The Lost Salesman comes to Delhi
Films are a great way to tell a story and director Deepak Mahajan has tried to do just that with his latest venture. After being played at the Khajuraho International Film Festival 2015 (INDIA), Euro International Film Festival 2015 (SPAIN), PAV Reel Film Festival 2015 (IRELAND) and various other international platforms, The Lost Salesman of Delhi has finally arrived in its hometown i.e. Delhi. The film has been officially selected for the 4th Delhi International film festival and is ready to touch the hearts of people with a real story based and shot entirely in Delhi.
We meet the busy director to tell us more.
Your film is based on real-life incidents. Did you face any of those personally?
Yes, a major part of this movie is based on real life incidents. It is actually based on the suffering of a close relative who worked in Chandni Chowk as a salesman. He told me how he could not afford a home in Delhi and was constantly harassed by his landlord, boss and wife.
And shockingly, he actually ended up being a male prostitute to be able to afford a roof on his head. He remained so depressed and cynical every time I met him. The story of Raja (name changed) was fascinating and disturbing enough to compel me to make a film on it. Alternatively I started working on telling his story in such a way that minimum alteration was required and the screenplay would not be too heavy for the viewers.
What is your main objective behind making The Lost Salesman of Delhi?
I travelled daily to work from Delhi to Gurgaon and it was impossible to buy a house in Delhi & NCR. I gradually noticed that it was a great concern in everyone’s life, be it a CEO or a manager. I wanted to highlight the very need of having a roof on one’s head and how depressing the process was in Delhi and Mumbai too. Having a home is the biggest need in anyone’s life and those who don’t have a decent shelter have to face a lot of social abuse at many stages in their lives. I also wanted to expose the actual experience faced by male prostitutes or Gigolos. There is a social perception about male prostitutes having fun on the job and earning money too, but here Raja had never shared a single occasion where he enjoyed his profession. I felt a strong need to share what I had researched and that is how The Lost Salesman of Delhi happened.
It is a film about Delhi made by a Delhi-ite. Were there any specific characteristics that you made sure were part of the film?
Delhi is my hometown and I have a pretty decent network here so for me it was the most suitable place to shoot my movie. I was very confident about a smooth production. I am proud to say that all actors and locations are entirely sourced from Delhi and NCR. I made sure that the characters should be kept as simple as possible with a natural language tone, which is used by any local. Delhi as a city has great potential and now filmmakers have realized this fact. I had been told that shooting in Delhi can be a mess but I got so much support from people and would say that it was a very humble experience to shoot this movie entirely in Delhi & NCR.
How would you describe the film? Is it funny, dramatic, real or thrilling?
Well, a mix of all but it’s a real life drama at the core, which makes it funny. I have consciously kept it as real as possible so that the audience can actually relate it to the trauma in their own lives. I am a big fan of Khosla ka Ghosla and my movie also has the same flavor where you might laugh on the protagonist occasionally as he juggles with guilt, suffering and his wife, thus ending up as a male prostitute. On occasions you may get goosebumps too when you see the cynical part of frustrated clients who hurt his self-esteem all the time and make sure that Raja keeps suffering.
Tell us about the casting process that you adopted for the film.
Casting was a well thought process. I auditioned over 600 people. However, the lead actor of the film, i.e. Ashiesh Kumar J was a close friend and trained actor who has been doing theatre since many years. He was trained in a shop at Chandni Chowk to learn the basics of a sari salesman. After him, we got Mr. Manoj Bakshi who has been seen in many mainstream movies like Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015), Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012), Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! (2008) and Delhi Belly (2011).
What is the response that you’ve been receiving at the various festivals that the film has traveled to?
I got a very exciting response and the audience came across and shared their experiences with me. The issue of homelessness is major in Asian countries and I guess that is what attracts the other part of the world to see the social insecurity and abuse faced by people in lower income groups. The participation in festivals helped us with overseas distribution and hopefully you will see a theatrical release next year. And now I am super excited that this film has made it back to its hometown at the Delhi International Film Festival. I am also writing my next script and meeting exciting people on the way.