The inspiration for Gulaab Gang came not from Sampat Pal and her Gulabi Gang, but from the film Mirch Masala, says the director

For Soumik Sen, the inspiration for Gulaab Gang came not from Sampat Pal and her pink-clad female crusaders called ‘Gulabi Gang’, but from the film Mirch Masala. When we spoke to him, Sampat had only threatened to move the court pertaining to his film’s release. This week, the High Court stalled the release, only to lift the ban. When asked regarding the obvious resemblance to the pink brigade, Soumik said, “I have never said that my movie is based on the ‘Gulabi Gang’. Yes, my actors also sport pink, hence the name, but Madhuri Dixit is not playing Sampat Pal. If it’s the name ‘Gulaab’ that seems to be creating confusion, I would like to ask if you have heard of Gulab bai from Bihar. She sings songs, just like Madhuri does in the film, to inspire the masses. Madhuri is playing Rajjo, a crusader for the education of the girl child. She strives to create an educated, economically-independent community of women, who can then become individuals who exercise their rights,” he says, defending his film vehemently.

Controversy aside, Soumik has managed a casting coup by getting both Juhi Chawla and Madhuri Dixit to act in the same film, and pitted against one another too. Speaking of Madhuri, he says, “I see Madhuri as a superhero; she can act, she can dance, she knows action. And this role required a super heroine. Rajjo can do everything; almost nothing short of flying around! She is a very dynamic personality. We got her to put on an ‘R’ (in Hindi) as her bindi. Madhuri was the only person who could’ve carried this role on her shoulders.”

But clearly, it was casting Juhi as the scheming politician Sumitra Devi that was the challenge. “I have been inspired by the Inglourious Basterds sort of villains. Especially, Charlie Chaplin’s casting as a serial killer in the film Monsieur Verdoux, was a great cinematic achievement. I wanted a radical change of image for my villain too. I thought Juhi was perfect, as she has great comic timing and that’s the only quality I think that makes a great actor. Juhi, of course, thought it was strange to even think of that. But she wasn’t going to play a Gulshan Grover-esque villain! So it worked out with her eventually,” says the debutant director.