His lanky frame and quiet manners make you think he is someone out of a corporate or finance background but Mahesh Limaye, a creative powerhouse, has a long list of successful movies to his name as a cinematographer. Right from Uttarayan, Corporate, Natrang, Fashion, Traffic Signal, Dabangg, to Balgandharva, Balak Palak and Gori Tere Pyaar Mein, it equals to big films, good response and doing what he likes to do best. When we met to talk about his directorial debut in Marathi, Yellow, you feel he is trying to gauge the reactions to his upcoming debut film’s promos. Mahesh is a cool customer indeed.
Yellow is a true story (with some changes) of Gauri, a girl born with Down syndrome who overcomes her trouble successfully. The fact that they have taken Gauri Gadgil and Sanjana Rai who suffer from the trouble to play the character, changes the way we see the film. But Mahesh admits that this was not the first choice of subject for his debut film. “I was working on a love story. But Uttung (Thakur, the film’s co-producer) had seen my work on Balak Palak. When Uttung’s brother told him about making this film, he approached me and it sounded interesting. I was lucky to be a part of the research and the script took about eight months to lock. We have avoided pathos or sympathies. See, my style of working is that as a cinematographer, I don’t just limit myself to the camera. I work in each department, for the whole product.” Mahesh wants the film to be a positive thing in everyone’s life and feels the audience needs to take something back with them.
The next obvious question is what consisted of the research. It meant ‘mad’ questionnaires to each parents. “I told them that I am not making a film on what they wrote, but wanted them to put their true stuff from their daily life for a base.” Courtesy the research, Mahesh realised the need for acceptance of such kids in the society. Picking the cast was both tough and easy for him, as while writing the script, he had thought of three people already – Upendra Limaye, Mrinal Kulkarni and Hrishikesh Joshi. “An actor-friend of mine asked me the reason for not taking him in the film. But after he saw the film, he admitted that he did not see himself in any of the roles. The cast was gung-ho about the film. But they were not sure of casting Gauri. But I told them to see her. When Upendra met her, he just hugged me and said I had guts to cast her.” The team found Gauri Gadgil via a newspaper report of her achievements as a swimmer. She had won a silver medal in the 25 metre butterfly stroke event at the Special Olympics Summer Games in Shanghai.
This time, Yellow means Mahesh works and thinks as both cinematographer and director. “With this film, my brain worked as two different people. There was a war going on in my head. As a DOP, my thoughts are different while as a director, I try to find out it that thing is required. I always thought about the content as the main focus. When I was an assistant in my initial years, I was told never to dominate the story with technical aspects.” While there are talks about the Hindi version of the film, such topics invariably become larger-than-life which is a fear for such sensitive issue. He feels films like 3 Idiots have worked with people backing it. He personally loves Zoya Akhtar’s work.
One wants Mahesh to speak more about his unusual directorial debut. In a few words, all he can describe is, “The film will take you through all emotions. It will make you think, inspire you and eventually let you carry the thoughts along.” We sure will, Mahesh Limaye.