The Multi-talented Ananth Mahadevan, don’t need an introduction to the Indian viewers from 90´s, who grew in the days of Tipu sultan. His role of “Pandit Purniyya” was well received and after that he never looked back. From being a well-known face in films like ‘Baazigar’, as well as TV to a National Award winning screenplay writer, Ananth dons caps of various talents perfectly.
Currently, he is quite occupied in his upcoming directorial venture ‘Gour Hari Dastaan’ starring Vinay Pathak, Konkona Sen Sharma,Tannishtha Chatterjeee and Ranveer Shorey. In an exclusive interview with Bollywoodirect, Ananth Mahadevan talks about his upcoming film, a biopic on Oriya freedom fighter Gaur Hari Das and the concept behind it.
How did your journey with “Gour Hari Dastaan” started? What was the most important aspect of this story, which captured your interest and you decided to make a movie on that?
When I read about Gour Hari Das , an unsung freedom fighter, having been made to fight for 30 years for a freedom fighter’s certificate, because he was being accused of a fraud and manipulating the system, i felt that it was a story waiting to be told….a mirror of modern India that concerns each one of us.Das is a metaphor for so many of us who are driven up the wall by a system of our own making…. a country that has abused its hard earned freedom. This was a political statement that had cinematic potential.
Assembling a cast for real life stories has always been a challenge for a director. How did you overcome this part and how you came across the decision on main cast?
Stars don’t make the fortunes of films like these, which go beyond the formula. The stars are the performers like Vinay Pathak, Konkona Sen Sharma, Tannishtha Chatterjeee and Ranvir Shorey who give the film a feel that is in keeping with the characters of the story. Big names distract from the real issue and these actors I chose because they bring real people alive on screen without drawing undue attention to themselves.
I was clear from the start that thinking actors are what I am looking for. Actors whose images I wanted to break.
What were the other key challenges in making “Gour Hari Dastaan”? How do describe the overall experience?
To make a biopic on a living person, that too of the stature of a freedom fighter is a challenge. One cannot take cinematic liberties or make compromises for audience tastes. Thorough research went into recreating six decades of Das’ life, besides the detailing of the times including sights, properties and sounds. The artists and technical team rallied around us marvelously to bring Das’ story to life. It was an uplifting and inspiring cinematic exercise.
You have directed movies with very diverse type of stories. What changes you had to made in your direction style for “Gour Hari Dastaan”?
The entire approach had to be one of logic and reason. Global cinema is what I had in mind and understatement was the order of the day. I was clear that Gour Hari Dastaan: the freedom file had to speak a global cinematic language and steer clear of the clichés that riddled our film making style. I was determined to raise the bar for myself and Indian cinema and I hope I have achieved that in at least a minuscule way.
Film festivals are an international acknowledgment of your work. There are foreign juries who sit on your work and it is gratifying to see that they chose Vinay Pathak as the Best Actor in the Extravagant India Film Festival, Paris. The film has been officially selected in London, New York, Canada, San Francisco and India and the response has been overwhelming. The hype has made it a keenly awaited film in India.
Gour Hari Dastaan: the freedom file was watched by core BJP man and Tripura in-charge Sunil Deodhar who has recommended it strongly to the PMO office and members of parliament. It is indeed overwhelming that a special premiere is being held for all of them though the film is critical of the system. A government stamp of approval on the film is a big plus point.
How you define the success of “Gour Hari Dastaan”?
Besides the overwhelming response by festival audiences, Gour Hari Dastaan: the freedom file is a personal growth for me as a director. After the 4 National awards winning I am Sindhutai Sapkal, I had to move ahead and Das’ story was the perfect vehicle for both, me as a director and to make a socially relevant statement that concerns today’s generation. A triumph in every way for me.