Those who are involved in film production clearly consider films as a business, but apart from this, if the creative person also takes responsibility for production, then the combination of the two gives a creative shape, Raghuvendra Singh said in a press release. Starting his journey since 1995, he has now turned to film production and his first venture is Shastri Vurdh Shastri, which releases this Friday. It is a Hindi remake of the superhit Bengali film Posto. Snapshots of Urmila Kori’s interaction with young producer Raghuvendra Singh about the film and the challenges involved…
How did Shastri vs Shastri journey begin?
I am a fan of Shibu Da (Shiboprasad Mukherjee) and Nandita Di (Nandita Roy) movies. Their stories are an integral part and mirror of our lives. Related to everyone. Storytellers like him are very few in Indian cinema. Bengali film industry and audience are really lucky for Shibu Da – Nandita Di. Belashesh was his first film, which I saw in Mumbai. After that we talked and then gradually our friendship became stronger. I started coming to Kolkata. When I expressed my desire to get into film production, he encouraged me and said that we will make Belashes in Hindi together. Meanwhile, his film Posto came out. The remake rights of both these films have been acquired by Viacom 18 Studios. Shibu Da offered me to join his production team. I accepted the offer as I wanted to work with him. The film took about five years to make.
This is your first film as a producer, what was the biggest challenge associated with making the film?
The biggest challenge was making the film on a limited budget. When you have a tight budget and want top class artists and technicians, the struggle becomes a bit more. In such a situation your relationships come in handy. All the relationships from my journalism days worked. Be it Paresh ji or Neena ji or Amrita Subhash or Shiva, everyone respected me and was ready to work with limited resources. I will never forget their support. There were some bitter experiences while making it. Many people I considered friends refused to work just because of the money. For some reason one of the lead actors of our film suddenly left the film and went to London a week before the shooting started. Everyone was shocked to think what would happen next! The movie seemed to stop now. As I was also in charge of this account, everyone started looking to me for what and how to proceed. I did not sleep for three nights in a row. I nervously spoke to many of my actor friends, but it was difficult for everyone to arrange dates at such short notice. After covid everyone had a backlog. Finally, Siva left all his projects for this film. Our first schedule was at Panchgani. Shiv and I used to go to Pachgani late at night from Mumbai, shoot for the day and return in the evening. Siva would finish his other dubbing work at night and then we would leave for Pachagani late at night. This sequence continued for several days initially. One way journey from Mumbai to Pachgani takes four to five hours. It was a very difficult time. There were many challenges during the making but we always persevered. Shibu Da and Nandita Di completed the shooting of their films in Bengal in just two weeks and their experience proved to be a boon for the film. The shooting of the film Shastri vs. Shastri was completed within a month.
Rishi Kapoor was the first choice for the role of Paresh Rawal in this film. Did he say yes to the film?
Rishi Kapoor was very excited about this film. He used to hold meetings even during his illness. He once invited the team to New York. He wanted to start shooting as soon as he recovered, but Honi wanted something else. Hansal (Mehta) sir (filmmaker) put me in touch with Pareshji. Pareshji first saw the film Posto and after that he immediately agreed to do the film. We shot right after Covid and Paresh sir changed the dates of many of his other projects for that. We are really lucky to have Pareshji’s support. He has made the role of grandfather memorable. This is his unforgettable character.
The film is a Hindi remake of a Bengali film. How different is the Hindi version from that film?
The original story and feel of the film has not been tampered with. Our writer Anu Singh Chaudhary only changed the cover, but kept the spirit. In this he got the full support of Nandita Di, the writer of the Bengali film Shibu Da and Posto. That’s the beauty of it. It is a meaningful and very emotional story, which attracts the attention of not only our society but also all over the world.
These days, audiences are favoring larger than life cinema in theatres, what is your take on this trend and will it hurt smaller films?
Getting an audience for short films has always been a challenge. But good films always find an audience. It recovers its costs and gives the producers such a profit that it encourages them to produce smaller films again in the future. A recent example of this is the failed film XII. Here OTT platforms have emerged as life savers for short films. Otherwise many made films would have been forever deprived of reaching the audience.