Interview by Marie Dinolan
As the audience member, I was curious to know more of the backstory between Rani and Rakesh. To lay a fully developed foundation for the actors, did you speak to them about the backstory? The courting process to the wedding? What were those discussions that occurred between you and the actors to ensure such a complicated and developed relationship was portrayed on film?
1- Rani and Rakesh respectively had their different back stories. Before the shoot we had 1 and half week of workshop, where I used to give the essence of their character to the actors. Rani belongs to a lower middle class family, her father used to sell flutes on Marine Drive (Mumbai's tourist location) for their living. She had no mother, hence in her family she never saw domestic/sexual violence. Her father gave her the most special flute on her wedding night. In India, mostly in villages parents are involved in the marriage. Rani saw her husband for the first time on their wedding night. She faced violence which was intolerable. So, while speaking to the actors I always began, with telling a real life story, my motive was to deliver the feel of the character. I am a director who believes that expressions are enough to make a story. So I gave them the brief about their parts and the rest as you said incredible acting, actors did their job well.
I found myself in great suspense as the story progressed - will Rani find a way of escape or will the story simply tell us Rani’s coping mechanism for her new life? We then find out she has a plan of escape. This is a powerful story of human strength and bravery.
What do you think finally sparked Rani to carry out the plan that would ultimately take her away from her friends and family?
Rani is a mature character. She knows the essence and importance of marriage. She patiently waits that her ignorance and unhappy behavior might hint Rakesh that whatever he is doing is not correct. But this is not the case, Rani's self respect and her only way of freedom is her flute. Which Rakesh eventually breaks because of his complexity issues. There are people with lot of patience but once they lose their tolerance, they become fierce. That's what Rani's character is all about. More than anything else, she became her own strength and fought for herself. I wanted each and every Rani sitting in the audience to relate to it and feel brave than just feel stranded by the end of it. I had another climax, where Rani could kill her husband, but then crime is not a solution to any problem. Therefore I chose her smartness and bravery over crime and helplessness.
Coming from the United States, many of these traditions and laws are unfamiliar to people in western culture. I found myself wanting to know more and where this story came from. This could not have been an easy story to tell. What made you want to tell Rani's story?
India is a diversity of traditions and cultures and still there are places where women are treated as third grade citizens in our society. I am a person who strongly feels for the people around me and culmination of their stories made me derive "Rani". Rani is more or less me, who has faced a lot but hasn't given up on life. Bravery is the only key to a bright future. For me Rani is each and every women of India. Menstruation is a taboo in the Indian Society. In the villages of India girls are locked up in another hut far away from the village for seven days. For few women it is entrapment but for the others, its freedom for seven days from their men. Rani was one of them, who used to be happy and chirpy in the hut. Through "Palayan" my ultimate goal is to give strength to each women and I hope I have succeeded in doing that.
And to tell you more about India and its diverse cultures, you give me an opportunity to make a film and I will show them all.