By Aasawari Shenolikar;
“I am indebted to Television, I owe everything to the small screen,” is the first comment by the very articulate Sai Deodhar when she interacts with The Hitavada. And she is bang on target with this comment for it was TV that made her a household name. Who doesn’t remember the gutsy Flight Lt Monica Singh of Saara Aakash? The dapper girl, smartly dressed in the IAF uniform made her home in the hearts of many. Sai, with her keen acumen, did full justice as an officer of the Indian Air Force.
Having made such a huge impact, the talented actor, who has roots in the industry, did not get roles that she felt had substance. “And as the saas bahu wave came on, I felt claustrophobic. I couldn’t see myself doing something where the plot doesn’t move on at all, or a role where I was playing someone twice my age, decked up as a beacon and simply smiling (if a good person) or plotting (if an evil person). I was frustrated and since I am a person who takes back home her work, I would often ponder at night ‘where is my professional life going?’
I reached a point that I felt I had to shift my focus, and so after talking to my mother Shrabani Deodhar, who as you know is a director, I got into writing.” That is how Sai got down to penning the script of D.A.T.E. After her mother gave her the green signal for the script, Sai thought of directing it, “because I had written it, I knew I could do justice to the script.” But then came the question of finances. “This is when I floated idea of forming our own production company. Shakti ( her husband) agreed and I, my mother and Shakti pooled in money and formed Purple Morning Movies,” she says. Sai, of course, was clueless then as to the power of short films. It was later she realized that there is a huge international market for short films, and the 13 minutes powerful film that she had scripted and directed was screened at one international festival after the other.
“It went on to win 73 international awards,” Sai apprises and the pride is evident in her voice as is the excitement. For this small step forward paid huge dividends. She had finally found her calling. “It was then that my mother told me to look for inspirational stories as the audience lap up true stories. I didn’t want to go down the path that many people do - picking up a biography of a sportsperson or a social worker. I wanted something different, and hence during my research came upon Reshma Pathan, India’s first stuntwoman. And I thought, ‘why not?’ This daring woman had a huge body of work, and people had no clue about her. So I got in touch with her and told her I was making a story on her. And that’s how The Sholay Girl, aired on Zee5, happened,” apprises Sai of her next venture that was also very well received. While D.A.T.E. was a short film, The Sholay Girl was a full length feature film. What helped Sai during her second stint was what all she had learned during D.A.T.E. where she was fully involved in everything - right from preproduction to the final release.
“We finished the project in 16 days flat,” she states. This was when her mother gave her the best compliment. She told me ‘Sai, you are a story-teller.’” This story-teller, for whom acting is a passion, was ecstatic when she found herself as part of Mogra Phulala, a Marathi film. “Marathi is my mother tongue and I hadn’t ventured into the Marathi film industry till Mogra... fell into my lap. Offers probably didn’t come my way for people associated me with Hindi TV. Be ready for a surprise - and I am not talking about me in Mogra..”
She’s talking about Swapnnil Joshi, the SRK of Marathi film industry. “The chocolate boy image has been done away and you will see him in a completely new avatar - a la Amol Palekar - the next door guy.” Needless to say Sai thoroughly enjoyed being in front of the camera again. Marathi cinema has always been progressive, and that is because of the rich literature. But there came a phase, in the 80s and 90s, when Bollywood stunted the growth of every other medium. “But in the last few years, the revival of Marathi film industry has been stupendous. Such is its power that even non Maharashtrians are producing Marathi films. Marathi cinema is in a happy space,” Sai asserts. Commenting on the beauty and rising popularity of web platform, on which her films have released, she feels it is because the projects are entertaining, fast moving, and definitely not boring. “But, the Indian filmmakers, are still figuring out the power of the digital platform.” She, however is all praise for the solid content available for viewing on the web.
“This has opened up a whole new vista - given a platform for filmmakers to make films the way they want to make, tell stories that haven’t been told before.” As for the adult content available on the web that is within the reach of young, impressionable minds, she is of the opinion that if censorship plays a role here too, then it is a spoke in the freedom of expression. Of course, parameters need to be laid down but more importantly, “Since it’s within easy reach of youngsters, it is for the parents to educate their children,” is what she feels. And on a concluding note, the vivacious actor is gung ho about the digital platform. “I am looking at doing many web shows - in any capacity - as an actor, producer, director, writer because it’s a revolution in entertainment industry and I want to be an integral part of this revolution.”