Now it can be told. According to the very selfmade Kiran Rao her former husband and forever bestfriend Aamir Khan was very keen to play the loutish cop that Ravi Kishan played in Laapata Ladies. “Aamir tested for the role of Manohar the cop(played by Ravi Kissan). His audition was really good.He had brought in his own brand of wickedness to the character and we both enjoyed what he did.”

Eventually both Kiran and Aamir were happy were both happy that Aamir didn’t do the part.

Says Kiran, “His stardom would have somehow tipped the scales an also tilted the expectations of the audience.Also, I feel Ravi Kissan brings something no organic and natural to the role. He really fits it like a glove. And the humour that he ingests into the character with his command over the language and command over craft, is amazing. I think both Aamir and I were happy that it was Ravi who played Inspector Manohar.”

Kiran feels the fresh faces in Laapataa Ladies did the trick. “The idea of having an all-new cast was with us from the start. For that, I am grateful to Aamir for being an empathetic producer. Once we decided on a new cast we brought on board our casting director and we spread our net far and wide on social media , theatre groups, etc, to get us interesting faces. The responses pored in and we were quite happy to see the amount of talent we have in this country waiting to be discovered. We took our time to find those faces that would bring in freshness and great acting and the ability to surprise the audience.I am happy that our lead cast, though they’ve done other things on webshows, etc, are still so fresh that they are unrecognizable on the screen. I am really happy I got to work with new talent as well as redoubtable actors like Ravi Kissanji who is delicious as the cop Manohar as well as Chhaya Kadam who is phenomenal .

Kiran’s previous directorial came twelve years ago. “The break of 10-12 years just happened. I was actually retrying to write and wasn’t ever happy with the scripts I was developing.Then I gave birth to my son Azad in the year that my first directorial Dhobi Ghat was released. So I guess a lot of my creative energy went into being a mum. At the same time, I was working on many things, trying to lead a good life, trying to find a good story when, in 2018 Aamir(her former husband Aamir Khan) found this interesting story of two brides and offered it to me. I have been kinda working on it since 2018.”

Kiran was very sure of what she wanted to achieve in Laapataa Ladies. “I was very sure that first and foremost we wanted to make an entertaining and fun film. Any message that we wanted to convey, we wanted to make sure we did so through the characters’ experiences, through subtext rather than exposition. I think audiences go to the movies to have a good time,and I am one of them. So we worked on a script that was fun for us.The story gave us the chance to explore so many diverse lives, women and men.And so certainly the idea of the women’s identity was a theme we wanted to explore quite closely. We were also very keen on having a very unusual male protagonist who is unafraid to show his feeling to be emotional and to yet to have very strong sense of conviction and be strong in other vital ways.So yes, the idea of exploring various ideas such as an independent-minded woman was important to us.

Kiran was acutely aware of her distance from the world in Laapataa Ladies. “I knew I was not from a rural background even though I’ve travelled extensively in rural India thanks to my work with the Pani Foundation .Then of course there is the fact that I am from a regular middleclass with our roots in a village. I relied on instinct, researching and observation. Also I did a lot of recc-ing,and that really helped. We set the story in a not-so-distant past. To find the right locations we had to travel a lot. That helped us to immerse in the world we wanted to create and gave us the correct perspective for our mise en scene and the milieu, and the general vibe we wanted, beautiful fresh and familiar. I wanted to create a world that was real at the same time a little bit folktale-ish and I am glad we were allowed to shoot in real villages and on real railway stations and were able to capture the beauty of the Indian heartland.”

Kiran, “I think this has been a great year for Hindi cinema. Whether it is big or small films,cinema is coming back to life.To top it, we have a film like 12th Fail doing so well, which is such a heartening thing for people like us who want to tell real stories and stories which have no special effects or big stars.I feel there is room for all kinds of stories on screen. It is we in the film industry who have created these unreal expectation of 100 and 200 and 500 crore collections and blockbuster weekends when we should actually be looking at making films that remain relevant over the years. I know Laapata Ladies will eventually find its audience. One can’t fault big films for being successful. More power to them. But let there be room for the little gems as well.”

I joke that I hope Kiran’s next will happen during my lifetime. She laughs,, “I certainly hope it happens in your lifetime. I am aiming to be far quicker this time around.I have been polishing up several story ideas. I am working simultaneously on a webseries and a limited series and all kinds of things. Let’s see. I hope I don’t have another dry spell. If I do I hope it is not thirteen years long.”