Home » Mrs. Undercover director remembers that a technician kept saying “cut” on the sets | Bollywood

Mrs. Undercover director remembers that a technician kept saying “cut” on the sets | Bollywood

by Joe Bourn

Filmmaker Anushree Mehta makes her directorial debut with the spy comedy Mrs Undercover. In this exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, he talks about the problems he faced during the making of the film, how Radhika Apte came on board and much more. Before Ms. Undercover, Anushree wrote a few episodes of CID and a few other projects. The new movie is slated for a digital release on ZEE5 on April 14. Read also: Mrs Undercover Trailer: Housewife Radhika Apte Is A Hilarious Spy In ‘Family Woman’

Anushree Mehta with Radhika Apte on the sets of Mrs Undercover.

You have written, but this is your first project as a director. How different are things in terms of how the team treats you and the pay you get?

Misogyny is such a big part of our existence. And, this is not about India, it is a global phenomenon and both men and women are conditioned to participate in it. There are times when I have to check myself, how I perceive myself. And, I would say Abir is the biggest feminist in that way.

One day, we were shooting an intense scene and it was late at night. This gentleman, who was a technician, something was wrong in his department and every time he said “cut”. I finally had enough as time ran out and had to shoot the scene. I told him “I’m here to say cut it, let me decide if it’s okay or not. I think if it were a man here, you wouldn’t dare say that.” He did it when Radhika Apte and a senior Bengali actor were acting. Radhika immediately jumped and said “he is right. Do what you have to do and don’t interrupt her. Do not do that.’ Radhika and I were very much in sync (on the sets) and we were making each other’s crowns.

As a director, I get paid a certain amount of money no matter how much time I spend on the project. The pay does not depend on the amount of work or the time you invest. When I do my next film, (the pay) will depend on whether it (Ms. Undercover) was a success or not. I am grateful to have received the money I requested for Mrs. Undercover. I’m happy and grateful this way, but I see first timers and two-three movies old filmmakers around me (who get paid this way). Recently, this studio said of a director I know, “Their last film was a flop, so we won’t pay them as much.”

Where did Mrs. Undercover’s journey begin?

It all started five years ago. At the time I was a writer and producer and wanted to start directing films. Always wanted to tell Masala, Hindi stories with social messages. When I narrated the story to Abir Sengupta – my business partner and the producer of this film – he immediately came on board and said he would produce it. He was busy with Indu Ki Jawani, so I wrote the film, completed and narrated the script to him on the last day of shooting for Indu Ki Jawani. He was impressed and asked me who I wanted to cast. I told him that I wanted to narrate this to Radhika Apte. “I’ll be over the moon if he agrees to do the film.”

Abeer then arranged the meeting and we went to her house. Just five minutes into the narration, I had said what you see in the trailer and Radhika said, “Anushree, I’m doing the film. Batao, aage kya hota hai (tell me, what will happen next?”). Obviously I was very happy.

What were your reference points for your lead character?

As you rightly said, the most interesting part of the trailer is the fact that the protagonist is a housewife who is also an undercover spy. Most of us have grown up in homes where our moms are housewives. But we rarely know spies – I don’t know a spy, I don’t know anyone who knows a spy. This part is just a figment of my imagination. (It was my attempt to honor) these women who are often told “you do nothing” while doing the most important thing in our lives – parenting. Their work was always undermined. Earning money is somehow more important than the unpaid work they do. If housewives stop (work), we will stop and our houses will stop (operate). I wanted to celebrate all these women. She is Durga herself, but she chooses to be with you. You have to respect her for that. I combined the comedy, action and masala that I have always loved, with the social message I wanted to give in the film.

Images of Goddess Durga have often been used to depict strong women emerging from our domestic settings. But the imagery of Kaali—a fiercer form of the Goddess—is rarely used in our cinema. Why do you think this is so?

All these are forms of Durga Ma. It really depends on how we project a certain character and what we want to associate them with. Our Goddess has a nurturing side, and a learned side, and a radura (wild) side as well (as Kaali Ma). A woman has everything, she has all sides and it depends on which side you bring out. For me, clichés always work. Familiarity is underrated. I want to be able to tell a story that makes you relate to it, but also makes you think outside the box.

What was the hardest part of working on Mrs Undercover?

The hard part was and is, that I’m a female filmmaker who wants to make action movies. Some people are receptive to the idea, but many are not. As a first-time filmmaker, a first female filmmaker not from or related to a film family. I am not the friend or sister or daughter or wife of an influential man. I am just a simple, middle class Gujarati girl from Mumbai who wants to do action films. There are people – men and women, who have tried to make it difficult.

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