Trust Nagesh Kukunoor to be different from most in the movie industry. Imagine finding the perfect 14-year-old girl for a role and then sending her back. With the movie Lakshmi being based on child trafficking, he says “felt immensely guilty about snatching her childhood away by making her enact the role of a child prostitute.” It is this sense of social responsibility that also led to the making of Lakshmi, “It is about the triumph of human spirit, about a victimised girl’s victory in court. It is a hard-hitting drama and in no way is it not going to affect you,” he says.
Kukunoor found his lead actress in Monali Thakur (former Indian Idol contestant) who he bumped into at a party–“I visualized her in pigtails and felt she would be perfect for the role,” he says. Considering the subject, was it daunting to direct it? “Once I am on the sets, it’s a clinical process. Any emotional attachment to the subject will prove to be detrimental to the movie. So I try to be detached while shooting,” confides the director who is also appearing in a crucial role in the movie. The movie, made on a budget of less than Rs 5 crore, has already been screened at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune and Mumbai’s St Xavier’s College.
On his terms
Responsible for making independent cinema popular in this country, Kukunoor is no trend follower. His Hyderabad Blues is still seen as a cult film. Even when he made the socially relevant Dor, Iqbal or the coming-of-age Rockford, Nagesh was never swayed by the economics of Bollywood. As a trendsetter of the multiplex friendly low-budget films, he is pleased with the mileage gained by such films in the Rs 100 crore obsessed industry.
We talk about a biopic on Kishore Kumar he was initially reported to be doing, which was later given to Anurag Basu. Why does he think there is a sudden rush of biopics in Bollywood? “I don’t think I should make a biopic simply because it is a trend. The story should appeal to me. No biopic is presented in its untainted form in Bollywood. They somehow ‘Bollywoodise’ it (laughs). I should believe in the power of the subject, then maybe,” he trails off.
Lakshmi is scheduled to release on January 17.
— Neelima Menon