Raja Ravi Varma Painted Nudes And We Couldn’t Possibly Clothe His Paintings While Replicating Them



The city’s annual Film Festival is nearing its end and Nandan a state run theatre is full of people sitting everywhere on chairs, armrests, the staircase and even the floor. Kolkata is used to such madness. But this particular screening is different as it an Indian film with mainstream actors.
That day I watched Ketan Mehta’s Rang Rasiya standing. Cut to Mumbai 2015: The Randeep Hooda Nandana Sen starrer is inching towards an October 30 release. I catch up with the director to talk about the film I watched three years ago.

Why was the film in the cans for so long?
It is an expensive ambitious film and I was looking for a distributor who has the sensibilities to market it. Also I think now the time is right. The audiences, today is far more mature film literate and receptive to new ideas.

The film has frontal nudity. How many cuts have you got?
The CBFC (Central Board of Film Certification) has passed the film with zero cuts. The Revising Committee not only passed it but even applauded it. Raja Ravi Varma painted nudes and we couldn’t possibly clothe his paintings while replicating them. That would be a gross injustice to not only his art but his life long struggle for artistic freedom which is the backbone of the film.

But certain Hindu organizations have called for a ban on the film?
I knew from the beginning that making a film on Raja Ravi Varma would leave me vulnerable to controversies. Today he is feted as the first modern painter of India but in his time he faced social wrath for giving a human face to Hindu gods and goddesses. It was considered blasphemy! Over the decades artists have faced such attacks be it MF Husain or a young art student. Venues have been vandalized artworks mutilated and their creators beaten up. This film is my way of standing up for creative freedom.
Nandana has apparently told you not to release any new promotional material without her consent.
That was just a rumor. It was very brave of Nandana to take up the role and she has stood by the film like a rock.

You have been quoted as saying that you don’t want to work with stars. Did the box office failure of Mangal Pandey: The Rising with Aamir Khan scare you off?
I’m not against investing in actors only the larger than life stars. My stories are about characters and it’s easier for actors to become characters. My next film Manjhi The Mountain Man is the true story of an ordinary man. A star could never do justice to the role.

Is that why you have cast Nawazuddin Siddiqui the poster boy of indie cinema?
I cast Nawaz before Gangs of Wasseypur happened and he became what he is today. He is a brilliant actor and looks every inch the part.

Remakes seem to be the flavour of the season. Any film you want to remake?
I have so many stories that they would last me five lifetimes. Why repeat one that has been already told?

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