After editing five films, directing 12 documentaries and writing eight scripts, Priya Krishnaswamy finally decided to jump onto the feature film bandwagon with the Sarita Joshi-starrer, Gangoobai. The film follows the life of a gardener in Matheran and her extraordinary journey to Mumbai to fulfil her dream of owning a gara sari. “The story is of the unlikeliest heroine who overcomes great struggle. Yet it is a very believable story,” says Krishnaswamy, who was keen to pay homage to Mumbai — the city she believes has been extremely kind to her since she first moved here in 1987.
The filmmaker, who studied to be an editor at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune, fell in love with movies in the unlikeliest of places. “I was 12 years old when we lived in the small Nigerian town of Zaria. My parents loved watching movies, and there was little else to do for entertainment. Every week we drove half an hour away to the Lebanon Club, where they screened Hollywood films in the open air. On the drive back home, we always discussed the film — those were my first film appreciation classes,” reminisces Krishnaswamy.
While she began her editing career in films soon after she graduated, Krishnaswamy made her first documentary film in 1988. Although she had been writing scripts consistently, it wasn’t until NFDC’s Screenwriters’ Lab 2009 selected Gangoobai that she decided to take on a feature film project.
“I got extremely lucky with the cast of Gangoobai,” says Krishnaswamy. “I always knew I wanted Purab Kohli to play the role of the boy-next-door accountant, but I had no idea who to cast as Gangoobai.” After she watched Sarita Joshi’s performance on a television show, Krishnaswamy knew she’d found her lead actor. She texted Joshi and instantly got a positive response.
“Gangoobai’s character appealed to me a lot, I just had to accept the role,” says Joshi, who was busy shooting for television show Chand Chupa Baadal Mein then. “It fascinated me that the story wasn’t about her dreaming of the perfect home or children. Gangoobai’s story was about her desiring something so desperately that she just had to have it, even though everyone else laughed at her.”
The film has been screened at four film festivals already. Apart from festivals in Mumbai and Goa, the film has also travelled to Vietnam and Canada. “I was amazed that people sat through a one-hour delay in Goa to watch the film. It was thanks to the loyal audience that Sarita and Purab have and because of the word-of-mouth praise they had received from the Mumbai screening,” says Krishnaswamy, overwhelmed by the response to the film.
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