I watched director Vasan Bala’s ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’ at a multiplex in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. The occupancy was pretty low at the theatre and I thought not too many people in the two-tier city were interested in watching the film. As it turned out, the film did not well across the country despite getting glowing reviews. Gulshan Devaiah, who played two distinctively different characters – Karate Mani and Jimmy – in the film is just pleased about the fact the film managed to release in theatres after overcoming all the obstacles it had to go through. In this interview, the actor talks about why it is important for every film to release in theatres, being a part of Vasan Bala’s first film ‘Peddlers’, not benefitting enough from his ‘solo-hero’ film and more.
The film was making rounds of several film festivals for more than a year. You had to wait for a long time to see this film release in theatres.
Yes, but reaching out to the festivals was important too. It had to do the rounds abroad as we were conscious about the fact it had a wider appeal. We wanted to tap into different markets and the best way to do that was to send it to festivals. Festivals are not just a celebration of films, they are also a good place to do trade. It has released in different countries across the globe. This will ensure a longer shelf life and a wider audience for the film.
A leading multiplex chain refused to screen the film
I felt very sad when I heard about that. We had to go through a lot of struggle to get the film on floors and now, we had to face so many difficulties while releasing it. The multiplexes charge an exorbitant fee as VPF (Virtual Print Fee) which becomes a huge burden on producers. Ronnie took a stood against this and as a result of that, this particular multiplex chain decided not to screen our film. The film missed out on getting a release in those number of multiplexes which were owned by this chain. I do realise that a film like this cannot have a huge release. I am just happy about the fact that it managed to get a theatrical release for itself.
You were a part of Vasan Bala’s first film ‘Peddlers’ too. The film was shot in 2012 and remains unreleased till date. How has your equation with Vasan evolved over time?
‘Peddlers’ went to several festivals across the globe and received a lot of appreciation. We screened it in MAMI as well. Vasan and I have a good professional relationship. We are friendly, not friends. We work well together and believe in each other.
Releasing the film digitally might be a good option.
Eros has the IP of the film, so they might release it eventually on their streaming platform Eros Now. Honestly, I feel every film deserves a theatrical release. A film is meant to be watched on the big screen first. Having said that, given the circumstances, releasing it digitally might be a good idea as a lot of people would be able to watch it. It is not an ideal situation but I guess one has to settle for that in the prevailing situation.
You do not seem to be happy with films releasing on streaming platforms.
I find that disappointing. I do not blame the producers as they have to safeguard their money. ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’ is an ode to cinema and I am glad it saw a theatrical release. The whole culture of going to cinema is dying. Cinema has lost its relevance but there are a lot of factors which are stopping people from going to theatres. The ticket prices are exorbitant. Mineral water bottles are being sold at triple their original price. I firmly believe that every film deserves to be released in theatres and not on a streaming platform. It can have another life on DVD, TV or web but it must come out in theatres first. The web is a great place. You can have great shows there and experiment with different kinds of content but films should be screened in theatres first.
You were nursing a leg injury when this film came to you.
I had just got my surgery done two months before Vasan came to me with the script. The surgery was successful but the recovery was very slow. I went on a holiday while shooting for ‘Smoke’ and got injured then. I could not take up any work for a while. That is when the film came to me and it made me get back to work.
The film and the two characters you played had a lot of pop culture references to them. What is the kind of brief given to you for the role?
There was no brief as such. He gave me the script and then, we talked about it. He gave me a few references but we did not do much research. It was not very difficult for me to understand what he was trying to say and how he expected me to play the two characters.
‘Hunterrr’, in which you played the solo lead, was quite a successful and appreciated film. One would have expected you be more active in films after that but that did not really happen.
To be honest, I did have a certain expectation from it as the film was riding on my shoulders. I expected it to do better than what it did. We did not have any theatre listing or screen problem. In fact, it was a much bigger release than ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’. I guess the distributors thought ‘sex waali film hai, chal jaayegi’ (laughs). I thought the film would empower me as an actor but that did not happen. I got a lot of offers after the film but, most of them were offering me sex comedies both on in the web space and in films. I am willing to wait for the right projects to come my way. I played a Bihari gangster in ‘Smoke’. I was surprised to see the producers offering me that role as I am a South Indian but they believed I would be pull off this role. Sometimes, people make you see what you can do even when you cannot.
What are you doing next?
‘Commando 3’ is releasing on 23rd September. It is an action film but obviously, very different from ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’. I am trying to mix things up. I have just finished shooting for a web show for a big platform. It is a comedy. I am doing a film with Manoj Bajpayee called ‘Hinterland’. There is some time for the film to go on the floors as we need to prepare for it extensively.