New Delhi: Ketan Mehta has a knack for directing biopics as the director finds it fascinating and challenging to explore real stories.
Mehta, who helmed films on the lives of soldier Mangal Pandey, painter Raja Ravi Varma, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Dashrath Manjhi in “Mangal Pandey: The Rising”, “Rang Rasiya”, “Sardar” and “Manjhi: The Mountain Man” respectively, said such stories are inspiring. “Out of 12 films in my career, four are biopic. I have done all kind of films before this. But biopic fascinates me because they are real stories.
“They are inspiring. They are much more identifiable and inspiring. As a filmmaker, it challenges me to do necessary research and revisit that period. I feel facts are generally stranger than fiction,” Ketan told PTI in an interview. In the upcoming film “Manjhi: The Mountain Man”, which will see Nawazuddin Siddiqui stepping into the shoes of Manjhi, Mehta did an extensive research for two years to write the script.
“In 2007, he (Manjhi) died and I found the stories published by newspapers and magazines very inspiring of the man, who carved out a road in 22 years from a mountain for his beloved wife. And that's when I started making a film on it. We spent two years in research and scripting,” he said. A FTII graduate, Mehta said he faced many roadblocks to complete the film as he had to deal with a long legal battle too. “The village, where we shot our film, is the original one where he used to stay. It is situated at a very remote place. It is one of the poorest villages of India. And the area is Naxal-affected. But still we decided to go and shoot there because the location is really amazing.
“On the other hand, there were four other filmmakers who were making the same film. So, we started getting legal notices the moment we started shooting the film. We had to fight court cases to shoot the film. We finally got the verdict in our favour and completed the film.” Mehta was amazed to see the cooperation by the villagers and the family members of Manjhi, whose remarkable effort has now shortened travel between the Atri and Wazirganj blocks of Gaya town from 55 km to 15 km. “His family members and villagers actually participated in the film. The mahurat shoot of the film is done by the son of Dashrath Manjhi,” he said. Mehta feels Nawazuddin Siddiqui was the obvious choice for the film but for his wife, played by Radhika Apte, he took 100 auditions before he zeroed in on her.
“Nawaz is one of the great actors. And he fits the role perfectly. The moment I met Nawaz, I knew he was the right person for Dashrath Manjhi. And he also reacted extremely well towards the script. He wanted to do it immediately. He has done one of the brilliant performances. “But I took more than 100 auditions to cast Manjhi's wife. The moment I saw Radhika Apte's audition, I knew she was right for the role,” he said. The love story beyween the husband and his ailing wife plays an integral part of the film's storyline.
“The film has an amazing love story. A man braking the mountain in memory of his wife is itself a magical love story. Without the love story, the film falls flat,” he said. The trailer of the film is getting appreciation from all quarters and the director hopes the movie also creates the same buzz. “I think it's an incredibly inspiring story and that's why I made it. I am overwhelmed to see the response to the promo and I hope the film also gets the same response,” he said. “Manjhi – The Mountain Man” releases on August 21.