An adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic Emma, the film was first thought of by Rajshree when she was in high school! After spending a decade in USA, pursuing her masters in fine arts, making short films and a feature film, Rajshree returned to India and to Emma.
Reading through a few works of Jane Austen, she came across the book Emma again, which always found extremely interesting. Rajshree contacted scriptwriter Devika Bhagat, with whom she had collaborated earlier, and adapted this story based in 19th century Victorian England, to contemporary Indian society.
Talking about Emma, Rajshree says that was she always fascinated by characters that take her along on their journeys and the gray shades found in human characters. “Despite living in 21st century India, we are still are living in the past in terms of our traditions and idea of marriage. I also loved the protagonist of the story, who is living a bubblegum life and suddenly comes face to face with reality.”
The completed script was taken to several producers and incredibly, even before Anil Kapoor liked it enough to take it up as producer, Rajshree had Sonam Kapoor in mind. “Sonam has the face of an angel, but she can still look so effortlessly mischievous. I knew that she would bring an extra dimension to the character.”
Stating expectedly that Sonam has gone beyond all expectations, Rajshree says that her father Anil too was a dream producer. “He gave me a free hand, never made remarks like ‘Oh, this is a woman-centric film, is it?’. More importantly, he was very open and in fact, wanted me to push the envelope and make certain characters grayer. He saw the story and my film for what it was,” raves the director.
About the third Kapoor — Sonam’s younger sister Rhea who is also the producer — Rajshree is indulgent. “She’s 23, and poor thing, no one would take her seriously, so she would have to make an extra effort to sound strict! I am sure that she will find her groove quickly.”
Rajshree also has lavish encomiums for her leading man, Abhay Deol. “He’s absolutely amazing and contributed a lot to my film. He can act very well, looks very good with Sonam, and like her, believed in my film and my project. That is something that makes you really comfortable.”
About the film having a very individualistic look in terms of sets, costumes, locations and cinematography, Rajshree says, “Any film is an audiovisual experience, and with such a story, the look had to be appealing; a fresh, bright, candy-floss feel was needed. This was the bubblegum world of Aisha, a world different from the normal world. There had to be, for example, a lot of pastels. We wanted Aisha to be a character everyone would want to emulate.”
Rajshree is glad that her professionally-formative years were spent in USA. “Though I watched a lot of Hindi films there, I also enjoyed watching world cinema. The experience was an eye-opener,” she says. She also believes that Indian cinema is an integral part of world cinema.
“Bollywood is a genre now and the world is watching us. There is a change in us; maybe to compete with the rest of the world, but I think that we are pretty good at what we are doing.” And she sees no discrepancies in her cinema training abroad and working in Bollywood.
She likes to be true to a genre and a film. “I never think in terms of genres, ideas or scripts. I want to make all kinds of cinema, for instance, my first feature film Chowrahein — a drama in English — starred Zeenat Aman, Victor Banerjee and Soha Ali Khan among others. It had a different treatment that was necessary for that story.” Rajshree hopes to release this film too later this year.
Finally, the tricky bit — in Hindi films, very few women directors other than Farah Khan have delivered hits. What does she think of that? “Farah is amazing!” says Rajshree. “Although, I cannot comment on the directors who have not made it.”
Farah says that women directors become over-conscious about their own gender and the kind of cinema they watch, which in turn influences their subjects and treatment, we tell her, and she laughs and says, “I agree completely!”