Sharan Sharma’s Mr & Mrs Mahi is a hit. And the affable talented young director tells me how the project was incepted. “I was constantly discussing various ideas and themes of the film while we were developing it, with Janhvi Kapoor. Just as a creative bouncing board. Since I had taken quite a lot of Mahima from my interpretation of Janhvi I knew she would be able to bring a lot of herself to this film. I needed an actor who had a lot of innocence, naivety, and a strong emotional core. Janhvi ticked all those boxes. I also needed someone who was willing to give their life to becoming a cricketer! And she did! I knew while working with her on Gunjan, that her ability to work hard is her super power. She can out work anyone. Her hunger and passion and purity towards film making is of the highest level. Hence I had no doubt that she would give it her all to become Mahima.I narrated the script to her, and that’s how she came on board the film.”

Sharan is all praise for his producer Karan Johar. “Karan Sir is the best producer anyone can ask for. I don’t see Karan sir just as a producer. For me he is a mentor, guide and my biggest support system.He had belief in this story when all I had was a one line idea. He told me that I should develop this story. He saw potential in it.Karan Sir is by far the kindest, warmest, most generous, most selfless person I’ve met in my life. He has backed me from day 1.I was his AD on Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Back then he told me that I should start trying to write and develop a film.He gives all his directors a lot of freedom during the journey. He trusts his directors completely. Whenever there is a crisis he is always the one to step in and support the director and the film.Through out the journey of Gunjan Saxena and Mr & Mrs Mahi, Karan has protected the film and me. He has always told me to cut out the noise and just focus on making the best film with honesty and sincerity. I feel so lucky and blessed to be working with Karan Sir! Creatively Karan Sir is very involved, however he will always give you the freedom to go with your voice. He has always encouraged me to follow my own instincts and conviction.”

The idea of Mr & Mrs Mahi started forming in Sharan Sharma’s head during the shooting of his debut film Gunjan Saxena. “I am a massive cricket fan. The sport means the world to me. It is a large part of my identity and personality. So I was very keen to explore a story set against the backdrop of cricket. The first idea that came into my mind was … what if a girl gets married to someone who gives wings to live her unfulfilled dream? From then the idea grew and changed quite a bit to finally becoming the story of Mr & Mrs Mahi.

Interestingly,Mr & Mrs Mahi focusses on not just the achiever but also her support system.

Sharan explains, “Very often in stories about people achieving their dreams, we focus on the achiever. But Nikhil Mehrotra ,my co-writer, and me were very keen to explore the journey of the support system. We felt that would allow us to explore something new and arrive at a new perspective and insight.We wanted to explore the story of two people, who are strangers, who come together in an arranged marriage, bond over their common love for cricket and then transform from strangers into a perfect partnership. It’s a story of a couple who come together and then find themselves through this journey.”

Interestingly Sharan’s idea of a cricket-based marital drama clicked with producer Karan Johar. “Even when I was an assistant director at Dharma I was trying to develop various cricket based films. But when Karan Sir liked the one line idea of this story, I jumped on it and took it forward. It was finally my chance to make a cricket based film.I am someone who actually wanted to be a cricketer in life, so this film is the closest I will come to living that dream! Hence this film comes from a very personal space. The script was written and fully developed after Gunjan Saxena released in August 2020.This film is not really inspired from any couples that I know of. However the characters of Mahendra and Mahima were developed from my observation of various people I’ve interacted with.I feel there is a Mahendra in all of us. All of us are in a way burdened by certain pressures of proving our worth. We all are burdened by the weight of wanting validation, and that insecurity can bring out the grey in all of us.”

Sharan founded Mahima’s character on his observations and understanding of what Janhvi was like few years ago. “Someone naive, innocent, a little lost, pure, a follower, someone who hadn’t yet found their own voice in the world. I know many like that. Many boys and girls who are a little back footed and kind of go along with the ways of the world. So I would say the characters of Mahendra and Mahima were inspired from my and Nikhil’s observations of the world and people we have met in our lives. In terms of Mahendra & Mahima’s on screen romance, we did want to create a vibe where Mahendra & Mahima were best friends, who were extremely compatible with each other!”

Sharan is also appreciative of Rajkummar Rao. “Raj is by far one of the best actors in India. He is truly a gift to Indian cinema. When he came on board the film,it was a very very big deal for me. While writing Nikhil and me didn’t write keeping an actor in mind, but we both knew that Raj would be the best fit for the role. In terms of Raj coming onto the film, I narrated the full script to him, and he immediately said yes. He liked the idea and thought of the film. Raj and me connected very easily. He has this pure dedication towards his work, which I absolutely love and admire.”

Parts of Mahi reminded me of Basu Chatterjee’s Piya Ka Ghar,Vijay Anand’s Guide and Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Abhimaan.

However Sharan’s inspirations are elsewhere, “These are all legendary films!Actually after writing the main story of the film, while I was bouncing it off to few people, one of my friends told me to watch Abhimaan. That’s when I saw the film.So to answer your questions, these were not actually my inspirations for Mahi.For me … films like Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar, Kabhi Haa Kabhi Naa, Pixar’s Soul … these are films which I love and which have stayed with me … and have inspired me in terms of what we are trying explore and say through Mahi.”

About his next project Sharan has several actors on his wishlist. “There are several actors I absolutely love and respect and love watching on the big screen. Actors like Aamir Khan, Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor are some of my favourites. Working with Rajkummar Rao in Mahi and Pankaj Tripathiji on Gunjan were definitely on my wishlist!Honestly right now I am completely blank. I’ve been so immersed in the experience of Mahi, that I have not been able to crack an idea for my next . I like this feeling of being blank … Hopefully now that Mr & Mrs Mahi is out, some inspiration will hit me and I will be off on another journey of exploration.”