Neeraj Udhwani the Writer and Director of the recently streaming and well-received Netflix web film Maska is thrilled with the responses coming from all over the globe for the work.
Says Neeraj, “I am absolutely happy with the response I have been getting for Maska. Not only in India, but I have also been getting messages from all over the globe. I have messages from Pakistan and I am told that Maska was trending at No.1 there for two days. On the Netflix trends too, it is in the top 10 trend list and I am amazed. People have written about it from Portugal where they are watching it with subtitles. They sent us reviews which we read through Google Translator. So Maska has got that kind of reach, with 190 countries watching it at the moment. So everything is so overwhelming at the moment.”
Talking about the concept of Maska, Neearj goes on to say, “The story is about legacy, about family, about inheritance and who exactly an individual is. Essentially it is about a family and the manner of connect they have. Food plays a very important factor in the film. Food connects people and the story is about a café which holds this legacy. These connecting links have worked with the audience is what I believe.”
On the selling factor of Maska, the renowned Director says, “Everything for me is the USP. First of all, Manisha Koirala playing a Parsi character is in itself the selling factor. Nobody ever would have imagined about her playing such a character. Now everyone is raving about her performance, and it is so thrilling to see. To me, Shirley Setia in her debut film, Prit Kamani’s portrayal, Nikita Dutta’s performance, Jaaved Jaafrey’s comic timing, the music and of course, the script that is the story, all of it are its selling factors.”
Ask him about the idea of bringing in Manisha Koirala for this role, and he states, “Producer Seher Latif is also a renowned Casting Director. And when we were discussing, we wanted a person who was powerful enough to play the character even if she was not a Parsi. When I bounced off the idea of Manisha Koirala to Seher, she was excited about it. When Manisha was happy with the narration, we were thrilled about it. Manisha is excited and happy to have played a Parsi character so well.”
“Prit Kamani came in when Seher had auditioned him for the lead role. I also liked him a lot. Shirley Setia, I had seen her in her videos, but I was not sure of her acting skills. We called her for an audition, and she did really well. Nikita Dutta again came in through Seher, we really liked her. Jaaved Jaffrey came in when we wanted a father who was more of a best friend. And he was a natural choice. Boman Irani was also happy to be part of it. All in all, we were very lucky to have brought in a good cast who fit their parts perfectly.”
Writing a story and executing it are two different things. How do you make that happen being the writer as well as Director? “When you are the Director and you have also written the story and screenplay, it becomes easy as you already know what every scene demands. You know the graph of the screenplay. Of course, there is a lot of humour in it, and that comes from Ishita Moitra who is our dialogue writer. Her dialogues are very good. I had a fabulous crew who instantly understood the entire process.”
Neeraj Udhwani has been involved in some great work on the web in the last 2-3 years. “The last few years have been phenomenal for me. I finished ALTBalaji’s Home and that was when Inside Edge happened. Soon after that, Maska happened. I have been working on back to back exciting and satisfying projects. Now, Inside Edge 3 is going to come soon. It is the best time to be a creative person in the industry.”
“The best part is that the web allows us to tell many kinds of stories. Maska is so very different and it needed a platform like Netflix to tell the story. The stories connect with the audience, at the same time are not the usual kind of stories. The audience is now accepting different kinds of stories. In Mentalhood, they have accepted the story of six mothers and their challenges. At the same time, you have a story like Maska which is all about legacy and inheritance,” he adds.
On work ahead, Meeraj confides in us that he is presently working on a feature film. “I have a couple of ideas, but all depends on which one shapes up first. It will be a film for me next.”
On the webspace, Neeraj again has few ideas and will take them next year, after he finishes writing on his feature.
“All depends on how the situation will be post this economy hit owing to the Coronavirus outbreak. The world will change after this spread. We need to see whether a totally new kind of life waits for us post this situation,” he explains.
Lastly, explaining on the beautiful title Maska the film has, Neeraj says, “Maska means butter. It also denotes smoothness, butter has qualities of warmth, it melts into your mouth and makes you feel good. The film is a very feel-good kind and very heartwarming. I wanted a title that encapsulates all of that in one term. Also, bun maska the food in the story is what connects the father to his son. And it is what connects the community to the café. So overall, Maska is an apt title.”
All the best for the next!!