Riteish Deshmukh has ventured into Marathi cinema with Balak Palak, a film that explores a tricky subject and has received a thumbs-up from critics. He speaks to Priya Kumari Rana about his role as producer, the importance of regional cinema and the newly-formed cricket team which he owns
You’ve just launched your production venture, Mumbai Film Production Company, with your first Marathi film Balak Palak. How did the idea to venture into Marathi film production come about?
It’s a coincidence that my first film as a producer is in Marathi. I have been thinking of venturing into the Marathi space for a while and I’m happy to start off with Balak Palak.
I will look at acting and producing more Marathi films as I believe regional cinema has tremendous promise and is a space we need to take notice of and explore.
How do you think Balak Palak will strike a chord with the audience?
It deals with young children’s growing curiosity around adult films and questions that parents often avoid. It’s an issue that is so simple, so common, yet important. Hopefully, the audiences with enjoy seeing it as much as I have enjoyed making it.
What made you choose Ravi Jadhav as director?
Ravi is one of the most prolific filmmakers in Marathi cinema with some extremely iconic and memorable films to his credit. Ravi shared the script and I was certain that this is the kind of cinema I’d like my production company to be associated with.
Would you agree that India needs to send out more of regional cinema to awards like the Oscars rather than the commercial fare?
I think regional cinema tells some compelling stories and it should be noticed and brought to the fore. Great stories need more representation on every platform. I think the best film and a correct film should go to the Oscars from India, irrespective of the language it is made in.
You are now the owner of a new cricket team, Veer Marathi, as part of Celebrity Cricket League- III (CCL). How did this decision come about?
I have been playing for Mumbai Heroes for the last two years as the vice captain. When CCL was thinking of introducing a new team for the third season, they spoke to me about the Marathi team. I have always enjoyed the game, so this is an opportunity to get more involved.
Has the popularity of CCL increased in terms of viewership? Is there anything you are doing to increase TV viewership?
CCL has been a growing property in terms of size, visibility and investment. Media and audiences have been taking notice of it and the opportunities are constantly growing and consistently evolving. We have a plan that we will firm up soon on the promotional front, including television.
How is it to be back with Vivek Oberoi and and Aftab Shivdasani for your upcoming film, Grand Masti?
We have always had a blast shooting. All of us have so much history together that when we’re on the set, it’s a complete madhouse. The comfort and ease of working with this team translates on to the screen.
You trained as an architect, but quickly became a Bollywood star. How did this transition happen?
Being an actor was never part of the plan. I got an interesting offer and took it up and have been lucky that the gamble worked. Contrary to what people believe, I didn’t know anyone or anything about the industry. It’s been like going to school every day and learning.
Some of your films may not have impressed critics, but did well at the box office. So, what worked?
Different films appeal to different sensibilities. I totally respect the critics’ views on our work. Films work at the box office for a reason and are successful. It’s people who decide the fate of the film.
Do you think film awards are a good way to judge an actor’s calibre?
Awards definitely reflect an actor’s calibre. A good actor in a bad film might be received okay, but a not-so-good actor in a good film can come across as great. So a role is also important for an actor to showcase his calibre.
To what do you attribute the commercial success of the Housefull series and Kya (Super) Kool Hain Hum?
Commercial entertainers do work as everyone enjoys comedy. When someone pays Rs 100-150 for a ticket, he or she expects to be able to shut off from the world and be entertained for those two hours. That’s what both films did. If it works the first time, they come back the second time with certain expectations, so with the sequel you have to not only live up to those expectations, but be better. The only mistake one can make in a sequel is if you take your audience for granted.
How was the experience of singing in Kya (Super) Kool Hain Hum?
It’s the first time I lent my voice to a film track. I am not a professionally-trained singer but I do enjoy singing. When I was told about us using the UP-Bihar song for the film, I was thrilled.
What are your next films?
After Grand Masti, I am shooting my debut Marathi film as an actor. I am also doing a remake of (Telugu comedy film) Sudigadu.