National Award-winning filmmaker Ram Madhvani has brought to life powerful women’s stories with his film Neerja, starring Sonam Kapoor, and his three part web-series Aarya, starring Sushmita Sen. However, the director says he didn’t tell this stories to “ride the feminist train”.
As Aarya 3 recently dropped on Disney Plus Hotstar with positive reviews, Ram, in this interview with indianexpress.com, opened up about Sushmita Sen returning to the sets of Aarya three weeks after recovering from a heart attack and her commitment to the show.
Aarya 3 shows a female protagonist, played by Sushmita, pitted against a female antagonist — Nalini, played by Ila Arun. On why he chose to introduce a female antagonist instead of a man, Ram says that he wanted to stay away from the “female marketing train” but was “genuinely interested” in showing “how women deal with various roles.”
“I don’t want to ride the female marketing train and I don’t want to ride the feminist train either,” the filmmaker says, “I am nobody to do so, first of all, by my very gender. I am genuinely interested in how women deal with various roles in their family and in their lives, whether they are working women, or daughters, or mothers, or girlfriends, or sisters and also try to sort out all the work that they do.”
He added, “There is a line I’ll be using in another thing that I am doing. It says ‘if you want to get something done, give it to a busy woman’. I am just fascinated by how women are juggling all the roles, and they do it with grace, with courtesy and with force sometimes. When I am given a choice about working, I could have worked with a man, but I knew this was about two women (Sushmita Sen’s Aarya and Ila Arun’s Nalini) who are mothers dealing with all the stuff that men sometimes don’t have to deal with because men’s roles are very singular, whereas women okay multiple roles in their lives.”
Ram then says that while Aarya has become one of the most successful web-series, a project that brought Sushmita back on the screen, he had first thought that she would never choose to do it.
He explains, “I didn’t pick Sushmita, she picked me. Sushmita is in the choice of what she needs to do and she has the power, she is the person who chooses whether she likes to work with various people, in various projects. It is always the actor in a way who is in the position of choice. For Sushmita, there was no reason to say yes, but she did and I am grateful to her. I always say I am blessed by not only the universe, but I am also blessed by Miss Universe.”
Opening up about how Aarya was first deliberated a film that was shelved for several years, he shares, “I was meant to make it a film many many years ago and it didn’t work out. It happened because of Disney Plus Hotstar coming to me and asking me if I want to make it into a web-series. When I met Sushmita for the first time for the show, I came out after the meeting and told my wife Amita (Madhvani) that Sushmita is a great actress and she seemed so excited for the show, but tomorrow her lawyer would call and say that she’s changed her mind. But she says it to your face, and she said yes in the first go. Her saying yes to Aarya was a big moment in my life.”
“She said yes and stayed committed, she has to do long takes, she does have to get into her character, I don’t call her Sushmita, I call her Aarya. There are many things that she embraced while shooting for these three seasons. She is Aarya,” he added.
Sushmita is the face of Aarya, when asked if he was scared when she suffered a heart attack on his set, he says, “As far as Sushmita is concerned, I am so happy that she was absolutely okay two weeks after the incident, she was walking a fashion ramp. There are so many things that she stands for that she sends out to the society about even in her recovery. I am just happy that she is back and that she’s ok. That’s been the biggest blessing more than anything else.”
Aarya 3 is streaming on Disney Plus Hotstar.