Almost two decades after they tied the knot, Madhuri Dixit and Shriram Nene felt like they were doing a bridal photo shoot yet again. The photographer kept telling them how to pose, stand closer and look at each other. Amused, the couple could not help but giggle. Dixit’s trademark gorgeous smile lit up the room at a Bandra hotel. The duo is launching their first film production, 15 August, under their banner, RnM Moving Pictures. The slice-of-life Marathi film dropped on Netflix, on Friday.
Dixit has been facing the camera and fielding questions for years but for hubby dearest it’s new. So, she lets him do most of the talking and refrains from saying anything, except when asked a question. And Nene has lots to say. Is this new phase as doctor-turned-filmmaker exciting or exhausting? “It is an exciting learning experience,” he says in his Yankee accent. “You pour your heart into something and share it with the world, it’s gratifying.” Before he married Dixit, he barely watched Indian films and did not know Hindi. “Abhi sabh samajhta hoon,” he laughs. After relocating from the US, the actor says, “He now understands and can speak a bit.”
Nene admits that from not watching movies to being a filmmaker has been quite a journey, “but every summer we came to Dadar to live with relatives, so there was that exposure to the Mumbai milieu. Life is all about constantly learning something new. I still, however, remain a doctor. We wanted to raise the bar by doing something new.”
When they floated the production house, each of them designated clear-cut roles to themselves. “She looks after the creative side. While I am in charge of the production and financial aspects, more like a company’s CEO,” says Nene. “She has over 35 years experience in the movie business,” he adds. So who better than her to team up with? He keeps referring to his actor wife with 35 plus years in the business. “He is making me sound like a really old veteran,” smiles Dixit.
They preferred to debut as producers of a Marathi film “because there is some brilliant talent and amazing writers with novel concepts,” say the duo. It was also a way of going back to their roots. They are Konkanastha Brahmins. Says Nene, “My kuldeva is Alibaug. I still have relatives in Diveagar, which is about a five-hour drive from Mumbai. They own plantations there, that’s a life I would like to live someday.” Adds Dixit, “My mother is from Ratnagiri.” A while back, they had taken their kids [Arin and Ryan] to the Konkan to familiarise themselves with the places their forefathers came from.
The couple chose to release 15 August digitally rather than in theatres due to the mind-boggling reach of the digital platform. Nene has done his math when he informs that Marathi films release in barely 400 screens out of the 9,000 in the country. “Just as we watch Spanish and Italian films, we want the world to catch up on Marathi cinema as well.” Adds Dixit, “The script of 15 August was relatable. It is set in a chawl in Mumbai. I had relatives who lived in one, so it was a familiar culture.
For our first production, we needed something we could understand. There were so many layers to the script. Swapnaneel Jaykar wields the directorial baton for 15 August, which stars Adinath Kothare, Rahul Pethe and Mrinmayee Kulkarni.
“We stacked the cards in our favour by picking a talented and award-winning cast and crew. They made our task easier; we had to empower them. We are proud that they all came together to show their love and passion for the craft,” points out Nene who considers it a great time for movie makers as there are several platforms to showcase your projects.
As a cardiovascular surgeon, Nene, who runs a health portal, says, “I cured hearts, now I hope to spread happiness by entertaining people and cure many more hearts.” Will acting be the next step for Nene? “I already act many roles everyday taking care of the kids, the pet dog,” so when offered, he might think about it after having featured in a commercial with his star wife. Dixit who was last seen in Total Dhamaal has Kalank lined up for release. “Things are happening back-to-back, so I am looking for a breather.”