Highlighting the plight of sex workers in India, Nagesh Kukunoor’shard-hitting Lakshmi comes to theatres
On The Fridays his movies release, Nagesh Kukunoor is a mess. Each release sucks the blood out of him he says—one of the reasons, possibly, why he is hard to pin down before this week’s Lakshmi. “I love making movies. And I hold up till the last week, but then it is a huge mess,” says the director, who is known for gems like Hyderabad Blues, Dor and Iqbal. In his Lakshmi, the Hyderabad-based director has donned the grease paint to play a brutal pimp, along with protagonist Monali Thakur. He tackles censor board issues, typecasting, and the possibility of a regional movie, in a quick interview:
Prostitution is a subject that has been explored before. What prompted you to choose it?
There is nothing that hasn’t been done before. Every issue I take up has my take on the issue. Every film, even the obscure ones like Bombay to Bangkok, had me believing in it. Lakshmi was a lofty project and it focussed on something that is happening right under our noses. I was invited to a rescue shelter where I thought I would get to hear sad stories. But the women were full of revenge and heroism. I met a 14-year-old girl there who was forced into prostitution, who inspired me to do this film.
Why screen the movie in colleges before its release?
It is a very sensitive topic and I knew the marketing capital will not be huge. I had to get creative and get the word out. And when you do the maths, a large percentage of movie goers are students.
How are the censor boards in India and the US different?
When the censor board gives an ‘A’ in the US, they do not ask directors to crop any scenes. But that’s not the case here. I’ve been battling this issue for quite sometime now, but they still want us to change dialogues, crop scenes, etc. That makes no sense and, yes, I will continue to complain about it.
You seem to prefer film festivals over the box office.
If my movies do well at the box office, then my longevity as a director is secured. But I absolutely love film festivals. The idea of your movie being seen by a global audience is brilliant. It is also a chance for a director to interact with his audience.
How do you avoid being typecast?
There is a narrow line between art and commerce, and there is this space that is unexplored. I would like to fall in that category. The idea of telling different stories and mixing up genres is what is appealing.
How about a regional film?
I will not venture into Telugu movies without bettering my knowledge of the language. A lot of directors nowadays say, “We can have a Punjabi girl read Tamil lines and then dub it.” I don’t agree.
A movie that impressed you?
I watch a Hollywood movie every week and get inspired. But Dallas Buyers Club is one that left me saying, “I wish I had made that movie.”
Lakshmi is scheduled to release today.
— Mrinalini Sundar