The premiere of Rajesh Mapuskar’s Marathi movie Ventilator took place during the Mumbai Film Festival (October 20-27). The lengthy queues delayed the screening, but once the crowds got in, they seemed to have liked what they watched. Mapuskar described the festival outing as an overwhelming experience and compared it to stepping out of an operation theatre alive after the poor reception of his debut feature, Ferrari Ki Sawaari (2012).
Produced by Priyanka Chopra, Ventilator is the story of relationships tested and revisited in a hospital corridor. An elderly member of the Kamerkar family slips into a coma, causing various members and friends to crowd the hospital and exchange barbs and witticisms. The ensemble cast includes filmmaker Ashutosh Gowariker in a prominent role alongside Sulabha Arya, Viju Khote, Satish Alekar and Achyut Poddar. Ventilator is being released on November 4 with English subtitles. Mapuskar’s next project is a Hindi musical, he told Scroll.in.
How did the story of ‘Ventilator’ come about?
A family member was hospitalised and put on a medical ventilator and then a few more people I knew were on it. The word ventilator became a part of my daily life. I began to follow the stories of the people who were going through medical treatment. Relatives were also trying to treat life with humour in the face of death. That’s how the story was born in my mind, and I began to write it.
How did Priyanka Chopra become the producer?
Many people found it to be a great script but were sceptical about producing the film. A few people tried to discourage me from making it in Marathi because my first film, Ferrari Ki Sawaari was in Hindi, and they thought my market would go down if I moved to Marathi. I was sure I did not want to make it in Hindi. It makes economic sense to make the film in Marathi, where better scripts are accepted and projects are wrapped up in record time.
Priyanka was looking for projects after she opened her production house. The great thing was that she was looking for regional projects, not Hindi. She wanted to make small content-driven films and not one big Hindi film. With her as producer, it also meant a large market for the film.
Was it easy to persuade Ashutosh Gowariker to act in ‘Ventilator’?
When I was writing the script, the character demanded someone of his stature. His character in the film is that of a renowned Bollywood filmmaker. I could not think of anyone else. He was initially hesitant, and wondered if I was approaching him to produce the film. When he heard the concept, he liked the story. Getting his dates was not easy. I had to wait six months for him, but the patience paid off.
‘Ferrari Ki Sawaari’ was also a content-driven film without stars. Was it easy to make?
The whole credit for Ferrari Ki Sawaari goes to my boss, Vidhu Vinod Chopra. After he produced Lage Raho Munna Bhai and 3 Idiots, where I worked as associate director, Chopra had faith in my skills. He agreed to invest in my project knowing that it was something I wanted to make from my heart and not for commercial gains. Even with Ventilator, he is holding a special screening to support me because he believes in good content rather than star projects.
You had a bit part as an actor in ‘Sau Jhooth, Ek Sach.’ Did you want to be an actor before you turned to direction?
Yes, it was a small role. The actor who got the part did not turn up for the shoot, so I volunteered. I actually got into the world of films to assist my friend Rajkumar Hirani. We happened to model together for a television spot for Vardhman Threads. That is how we became friends. He helped me get jobs in production companies and advertising companies. When he was cutting the trailers for Vinod Chopra’s film Kareeb, Vinod asked him about his future plans and that’s how Lage Raho Munna Bhai happened and that’s also how I got lucky along the way.