For me, every story needs to have a feeling of love – Aarti Bagdi
Aarti Bagdi’s latest short Khamakha is a sweet road movie that is being loved by the audience. Featuring Manjari Fadnis and Harshvardhan Rane, the film that is produced by HamaraMovie challenges the stereotypes around language and dressing.
Pandolin caught up with Aarti at a special screening of the film. The conversation ranged from the making of this film to her overall method and why love is the most important emotion in her films. Here are excerpts from the exclusive chat.
Where did Khamakha’s concept come from?
It came to me on one of my walks with my husband, where we were discussing how we end up judging people while we are traveling. It’s mostly on the way that one talks or dresses. Immediately, we start making assumptions about our co – passengers. It seemed like a nice setting for a film. Then I decided to treat it as a take on ‘Pride and Prejudice’, between a boy and a girl, based on languages and set it in a humble state transport bus. So, that’s how the thought came.
What I realized while working on this project is that the language that we speak is not important; what is important is our intention. You can’t base the intelligence quotient of people on the languages that they speak. It’s amusing that if a person can speak good English, then he is considered intelligent. With those thoughts I contacted my sister Meghna to write the dialogues. A lot of improvisation also took place. We (Meghna and I) have ideated together on a lot of stories but this is our first project to come out. Overall it came out to be a nice warm film that everyone is excited to be a part of.
What was your brief to Meghna?
The brief was that I wanted Pride and Prejudice in language. I wanted the characters to be flirtatious and to have fun. The theme of the film faced the danger of going in a serious zone. And I did not want that to happen. So she has incorporated a lot of detail in the characters. As sisters, we understand each other well. I was quite shallow to judge people on the basis of the English they spoke. But if I can have a turn around then so can many.
The theme of the film faced the danger of going in a serious zone. And I did not want that to happen
How did casting of the leads happen?
I know Manjari (Fadnis) personally. She is a dear friend. We have worked on a short film earlier as well. I find her very lively and sharp. It is a good combination for any person to have. I felt that this is the core of the energy that I want Raina, my character, to have. I approached her and she loved the character and the script. She related with Raina well and drew parallels from her life. I was clear that she would be a balanced mix of a lively and sharp girl.
With Udayan’s character I wanted a suave guy. One of my friends recommended Harshavardhan (Rane) to me. I had not seen his work. So, for my reference, I saw all his interviews and short films. Then, I saw some portions of Sanam Teri Kasam (His debut Hindi feature). From all his interviews I found that there was an unassuming affectionate energy about him. And he packed it in with a lot of intensity. So, it becomes super charming. And he felt very Udayan to me. I wanted these two elements in each of them and that is what I got from them. Then they brought it to life and had fun with it. As a result, the chemistry shows.
And the secondary parts?
It was exciting (Laughs). There was this guy that we found for the old man’s character. He looked perfect for the part with no teeth and exactly the kind of look that we wanted. His name was Chedi Chand. We were happy that we had found our character. But he thought that we were playing a prank on him. So we had to go to the village and find another old man. He was a real gem who was in a Dev Anand mode (Laughs). His excitement was on another level. I remember, when we gave him the pan-water (Betel leaves water) to spit, he looked at it suspiciously for a moment and said, “Kya aap mujhe zeher pila rahe ho?” (Are you giving me poison?). We simply fell in love with his antics. It was great fun working with him. I couldn’t have asked for a better old man.
Everyone else was cast from the location. The bus conductor and bus driver came with the bus. Getting the bus, another major character, was also interesting. The state transport was very keen on giving the best looking bus for the shoot. But our narrative, on the contrary, needed a rickety old looking bus. However, they never allowed us to age the bus. So we had to pick up other elements from the village to give it the feel that the bus is going from the village.
Since it is essentially a road film, how did you’ll lock the locations?
During my teenage, I have made a lot of trips to Khopoli and traveled a lot on this highway. So, I knew that it was a great atmosphere to be in. First we went to Khopoli but a couple of things did not work out there, so we went to Lonavala. In Lonavala we spotted the Pavna lake. And we decided to go around the Pavna lake and shoot.
So far, you have worked on stories around love. Is that a conscious choice? Would you like to explore other genres in the future?
For me, every story needs to have a feeling of love. I guess that’s my personality that’s coming out through my work. Love is extremely important for me in any relationship. It is the driving force in anything that anyone does. If there is no love, there’s no joy. As far as my films are concerned, it’s a subconscious choice.
I’d like to master the emotion of love before exploring anything else. Even if I make a thriller, there will be an emotional angle to it.
I’d like to master the emotion of love before exploring anything else
You’ve also been part of HumaraMovie’s Shuruaat ka interval. How was the experience?
That was an intense experience. It took two months to make ‘Final Interval’. At that time it was a competitive event. I was convinced about the story but I wasn’t convinced about a couple of people from my team. I thought that they did not make it happen as efficiently as I would have liked. So, that is one project that I feel I could have done much better than what we saw as a final output.
And how was it working with HumaraMovie? What is it that they offer to a filmmaker beyond just backing a project?
I ABSOLUTELY love these people.
The best part is that they let you find your own voice. I know my sensibilities. But they let me speak it out. Otherwise there are certain production houses where you don’t get your creative satisfaction as your freedom is curbed.
The best part about HumaraMovie is that they let you find your own voice
Any plans of working on a feature? Or developing this script into a feature length format.
I have developed a couple of scripts. When the time will come, they will all see the light of day.
Watch the film here –