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'A movie is a thought and youth can take it forward'

Why did you choose FTII to screen the film?
I chose this platform because I believe that a movie is a thought and want the youth to understand it, because ultimately, they are going to take it forward. So I’m planning to screen the movie at least in 15 colleges and institutes across the country. This is our attempt to try and spread the message to the audience that they can initiate a change in the society. Lakshmi is not just another film for me; I want people to believe in it. Even if 10 per cent understand the message, I’ll be elated.

Nagesh Kukunoor
Portraying harsh reality: Director Nagesh Kukunoor at the screening of Lakshmi at the FTII yesterday. Pic/Sachin Thakare

Is the film fictional or a true story?
It’s a work of fiction, which is loosely based on real-life incidents. It is a story of a 14-year old girl who is trapped in sex trafficking and her fight against it in the court of law. I’ve worked with an organisation that deals with cases of sexual assault. I have seen their lives up close. I have witnessed the heroic stories of women reclaiming their lives, despite going through an unimaginable amount of sexual exploitation. I wanted to focus on their heroism through a film. Whenever we read reports of surveys throwing up figures about girl child trafficking and prostitution in the country, the ground reality is harsher beyond those figures. This is what we’ve tried to show through this film.

Tell us about the cast of the film?
Casting for this film was an entirely different experience for me, as I underwent an emotional tumult during the process. Earlier, I had cast a 14-year old from Hyderabad, but when the shooting started and it came to narrating the scenes, I just couldn’t take it forward. It was too disturbing for me. I didn’t want to put a small girl through this kind of emotional trauma and make her experience (even though through acting) the highly distressing lives of sex workers. I took a hiatus of nearly six months. I wanted someone mature, who could understand the role and portray it without getting emotionally affected. I then spotted Monali Thakur and decide to cast her.

Any plans to hold special screenings for real life Lakshmis?
I’m thinking of a special screening for them, but am unsure whether they would be able to take the intensity showed in the movie. Some frames are extremely disturbing and I don’t want them to relive the horror. However, I still believe that they can handle it more than me or anyone else.

To what extent is publicity important for any film?
Publicity is immensely important for any film. After all, when we put in efforts in any story, we want the audience to watch it. The same is with Lakshmi. I want it to reach out to maximum number of people and hence I am starting with colleges, so that it reaches its target audience.

Do you believe in the 100-crore club?
As far as the Rs 100-crore club’ is concerned, it is inconsequential to me.  

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