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Time to outsource your sleep

Madhur Tankha
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Film-maker Makarand Deshpande’s latest venture deals with stress in cities

Film-maker and actor Makrand Deshpande
Film-maker and actor Makrand Deshpande

An innocuous question put to him gave maverick theatre and film personality Makarand Deshpande an idea to make a feature film on a rejuvenation centre where insomniac customers can outsource their sleep.

Makarand has been raising pertinent issues plaguing society through the medium of theatre over the past two decades. He says his recently released offbeat film Sona Spa caters to those living in cosmopolitan cities who often do not get adequate sleep.

“As I have to travel long distances to stage my plays I often do not get sufficient sleep. Once my girlfriend asked whether she could sleep for me. I thought it was a brilliant idea with a number of possibilities. Imagine getting access to someone’s dreams which are a private affair. I borrowed the idea for my play. Moreover, the idea was contemporary. These days so many people are leading such stressful lives, either because of extra work load in office or personal problems.”

Speaking about Sona Spa which stars accomplished actor Naseeruddin Shah in the lead, Makarand says he seeks to create awareness among the film-going public about the need to get sufficient sleep.

“This year I staged my play, which had the same nomenclature and dealt with the same subject, in Maharashtra. The play did exceptionally well as people understood the significance of sleep in their day-to-day life. Enthused by the buoyant response, I decided to make a film on the subject. While rewriting the script I had Naseeruddin Shah in mind. If he had not accepted to become a part of this venture then I would not have made this film,” he says.

Luckily the veteran actor, who knew Makarand from the time when his maiden play Dream Man was staged in 1992, agreed to do this project. “Naseer bhai knows exactly what theatre artistes go through while a play in being staged. He is more comfortable working with theatre artistes. Even though Naseer bhai was not in the play, he saw the play and complimented me. After my script for the film was ready, I called him up and requested him to become a part of this cinematic venture. He just asked me when I would want him to come. A large hearted man, he has not asked for any remuneration for his role.”

With Naseeruddin Shah agreeing to come on board, Makarand’s job was half done.

But since the actor is at times temperamental, Makarand knew he had a tough job on hand. “During shooting I decided not to disturb Naseer bhai too much. After playing the central character of so many films, some of which will be remembered by posterity, he does not like to be instructed all the time. So I gave him a free hand and was open to constructive criticism from his side. He gave some valid suggestions. Ultimately, I am a film-maker who goes according to his own gut feelings. So I patiently listened to his views but did what I thought was appropriate.”

For the film-maker the challenge was how to make a film on sleep entertaining. “In Sona Spa , women workers sleep for their male clients. While the workers are asleep, they have the ability to enter the dreams of their customers. To make the film interesting, I have focused on these women workers who come from different social backgrounds. One of them has been shown as a former prostitute. She feels cleansed working in this spa which is run by a character played by Naseeruddin Shah. Though all the workers are women, I have seen to it that there are no sexual connotations in any dialogue. Sona Spa does not border on vulgarity and it not meant to titillate the frontbenchers.”

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