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Sister Midnight director Karan Kandhari on his characters who are ‘misfits, misunderstood’ | Bollywood News

Set in Mumbai, the film opens with Apte playing Uma, a newly-wed young woman who tries hard to fit into the whole arranged-marriage-keeping-husband-happy thing, and failing spectacularly. The rest of it is about her journey towards finding herself, but this black comedy, spilling over with spiky weirdness, is unlike anything she’s done before.

Saying anything more about the film would be tantamount to spoiling it. Suffice it to say that Apte is a hoot, and the UK-based Kandhari is fun too in a wry, reluctant kind of way : he keeps his eyes hidden behind dark glasses throughout our chat, almost as if it would reveal too much of himself to us, but we get enough about his fascination with Mumbai, the way the role came to him, and working with Radhika Apte.

Excerpts :

Q: So, how was the premiere?

A: It was overwhelming, all that applause, and now, all this social interaction.

Q: Who is this girl? (Radhika Apte’s character)

A: She’s misunderstood, and she’s a misfit, and she finds her people to hang out with, who don’t judge her.

I’m Indian but I’ve moved around a lot. I visited Bombay 20 years ago, and it is such a character in itself. I was intoxicated by the city. It runs on its own logic and rhythm, in a weird sort of tapestry. It drew me in, and then this character sort of just approached me.

You tell me, you saw the film..

Q: Well initially I didn’t buy into her, and then she sort of drew me in, too. Is she a bit like you? Or are you a bit like her?

A: I feel like such an outsider and a misfit myself, but it isn’t a conscious thing, that just happens to my characters, who are basically two inexperienced individuals not equipped for adulthood. She is feral and unstructured, like an animal trapped in a corner.

Q: Was Radhika the only one who came to your mind when you were casting Uma? She really gets into the part, doesn’t she, standing so straight with that cleaning broom, saying: ‘main safaai ki rani hoon’.

A: That very specific rhythm and physicality is what I was working towards. Once she jumped into that, she was unstoppable. It was the best collaboration I’ve had with an actor. It was like going to work with your imaginary best friend every day.

I’ve lived with the part for twenty years. I reached out to her five years back because I couldn’t think of anyone else. It was wonderful watching her, she’s so fearless.. she is the film to me.

Q: Tell us something about the music you’ve used in the film, which feels as if it’s from everywhere, not just India

A: Music is always in my head when I’m writing. This planet belongs to everyone, why can’t we mix influences and cultures? This film is like a cultural collage in a way.. the sub-Saharan Tuareg play electric blues; who says the blues belong just to America?

Q: Are you critical of arranged marriages, Indian-style? Because it feels like you are subverting the suhaagraat (first night) expectations from newly-weds

A: Like Uma says, it’s very hard being human. No one gives you a manual to be an adult, or a partner, or a spouse, or what she becomes, an outlaw.

Q: She cracks you up, in so many places

A: Humour to me is the highest form of art. It’s more powerful than a megaphone or a shotgun.

Q: The other actors, Ashok Kamat ( Uma’s weak-kneed husband), and Chhaya Kadam (her simpatico neighbour), are all spot on..

A: My casting director, Dilip Shankar, was responsible. He totally understood what I wanted. I call him Detective Shankar.

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