National Award-winning cinematographer Shanker Raman takes on the vices of the satellite city in his directorial debut
Ragini Khanna (second from right) stars in Gurgaon
I chose the name Gurgaon, because when you say that word, people already have an impression of what it is. So, they know what to expect. Like the poster says, 'Yahan kisi cheez ki guarantee nahin hai'," says cinematographer Shanker Raman of his directorial debut, Gurgaon. "It's talking about urban alienation, violence and living in an unequal world. It's about questioning the notion of modernity, which leads to social defragmentation, and we lose our humanity somewhere along the way."
Raman, known for his work on movies like Frozen (for which he won a National Award), Peepli Live and The Reluctant Fundamentalist, tries to tackle greed, ambition, family and gender issues in the film, which will release on August 4 and stars Ragini Khanna and Akshay Oberoi. Set in the city we now equate with rape, murder, money, malls and mansions, the story deals with a father , who decides to surprisingly choose his daughter over his sons. "The character of the father, who is a real estate baron, gets his first child, which would have been a girl, aborted. Later, a pandit tells him that adopting a girl child will change his fortunes, so he adopts her, and it works. She then becomes the apple of his eye, compared to his no-good sons. Sometimes, the more you try to fix things, they more they remain the same, and he eventually needs his daughter. So the boys obviously have a problem with that. That's the cinematic twist in this movie. From there, things take a turn for the worse," says the 44-year-old.
For research, Raman, a crime news buff, read up on land acquisitions and the shady deals that support them in Gurgaon. Raman, who belongs to the generation which has seen Delhi's satellite town become a giant monster in its own right, wanted to give the city a different spin. "I wanted to empathise with these characters. And when you get to know why people do what they do, you see them in a more neutral light." It was all about examining, and not judging for the first-time director.
Right now, Raman is working on making sure the movie doesn't get pitched as a 'festival' film but is seen by who he calls his target audience -"anyone who experiences anger and wants to make a difference, and contribute in some way". After its India release, the movie will also see an American and European premiere. His definition of what is mainstream is simple and clear - "if it touches you, it's mainstream".
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