Sanjay Suri started his career in 1999 with Pyaar Mein Kabhi Kabhi and then worked in movies like Daman and Filhaal. His big break with My brother Nikhil got him recognition, but he feels he has been a victim of slaughter due to his social bent. As he works on his next project, Chauranga, a movie based on caste discrimination, he shares with Riya Sharma that the discerning audience will surely accept the subject of the film
How did Chauranga as a producer happen for you?
Onir met with Vikas Ranjan Mishra who is also the writer-director of Chauranga, he read the script and liked it. He sent it to me and I loved it, too. Then, we met him and told him that we love the script and that we will produce it and get it done, but you have to be patient. The movie has taken time as we shot it in 2014. Also, this year we got the best film at Indian Film Festival Of Los Angeles (IFFLA) at Los Angeles.
Why did you choose this subject?
Well, I think the story chose us than us choosing a subject. When we made, My Brother Nikhil, the subject was homosexuality and we had a story behind it. For us, this was not like any other project. When Vikas pitched in the project, he did not say that it has be done in this way, which means it is original in terms of content and storytelling. So, when we asked him if he had a reference for the story in mind, he had nothing.
In a country like ours, where slightest of remarks make headlines, do you think the audience is going to accept the issue of caste discrimination as it is a sensitive subject?
The discerning audience will definitely accept it as they see things in totality. Unless, we are sensationalising something, or drawing their attention which ‘we are not’. These incidents of discrimination happen everyday. Cinema is reflective of our times. It is a window into another world, it is also meant to start a dialogue or discourse, and to entertain. If it is all— education, entertainment and engagement, as a society, we are extremely tolerant and at another level, we are extremely intolerant. Violence, for example – what is more violent? A love- making scene or a murder scene? So, what is violence to me, may be not be violence to you. If you worry about those things, then you would not be making films. Cinema is a powerful medium and that is why people control it and censor it.
Also, you were asked to remove some scenes in the movie? Do you think that helps or takes away the premise on which a movie is made?
Well, it doesn’t kill the essence of the movie. The question is, you are following guidelines where the interpretation is so wide. We were asked to remove some parts of a love-making scene. We did not cut the whole scene but, some part of it. As somewhere in the act, there is something derogatory to women, but it has to be seen in totality. My character in the movie organises movie screenings and he makes love to a dalit woman in a cowshed. They have an open secret affair but nobody talks about it. As he doesn’t want others to hear about it, he covers his mouth which leads to something that is plot-driven scene in the film. So, they have asked us to chop off that scene. What happens later, you are not able to understand that bit, which actually takes away the context. But, in my opinion, as far as censorship is concerned, changing one person for another is not going to help, you need to change the whole system.
You were last seen in Heroine, right? You have been doing films which we won’ t call offbeat but had a message in them. Was the decision deliberate or it just happened?
Was I seen in it (laughs) people had a sighting, I was the tiger in Heroine(laughs). Basically, after I did my second film, Daman leading into My Brother Nikhil, I only started getting scripts which had a social bent. Also, the mainstream never came to me. I was also victim of slaughtering, (ye toh is type ki film karta hoga), but when I became a producer, I realised that it is a number game. The whole business is like a horse game, where you bet on the best horse. I was never ‘A-launched’, my work got me more work and I hated the down time as an actor like just to wait. So, how much can you pitch yourself as an actor. It has got nothing to do with my ego but I had shown my desire to work with some filmmakers. I wasn’t used to that waiting. I was from Kashmir, my life was uprooted in Mumbai. The choices that I made just crossed my path.
Do you regret that?
Not at all. I am so proud of all my movies that I can take all of them to my grave happily. I have been lucky to be part of these films and I have worked with mostly new filmmakers. Technically, I am still waiting for my break (laughs). I feel there have been roles in mainstream cinema in which I can easily fit into. There are makers whom I think, I could have matched, sensibility wise, like Vishal Bhardwaj, Mani Ratnam,Sudhir Mishra, Anurag Kashyap. I have been fortunate to have learnt how international circuit works and how our co-production works. Having attended festivals, markets where we are pitching stories and not cast attachments. I like that, wherein when I pitch, I never pitch in by telling who is there in my film. I only pitch what is my film all about. Theatres can’t run on my kind of films only. In the International circuit, a pig can be my subject and people will come and watch the movie depending on my story that I am pitching. Here, the cast attachment works but frankly speaking, I don’t regret any of the choice that I made.