'Regional cinema allows risks with subjects'

New Delhi, Aug 9 (IANS) Exploring regional pastures with Marathi film "72 Miles - Ek Pravas", about a young boy who makes his journey into self-actualisation against the backdrop of rustic India, Ashvini Yardi of Grazing Goat Pictures says "limited" viewership of vernacular movies allows filmmakers to take risks with subjects.

"I personally feel that with regional cinema, one can experiment and take risks with subjects as the region you are catering to is usually limited," Yardi told IANS in an interview.

"For example, one knows that a Marathi movie is essentially catering to only Maharashtra, unlike a Hindi film which covers a diverse part of the country, each part with its unique culture and tastes," she added.

The former programming head of leading Hindi general entertainment channel Colors, Yardi joined hands with Bollywood star Akshay Kumar to create film production banner Grazing Goat Pictures. Together, they produced the critical and commercial hit "Oh My God!" in 2012 and are targetting regional cinema in a big way.

"72 Miles - Ek Pravas", releasing Friday, is their second project.

While "Oh My God!" was inspired by a Gujarati play, "72 Miles - Ek Pravas" is based on a novel.

Marathi films, in Yardi's opinion, are "very humble". "They are simple yet impactful," she added.

While Bollywood is considered the epicentre of Indian cinema, a lot of producers, having started with Hindi films, seem to be branching out into regional realms.

"We (Akshay and I) wanted to create a production house where the focus would be to primarily make quality creative films - both full-length and shorts. This meant that the foundation would be the script and the subject of the film, irrespective of the genre or language.

"When I came across the novel '72 Miles: Ek Pravas', I was so enchanted by the story that I knew this had to be our next project. So, the story was our biggest pull. We are now ready with a set of another two regional movies - 'Anntar' (Marathi) and 'Baji in Problem' (Punjabi)," said Yardi, whose creative mind gave Indian television an uplift five years ago.

"72 Miles - Ek Pravas", which received a positive response at the recent London International Film Festival, explores a coming-of-age journey of 13-year-old Ashok and the companionable relationships he makes through his journey in post-independence India.

As far as adapting books or plays is concerned, Yardi said it is all about being "extremely content driven," adding that it is not an out-of-the way effort to "break through the clutter".

"It's more about gut instinct. The need to bring differentiated content to the masses is needed now more than ever only because of the evolution of cinema and a whole plethora of choices that are available in the market to sustain one's interest," she said.

That it certainly is - with the apparent co-existence of sex comedies, erotic thrillers and the like, as well as intelligent, hard-hitting, subject-with-a-soul kind of films.

"Cinema or films are a mode of escapism. People watch films to coexist and experience a life that they normally wouldn't, unlike television, which works on the principle of identification or empathy with the characters," Yardi said.

"Films are made for the purpose of entertainment and indulgence and I believe it's only a prerequisite of the industry that films with various themes and genres have to be made. If I like romantic films, you wouldn't necessarily fancy them as well. Hence it's a matter of choice and mindset. I might be in the mood for a thriller today and probably sci-fi tomorrow," she explained.

Having said that, what are the other Bollywood films in the pipeline for the banner?

"There is a Bollywood film called 'Fugly' that we are currently doing. This will be an exciting project with a lot of new faces and a great entertainment appetite. We also have picked up rights for a Tamil movie, which again is based on a true incident, but in the comedy genre," Yardi said.

(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at radhika.b@ians.in)

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