Comparisons with Spielberg film flattering: Ananth Mahadevan

New Delhi: Actor-director Ananth Mahadevan, whose Marathi film `Mee Sindhutai Sapkal` is going places, is flattered by comparisons of his biopic with Stephen Spielberg`s `Color Purple`.

Based on the true story of Sindhutai Sapkal, who rewrites her destiny after being ostracized by her husband, the film won British hearts earlier this month at its world premiere at the London Film Festival as it was the only Indian movie to have three shows ?all houseful? in as many days at the event.

"London is a tough cookie and we were warned that the Europeans had plenty of choice and were notorious for walk-outs mid way. So I was overwhelmed when the seats for three premiere screenings (unprecedented in the festival) were sold out in advance," says Mahadevan.

"It was disappointing not to see any Indians but the Europeans savoured the film and heaped tons of praise that moved me and also made me determined to stick to cinema that was discerning and pure," Mahadevan told PTI in an interview.

"The Q&A sessions were a revelation and it was great to see them connect with an alien culture thanks to the universality of the subject. Cary Sawhney, juror and selector likened the film to Spielberg`s `Color Purple`, which was indeed flattering."

Mahadevan feels that because of its humanitarian theme, the film speaks a global language and has succeeded in going beyond the parameters of a Marathi film.

"If the reaction of the stiff lipped Englishmen is any indication, then I expect the film to touch chords all over the world."

On October 30, the film will have a US premiere with a screening at the South Asian International Film Festival in New York. It is also in the race for the Asia Pacific Awards in Australia. The Mumbai-based Asian Eye Festival will also screen it in competition. Besides, the film is in the Panorama section of the International Film Festival of India at Goa.

The film releases in India on November 12.

"It started out as a film that I wanted to make at any cost. I considered myself lucky to get a producer, after all which Marathi film producer would place a wager on a south Indian to make a biopic on a Maharashtrian lady," Mahadevan says about how he started on the project.

"But (producers) Sachin and Bindiya Khanolkar`s passion drove the film and we ended up with a much better product than we had envisaged. The true potential of it hit us when the very first screening for the 40th anniversary of Prabhat Chitra Mandal members had veterans like Kiran Shantaram speechless and choked with emotion. And slowly it ballooned into international acclaim."

Born into a poor, cattle-grazing family in Wardha in Maharashtra, Sindhutai was married at 12 to a 30-year-old man, but abandoned by her husband and her own family, following false accusations of infidelity.

About to commit suicide, she notices a tree which, though axed, still gives shelter. Moved, she sets out on a journey towards dignity, setting up five orphanages for abandoned children eventually ending up in San Jose in the US to give fund-raising speeches.

When her ageing husband turns up at the orphanage, she graciously `adopts` him. The film`s deep humanism in the face of injustice and humiliation gives it a universal resonance.

According to Mahadevan, casting is the most difficult exercise in a real story.

Eventually, Tejaswini Pandit was chosen to play the title role and her mother, veteran actor Jyoti Chandekar, is the elderly Sindhutai. This year`s National Award winning actor Upendra Limaye play her brutish husband.

Mahadevan says Sindhutai never did anything for recognition. "Hers was a sub-conscious rebellion that began at grass-root level and went on to becoming a mission for her and a life-changing experience for others. The film has certainly made the society and the world at large more aware of her."

He is all praises for Tejaswini, describing her performance as a "gamut of emotions that is marvellously underplayed".

"She goes from a shattered girl to a woman who picks up the pieces of her life to stage an incredible comeback. It`s inspirational, amazing and most important...true!"

PTI

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