Director Dibakar Banerjee was not interested in exploring the dynamic of a typical relationship between a man and woman in "Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar", which he says, is his attempt to make something twisted on gender and patriarchy. Even the names are a flip on gender expectations as the female lead is known as 'Sandeep' while the male protagonist is called 'Pinky'.
Backed by Yash Raj Films and starring two mainstream Bollywood stars in Parineeti Chopra and Arjun Kapoor, the film will "provoke, intrigue and unsettle" the audiences, the director said. "The thought was to look at gender in a way we hadn't looked at before. I was not really satisfied with the template of a typical relationship between a man and a woman. Why make a film about it? That's when, certain things that I've always wondered about, came together. In this case, it's gender," Dibakar told PTI in an interview.
The director, known for films such as "Khosla Ka Ghosla", "Love Sex Aur Dhokha" and "Shanghai", is not new to subverting expectations and predictable scenarios to tell stories that stand apart in Bollywood.
"Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar", he said, gave him a chance to play off Bollywood's own "unsaid and implicit patriarchy" through the two actors.
"The big studios are famous for that kind of patriarchy and that kind of marginalisation of women, that kind of male gaze. Even when you have films that sort of break the male gaze, the confusion is even more apparent because in the same film, the gaze keeps changing because we are taught to appease the masses, give them what they want. We need the male gaze and we need the female as a consumption material for that male gaze," he said.
Parineeti, Dibakar said, is a talented actor, but has been at the receiving end of Bollywood's patriarchal approach. "They have played a couple before in films where the patriarchy has been nauseating. It's a part of their life. They have to survive. Parineeti has been on the receiving end of that kind of a patriarchal divide and treatment. In so many films, she is such a talented actress, (but has been) there as the target of the gaze," he said.
"Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar", marks Parineeti and Arjun's third film together after their full-fledged debut "Ishaqzaade" in 2012 and "Namaste England" (2018).
"The kind of profile Arjun and Parineeti have, I had this opportunity to do something slightly interesting and twisted. These opportunities happen once in a while," the director said.
For Dibakar, who has always maintained that he makes films "cheap", the idea is to make his movies "as interesting as possible while knowing that it will provoke and intrigue and unsettle, rather than sort of give the audience 'everything is okay' bill."
The big idea, the filmmaker said, was to explore the collision of two Indias, also divided by class. "In India, along with gender, we have another great divide, which is the class divide. I wanted to overlap these two divides, because Adi (producer Aditya Chopra) and I kept talking about the two Indias and how these two survive cheek by jowl.
"They are like hundred metres apart from each other but the Indian from India one has got less chances of meeting an Indian from India two than he has of meeting a German tourist. I found these two layers of the two Indias and the gender quite interesting to overlap," he said.
In the film, the two characters belong to different classes, Dibakar said.
"They have almost zero chance of meeting each other meaningfully, and are forced to not only be together but run from a common enemy and then lean on each other to survive while hating each others guts. I found that quite interesting and everything started from that premise," he said.
"Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar" was earlier supposed to hit the screens in 2018. It was later pushed to 2019 but it didn't release last year.
Asked whether the delay in the release of the film was worrisome, the director, whose last theatrical outing was "Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!" in 2015, said he is used to unpredictability in life.
In the meanwhile, he went on to do two Netflix anthology projects in "Lust Stories" and "Ghost Stories". "You're speaking to the director of 'Khosla Ka Ghosla' and 'Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye', whose release coincided with the Taj attack (in 2008). There are many things that I have braved, not braved but endured in my life. This wasn't something that was happening to me for the first time.
"As I'm aging, I'm realising that I'm beginning to care less and less about where and when and how to caring a little more about what happens," Dibakar said.
His next project, another Netflix film "Freedom", starring Naseeruddin Shah, Manisha Koirala, Kalki Koechlin, Zoya Husain, and Neeraj Kabi.
"Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar" is slated to be released on March 20.
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