Usha Jadhav in Cloud 9 as her Marathi movie Mai Ghat is screened at Festival de Cannes on June 25, 2020
The National Award winning Hindi, Marathi, Spanish and English actor, Usha Jadhav is in Cloud 9 as her Marathi movie, Mai Ghat, directed by Ananth Narayan Mahadevan and script written by the English poet, ex-Times of India Editor and Script Writer, C.P. Surendran, will be screened at the Festival de Cannes on June 25, 2020.
An actor with class, Usha Jadhav will always be remembered for her role in the 2012 Marathi movie, Dhag. She had bagged the National Award for the Best Actress. What is more, last year, Usha Jadhav had won the IFFI Best Actor Award (Female) at Goa for her stellar role as Prabha Mai in Mai Ghat: Crime No 103/2015.
In an exclusive interview given to The Indian News, the young actor, Usha Jadhav speaks to the Editor, Jayashankar Menon about her experience of portraying a middle aged and old protagonist, Prabha Mai, who wages a protracted legal battle to prove her son innocent, who was brutally killed in police custody. Based on a real life incident happened in the capital city of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, the milieu of the story was shifted to a small village by name Mai Ghat in Sangli District of Maharashtra on the bank of Krishna River. Excerpts.
TIN: When you were approached by Ananth Narayan Mahadevan for the role of Prabha Mai, what was the kind of reaction you had?
UJ: Well, Ananth Ji and me..we worked together in an earlier television show. And after that, we tried to work in one project, but that never happened. When he had this story idea, then he called me and we met. He told me about this real life incident. Together, we did a google research and saw the reports and images. I was really really excited to do this film because, I think, this is the story which we needed to tell people.
TIN: How did you learn the intensity of the protagonist from the script?
UJ: Well, when you read the script, you can actually see the pain of that mother. When you read all the articles, it took 13 long years for Prabhavati Amma, who was fighting the case of her son’s custodial death, while persevering to prove her son’s innocence. If you see, actually she is not weak. She is not crying out loud the normal way an affected woman would do. That pain inside you is breaking. But still you are strong, because you need to fight. That I felt from the powerful script and that was how I prepared.
TIN: What were the typical challenges you had in terms of emoting one of the determined mother to fight against odds to prove her son innocent?
UJ: Well, emotional challenges, like I said earlier, is the fact that the protagonist is not crying out loud, but, she is feeling everything in her heart. That is breaking her. And that was a real challenge. On the one hand, you have to show her suffering. But you need to enact sans breaking down. That was certainly a challenge. When I had to show the suffering of Prabha Mai, yet without breaking down even once in the entire stretch of the film. Of course, physically it was a challenge because it was a challenge for me to play the role of a mother in middle age to oldage. So, the transition from middle age to old age was another set of challenge as it took three hours time to do the makeup of the oldage character and one hour and a half remove it as well. It was really really hectic for me as I had to sit calmly. I can’t do anything. Once you put the makeup you can’t open your mouth, can’t eat anything either. So, that was physical challenge I had to experience.
TIN: What was the kind of impact you had post shooting and when you saw the movie on screen?
UJ: When I saw the film, of course I was stunned and I was happy too. Yet I was sad because of the intensity of emotions looming large through out the film. Each and every department of the film was nice. The cinematography is excellent, the sound work, art work…everything…my co-actors..their work…everything was nice. The background score by Rohith Kulkarni…every part of the film was nice…I had tears in my eyes actually and particularly in Goa IFFI, I was really happy with all the jury members’ reaction, John Bailey was the Chairman of the jury, while Lynne Ramsay, Robin Compillo, Zhang Yang, all members of the jury…they were really happy..they loved my film, they loved my work…I still can remember when he saw me in one party in Goa, Bailey said, “Oh My God! Are you the one who played this role? I finished the film and I immediately searched in Google…when I saw the young girl, I thought, may be, I am wrong and I checked thinking that there is something wrong somewhere.”
They were so happy and surprised that I being such an young person I was able to play that role. I still remember Lynne’s words…Lynne is the Director of the film You Were Really Here…and Lynne loved my body language in Mai Ghat. Lynne said: “Your body talks so much from middle age to oldage when you grow and that all her sufferings.” Lynne could see all the sufferings through my body language. So, I guess, these reactions were amazing for me. Mr. Ramesh Sippy, his wife, all the people who were in the party had the same reactions. I felt great when all these legends and great people praising and appreciating my work and the film. It was really amazing.
TIN: Can you elaborate on your other major works done before Mai Ghat?
UJ: After Mai Ghat, I completed the Hindi film, Bishwa. Anuj Thyagi is the Director, who has also directed The Last Colour. Nila Madhab Panda is the producer. I am there in the film. Sharib Hashmi is there too…it is a lovely film. Very cute story it is and I am very happy about that. Before that I did a Spanish Musical Film. Again, I had a great experience, working with some senior British and Spanish actors. Actually, for the first time I had the opportunity to sing myself. I rendered three songs in the film. So, that was lovely. And now I am doing Spanish film with Director Alejandro Cortes…he is an amazing director…The film is going to be in Spanish and the language too. So, it is very exciting and I am going to do another Hindi film this year. So, I hope we will start shooting soon so that we can shoot these two film this year, otherwise hopefully in 2021 for sure.
TIN: You have won the National Award for best acting before. Can you talk about that film?
UJ: Yeah…I received the National Award for Dhag…this was the film that changed my life actually because, you know, before that nobody was ready to cast me as an actor. No one was ready to give me the lead role or the second lead or any important character for that matter. Everyone were offering small roles and I was doing television commercials to survive. And I got this film and then after the National Award everything just changed. People’s perspectives changed…everything just changed. It was a great experience. It was a great film. All these women, be it Yashoda from Dhag or Firebrand I did Aruna Raje film or my character in Mai Ghat..all these women…they are very strong women…I am really happy that I got the opportunity in these three films to play the characters of strong women…
TIN: Going forward, what are your projects in hand?
UJ: I would like to talk about Firebrand…I loved that film…Priyanka Chopra and Madhu Chopra are the producers…it was a Netflix original film…and five times National Award winning director Aruna Raje is the director of this film…and of course, this is not the kind of Aruna Tai’s films…strong women…feminism…and it was amazing experience to work with her because when she had this idea, she called me and we met and she explained the story idea and then I told Aruna Tai that it was indeed an amazing idea. She went ahead and wrote the script keeping me in her mind as the central character. You know it turned out lovely…It was an amazing experience. We are still getting that. Again the amount of love and appreciation we got from critics and audience was amazing. So it feels nice.
TIN: Will you be interested in experimenting your acting skills outside Hindi/Marathi languages. For instance, Malayalam?
UJ: I think, to answer that, I will be happy to act in other languages. Of course, I am acting in Spanish language. I will be working in English language. As I always said that I am happy to work and I am open to work in any language and I am ready to learn that language, if we have a great script. I am willing to work in any language provided if the script is really good. Right now I am working in four languages and I am willing to work in more languages.
TIN: Tomorrow, Mai Ghat is screened worldwide. Having nominated to the Festival de Cannes, what is your reaction?
UJ: I am very happy in that our film is going to be screened at the Festival de Cannes at the India Pavilion. Of course, it is nice because it is a dream of every person, any artist to participate in Cannes and if possible with one’s own work. This year, actually, I am really happy that I have the opportunity, of course, I can’t be physically there due to the Corona situation. But…Ok…still we are happy that our film is there and we are going to watch our film. We are really really happy about it. My special gratitude to the producer of Mai Ghat, Mohini Gupta, the Director, Ananth Narayan Mahadevan and the entire team for making this film a reality.