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Neeraj Ghaywan, “Glycerine Doesn’t Work In My Cinema” 

Revisiting Neeraj Ghaywan’s Magnificent Masaan As It  Completes 6 Years

Is Neeraj Ghaywan destined to be  a one-film wonder?

Like  J D Salinger  and  his Catcher In The  Rye. Or Margaret Mitchell in Gone With The  Wind. Closer home, what happened to Shimit Amin   after  Chak De? He  did make  Rocket Singh Salesman  Of  The Year. But who remembers it? After the stunning Neeraj Ghaywan has made two  short films Juice(with Shefali Shah in a stellar performance as a housewife  spending hours sweating in the kitchen  over her  husband’s  guests) and more recently Geeli Puchchi a brilliant portrayal  of  gender and caste politics  set in the  bleak  bosom of the working class.

Six years  after  Neeraj Ghaywan made Masaan it remains  a powerful  critique  of  gender and   caste   inequality. Here are some  unknown facts about this hardhitting masterpiece.

  1. Neeraj Ghaywan was an assisted to  Anurag  Kashyap before  he made Masaan. There is no trace  of  Kashyap  in Neeraj Ghaywan’s style  of filmmaking which is gentle  and persuasive. You will never find Ghaywan becoming  ill-tempered  in his vision of  inequality. Masaan is not an easy film to ingest. It sucks you into its world of characters doomed by caste and ruined by wrong choices. The main protagonists are played by Sanjay Mishra,Richa Chadha and Vicky Kaushal , actors whose deep link with the middleclass helps them to manoeuvre their characters in and out of thre trauma and anguish that the under-privileged classes are perpetually subjected to. The caste system is smacked on its head before it proceeds to smack all of us in places where it hurts the most.The young lovers played with an unspoilt naturalness by Vicky Kaushal and Shweta Tripathy, build an atmosphere of lulling gentleness around the plot that shatters to bits as the script moves to a zone of unexpected explosion.Splintered lives shatter and mend in this penetrating portrait of lives lived on the edge Compelling and devastating, Masaan marked the remarkable directorial debut of Neeraj Ghaywan.
  2.  Vicky Kaushal  whose  journey as an actor began with Masaan was not  the first choice. Rajkummar  Rao  was  the  first  choice  for  the  film.This is what  Vicky told me. “The director Neeraj Ghaywan and I were both assistants on Gangs Of Wasseypur. We bonded since then and would discuss scenes from Masaan. During that time Neeraj wanted to sign Rajkummar Rao for my part. But his dates didn’t work out. That’s how I got the part.”Kaushal never expected the reactions that got for his performance in Masaan. “I knew I had worked hard. But this kind of praise was unimaginable.”
  3. Richa Chadha as a Varanasi girl whose life spins  out of control after she’s caught in  a hotel room by an extortionist cop having sex with her boyfriend, has never been seen  giving a  better  performance.Richa said she  didn’t identify with her   character of   Devi  Pathak because  she, Richa ,was  a rebel. But for a  smalltown woman like Devi Pathak being slut shamed for  having pre-marital  sex, every day is  a struggle. Rebellion  is a luxury affordable  to the empowered .
  4. Sanjay Mishra  who played  Richa Chadha’s  economically  challenged father  trying to  keep the  blackmailing  cop from slut shaming his daughter by arranging for large  sums  of  money,lived his  role. “For six months I  felt  like Richa Chadha’s father. Neeraj Ghaywan is  a director who  breathes life  into every frame. I wonder why  he  has  not made another feature film after Masaan.”
  5. Masaan  was  originally  titled Fly Away Solo. Neeraj Ghaywan  shot the  entire  film on location  in  Varanasi. Before shooting  Neeraj and  his writer Varun Grover spent  a fortnight   exploring  Varanasi.No actor was allowed to use glycerine  in  the  film.Artifice  doesn’t work with this  director.

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