Madhuri Dixit, Sriram Nene on why they chose to produce Marathi film 15 August on Netflix

Devansh Sharma

Mar 29, 2019 12:14:44 IST

When Madhuri Dixit quit acting to marry cardiovascular surgeon Sriram Nene and moved to Denver, USA in 1999, she chose to give up on an illustrious career at its peak. Ironically, eight years after moving back to India with his wife, Sriram has now made his debut as a film producer, backing Netflix's Marathi film 15 August under the banner R&M Moving Pictures, owned by him and his wife.

Madhuri Dixit, Sriram Nene on why they chose to produce Marathi film 15 August on Netflix

Madhuri Dixit and Sriram Nene. Facebook

"We listened to a lot of scripts across languages, but we always came back to this one. It's about life in a Mumbai chawl. I've lived in these chawls with my relatives, I've visited them. So it felt like revisiting our roots. I felt like I had known every person from that chawl in the film," says Madhuri, whose 'homecoming' journey to Marathi cinema began last year with Tejas Vijay Deoskar's slice-of-life film Bucket List. Film production, however, had been on her proverbial bucket list for a long time now.

"Sriram had introduced me to the tremendous reach of technology when he suggested we produce an app called Dance with Madhuri. My dance videos reached so many homes across the world that I was excited about the prospects of making content on a digital medium. The eventual step was to produce a film, and needless to say, it had to be done with Sriram. He is very tech-savvy and brings innovation to the table," says Madhuri, in an interview with Firstpost.

"As a surgeon, there were only a limited number of hearts I could touch literally. But I do believe that laughter is the best medicine. So I wanted to make hundreds of people healthy within a short span of time, and what better way to do it than making a movie. Madhuri brings 35 years of experience in Bollywood with her, so I had no reason to not produce a film," says Sriram, who is arguably the first doctor-turned-producer in the history of Indian cinema.

His decision to switch professions (not entirely since Madhuri and he also owns a healthcare brand) reflects the dilemma of the romantic track that is the spine of 15 August. The girl's parents object to her relationship with a painter because of their conventional belief that there is a dearth of prospects in that profession. But a rich suitor, who is an engineer fond of buying expensive paintings, soon expresses his regret of not taking up the job of a painter.

While there were a lot of such minor elements to relate to, what resonated the most with both Madhuri and Sriram in the parallel romantic narrative is how it blends well with the overarching theme of the film. "I think love is also all about letting free. Freedom is not only restricted to those involved in the relationship but also those around who have the choice to free themselves of any judgement. Love conquers all only because it comes with choice. You choose the one you love, so you also choose what comes with them," says Madhuri, sharing a brief eye contact with Sriram, who nods as they smile.

A still from 15 August. YouTube screengrab

A still from 15 August. YouTube screengrab

Though the film steers clear of a political tone and Madhuri insists its release ahead of Lok Sabha Election 2019 is only coincidental, there is enough for India, as a collective unit, to take away from 15 August as they gear up to vote for their next leader. "India has seen 500 years of civilisation and with that, 500 years of tolerance towards other religions and cultures. It is indeed like this chawl in the film where people from different backgrounds and journeys live together and celebrate their unity. There's so much hate speech in the world today that the audience can watch this positive film to remind themselves that they always have the option to love, the option to not give in to hate," says Sriram.

As they gravitate towards their roots, Mrs and Mr Nene also ensure they keep up with the changing times. Releasing their film on Netflix also stems from their strong belief in the freedom of choice. "Audience should be given the choice on how to consume content. There are only 400 theatres that screen Marathi films which hardly sustain for two weeks. On the other hand, a filmmaker can tell any story on a streaming platform because they know it will find an audience with the platform's wide reach globally. And even 500 years later, it will stay there, in perpetuity," argues Sriram.

R&M Moving Pictures will also co-produce a show with Priyanka Chopra and Madhu Chopra's Purple Pebble Pictures that will chronicle the years that Madhuri spent in the US after her marriage. Having done a couple of rounds of discussions with American TV network ABC, Madhuri has said that the show will take time as "TV is a little difficult to crack". In that case, will a Netflix release help? "TV is an entirely different beast. I don't want to put one against the other but it's really about what kind of content you want to show," says Madhuri, who straddles with TV (Dance Deewane), films (Kalank) and streaming services (15 August) at the same time.

As Sriram joins her on a journey that she had to give up on when she married him 20 years ago, she does not agree that the "tables have turned". "We always knew we had the choice. And that's what has made all the difference," she says, as they sign off.

Updated Date: Mar 29, 2019 13:29:48 IST