Bollywood filmmaker Ram Kamal Mukherjee talks about his magnum opus ‘Draupadi’ with Rukmini Maitra in the titular role.
After making a series of successful Hindi shorts in Mumbai, journalist turned filmmaker Ram Kamal Mukherjee made his feature film ‘Binodiini Ekti Natir Upakhyan’, a biopic based on the life of Bengal’s theatre legend Binodini Dasi, which starred Bengal’s leading lady Rukmini Maitra. And he is once again teaming up with her for his next Bengali masterpiece ‘Draupadi’.
Picture Courtesy: Gaurav Sethi Shares Ram, “As a filmmaker, I am obsessed with my own culture, my history and genuine talented souls. I think Rukmini Maitra is one of the most hardworking, honest and talented actors we have in our country. Unfortunately, her work didn’t travel beyond the borders of Bengal, but that doesn’t make her any less talented than her national contemporaries,” says the director who is penning the screenplay right now in Kolkata.
The actress adds, “It’s a pleasure to reunite with Ram Kamal after ‘Binodiini Ekti Natir Upakhyan’ because he makes me feel comfortable in characters that are extremely challenging to portray on screen. It’s an honour to be a part of the ‘Mahabharata’, a subject that is so close to every Indian. Needless to say, this will definitely be one of the most challenging roles in my career after Binodiini.”
A Tale Of Epic Proportions
Based on Padma Bhushan winnner Odiya author Pratibha Ray’s ‘Yajnaseni’, the film will be shot entirely in Maharashtra and Hyderabad. The author weighs in, “When director Ram Kamal approached me for the film rights of ‘Yajnaseni’ through my publisher Rupa Publications, I was delighted that even today Indian filmmakers are interested in the story of the ‘Mahabharata’. My book ‘Yajnaseni’ is about the ‘Mahabharata’ from Draupadi’s point of view with contemporary relevance. ‘Yajnaseni’ is the epitome of patience, penance and power. It’s a creative collaboration, and Ram Kamal being an author himself, will definitely do justice to ‘Yajnaseni’ and her story. I feel we are at the right time to revisit our epics and tell the new generation about our culture and heritage.”
Produced by Dev Entertainment Ventures and Pramod Films from Mumbai, the film will narrate the ‘Mahabharata’ from Draupadi’s perspective. Ram avers, “I feel that it’s time for Draupadi to tell her story. Pratibhaji has wonderfully penned the journey of Draupadi in ‘Yajnaseni’, and if we manage to tell her story, then people will definitely cherish it.
The ‘Mahabharata’ is a well-known epic, with multiple versions across the globe. But most of it has been narrated from a male perspective. I was intrigued by the humiliation, betrayal and chauvinistic attitude which Draupadi had to face, even after holding royal status. Unfortunately, our epics don’t reveal much about the ‘prajas’ and chant praises for ‘rajas’. My ‘Mahabharata’ will talk about the neglected.”
Producer Prateek Chakraborty adds, “The ‘Mahabharata’ is one of the most epic tales ever told. The characters, their journeys, their redemption… are life lessons. An attempt to recreate this grandiose saga is intriguing, exciting and nerve wracking. Having worked with Ram Kamal Mukherjee on ‘Binodiini Ekti Natir Upakhyan’ reinstated my faith in him as a master storyteller who produces what he presents, and his vision of the ‘Mahabharata’ bowled me over to start this magnificent journey.”
Since Draupadi is a universal subject, will the project have names from talents across India? “Yes, it will,” assures Ram Kamal. “I will approach actors, technicians and VFX teams from all across India, who are willing to support my vision. I don’t see ‘Draupadi’ as Bengali cinema, for me my film is Indian cinema. Rukmini is well versed, she is articulate and has travelled extensively. She comes with global understanding, and I am sure she will add zeal to ‘Draupadi’s’ sheen.”
Ram Kamal and Bengal’s superstar Dev share a long standing friendship, and they always wanted to collaborate as a team. Dev shares, “After watching Ram Kamal’s work in ‘Binodiini Ekti Natir Upakhyan’, I realised that he has an amazing sense of aesthetics and visual presentation skills. When he shared his dream of making ‘Draupadi’, I felt that he would certainly do justice to the scale and subject. I have also witnessed the range of Rukmini as a performer in ‘Binodiini…’, and I knew why Ram Kamal wanted to cast her as ‘Draupadi’.”
Paawaan Aagarwal is assisting Ram Kamal in co-writing and researching this project. He had collaborated with Ram Kamal on ‘Binodiini Ekti Natir Upakhyan’, and has worked with leading ad-filmmakers from Mumbai on almost 50 commercials.
It sure looks like Ram Kamal – the director who has bagged many prestigious awards for his short films ‘Cakewalk’, ‘Season’s Greetings’, ‘Rickshawala’ and ‘Ek Duaa’ – is set to soar even higher…