What was your inspiration for making Bagheera?
The film centres on the sexual abuse of women, which, shockingly, is the most common unreported and unpunished crime in the world. I felt compelled to create a character who outwits her attacker using simple resourceful means and immense courage.
Bagheera is a piece of cinema that celebrates the human spirit, by demonstrating the value of common-sense and bravery in the face of danger. Bagheera was filmed in India, with a Hindi-speaking cast.
How did you cast Bagheera and Kaka?
I was fortunate that these two actors, Preeti Choudhury and Rajesh Balwani, committed their heart and soul to Bagheera early on and gave up numerous hours for our rehearsal sessions.
I liked the physical look of Rajesh Balwani (Kaka – Uncle) right away, who ironically, is very well known for his comedic work! That might seem strange, except that I’d heard an extraordinary interview in which he spoke about how he builds each performance. As a highly experienced professional, Rajesh added untold layers to this abominable character.
Preeti Choudhury I had known for some years as a friend. I asked her to workshop scenes while I was writing, secretly gauging how she’d handle the roll. Although highly skilled as an actor, and very beautiful, Preeti brought girl-next-door naturalism to the character. When she turns out to be so tough and capable, it’s not only a magnificent surprise, it’s believable.
How did you make it in the Hindi language?
I know a smattering of Hindi but I write in English, which is then adapted into Hindi. Story devices and language that work in English often have to be culturally re-jigged, giving rise to an exciting wave of inventiveness and wonderfully unexpected nuances. Sakar recognized the power of the story and proposed a modest production budget.
Do you like working in India?
India is wild, intense and unpredictable. Life is tough for many people, which in itself prompts resourceful solutions for getting things done. I admire people who adapt and invent, so the way people make things work in India inspires me.
A few years ago, when directing a TV commercial in Mumbai, I met Sakar Raut, a man with a unique perspective on the Indian film industry, who eventually produced Bagheera. Working together has been a dynamic learning experience, and the outcome is a strong indicator of what we can do when fully supported financially.