WANTED THE FILM TO REACH THE ‘BOLLYWOOD AUDIENCE’

I had thought of Sairat’s story before Fandry’s. And I wanted the maximum number of people to watch it. Bollywood has a lot of impact on the movies. If you make a film without songs, people won’t see it – there were many problems like that for me. So I had to take these problems and move past them. I wanted Bollywood audiences to watch the film too. This was the real challenge, which I was thinking about even before I started writing the story. Another challenge was that of working with non-actors, but I had worked with them in Fandry and other short films too. So I like those types of challenges. But the main challenge was in my heart and I had told my friends and brothers that I wanted more people to watch Sairat.

ON MAKING THE SOUNDTRACK FILMY AND FUN

The film’s music directors, Ajay-Atul, and I had many discussions and decided that even if the audience is simple, the music should be as filmy and as fun as possible. Because the emotion of love, if Shah Rukh Khan falls in love or we fall in love, it’s the same. So we can’t minimize it. We have to treat it with respect.

ON WRITING THE ROLE OF ARCHIE 

There were many things that inspired me in real life. I haven’t met a girl exactly like Archana but I wanted the character to be like that. A man is without any shame. He can stand on the road and stare and we will think that that is his right. I thought, ‘Why can’t a woman be like this?’ And the boundaries are such that if a woman looks for some time, we are so confused. Whichever villages you go to, we would call such women ‘bold’. If they’re wearing their favourite clothes, people will say she is spoilt, there is something wrong with her. A man can be as shameless as he wants and you wouldn’t even notice it. Men have set the race in which women are running. Winning it won’t give you anything. Women have to run their own race.

ON COAXING COMPLEX PERFORMANCES OUT OF NON-ACTORS

At every step, I know what the character’s graph is. I know that Archana, from a college-going girl, becomes a mother. Till there, I know what she is going to do, even if the actor forgets. After we finished shooting, Rinku would go back to being Rinku and making mischief. But before every scene, I would talk to her. Whenever there was an emotional scene, I would spend time with her. I want to praise her because she worked with so much dedication, with so much seriousness. Whenever I told her we were going to shoot an emotional scene, she would go somewhere, sit and think. She wouldn’t laugh or look at anyone. She worked with dedication and the result was that her work was good.

ON WHY THE DOCTOR TOLD HIM TO SWITCH OFF HIS PHONE POST RELEASE 

Before Fandry released, I had around 250 Facebook friends. After the film’s release, I had 5,000 friends and 30,000 followers. Now, I have 2 lakh followers. I’m no longer active on Facebook. There were so many discussions – both negative and positive – on Facebook and WhatsApp and they started even before the film’s release, I don’t know why. So I thought it was better that people watch the film first and then discuss their interpretations of it. There was no need for me to discuss too. So I stopped using Facebook and WhatsApp and switched off my phone on the third day of the film’s release itself. It was impossible for me to attend to every phone call. I would get five to six calls every minute. In the beginning, I answered each one and said, ‘Thank you,’ but then I realised that I couldn’t keep doing this, I would go mad. The doctor also advised  me not to talk so much on the phone because by the end of the day, I was exhausted and had lost my voice. My mailbox was jammed with 20,000 emails. It took two people to read and delete all.

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