Amidst the frenzy of Ganeshotsav, Riteish Deshmukh managed to meet us at a quaint café in Bandra (W), Mumbai on a Tuesday evening. Initially, he seemed reserved. But the 37-year-old gradually opened up, as he spoke to us about his production house, the issues faced by the Marathi film industry, and reaching a saturation point when it comes to doing comedy movies.
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You have already had a couple of releases this year. You also have other projects lined up. How involved are you with your production house?
Creatively, I am completely involved. However, the production part is handled by Genelia (Deshmukh; wife). She takes care of the money. She knows that if that department was in my hands, it would go in the wrong direction. She’s good at understanding these things. She handled the business side for the cricket team we owned as part of a cricket league too. Currently, I’m producing two Marathi films. One is being directed by Nishikant Kamat, and the other is based on the life of Chhatrapati Shivaji. There’s another new project that we are planning, for which we want to rope in new talent. But it’s too soon to talk about that.
You are an actor and a producer. Are the thought processes you employ for the two roles different?
As a producer, I need to take a judgment call. But as an actor, I’m only involved with the character. The films I choose as an actor, and the ones I select as a producer, are completely different. I am fortunate to be able to make some choices in Marathi cinema that I am not able to make in Bollywood. It’s amazing to listen to a story and figure out if it needs to be told to the world. As a producer, I sit with the director, and ask him or her what the film is going to look like. As an actor, you own a part, but as a producer, you own the film.
You come from a political family. Have you ever thought of joining politics?
I love politics. I keep myself updated. That’s how I have been all my life — from when my father was a MLA to when he became the chief minister of Maharashtra. I read five to 10 newspapers every morning to keep abreast of things that are happening [in politics]. I know what it is like to fight an election and run a campaign. I have seen it all my life. But, will I stand in an election? No. I’m involved in movies at the moment.
Would you like to work on a political drama?
I would love to produce a political drama. I have seen a lot to understand the dynamics of this field.Politics is not something to which today I can just say that I want to join it and stand for elections. It’s easier said than done. There’s a lot that goes into it. Standing for election and then winning is not an easy task.
Do you think now is a good time for the Marathi film industry?
It is, but commercially, I just hope the industry grows a lot more. Right now, there are lots of production-related restrictions. One thing that we need to work on is the Marathi overseas market, which, at this point in time, is non-existent. We have to figure out how we can get Maharashtrians settled abroad to go and watch Marathi films. Telugu, Tamil and Punjabi films have a huge demand abroad.
Have you ever reached a saturation point with comedy films?
That will never happen with comedy [films], but I’m always looking to do something different within that space. I just hope I get offered a comedy that is written differently because I think I have more to offer in that genre. But it all depends on the script. There are so many scripts that come, but they are all in the same zone. Lately, you have been mainly seen in multi-starrers.
Do you think film-makers don’t want to take a risk with solo actors anymore?
There are stories of three people, five people and then there are stories of a single person. It all depends on what the story demands. If the story is good, then even a film without a hero will work. Kahaani (2012) worked without a hero. Dhaamal (2007) had five boys and no heroine, but it still did well. Eventually, all you need is a good story. In a poster, five actors may share space, but it also depends on the promo. If a promo is exciting, then the audience will be interested in seeing the film.