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EXCLUSIVE: Sandeep Kewlani, director of Akshay Kumar’s Sky Force, reveals that he was the initial producer of Sairat; also opens up on his unique bond with Rajkumar Hirani: “He told me, ‘Why waste 5 or 10 years working under me? You can start making films right now’”

en Bollywood News EXCLUSIVE: Sandeep Kewlani, director of Akshay Kumar’s Sky Force, reveals that he was the initial producer of Sairat; also opens up on his unique bond with Rajkumar Hirani: “He told me, ‘Why waste 5 or 10 years working under me? You can start making films right now’”

Today, April 29, marks the birthday of Sandeep Kewlani, the director of Akshay Kumar’s upcoming film, Sky Force. Coincidentally, April 29 has been an important date in his life. This was the day two years ago when he made his debut in Bollywood as a writer with the Ajay Devgn and Amitabh Bachchan starrer Runway 34. April 29 was also the day when the biggest Marathi blockbuster, Sairat (2016), was released nationwide and made history. Not many are aware that initially, Sandeep Kewlani was a part of this much-loved film. The writer-producer-director opened up about this aspect in an exclusive interview with Bollywood Hungama.

EXCLUSIVE: Sandeep Kewlani, director of Akshay Kumar’s Sky Force, reveals that he was the initial producer of Sairat; also opens up on his unique bond with Rajkumar Hirani: “He told me, ‘Why waste 5 or 10 years working under me? You can start making films right now’”

At the very beginning, Sandeep Kewlani said, “My journey in the film industry also began on April 29! It was the day when I decided to move to Mumbai and pursue a career in the film industry back in 2010. I began my journey as a filmmaker in Marathi cinema. I worked on films like Ajinkya (2012), Classmates (2015), Coffee Ani Barach Kahi (2015), etc. During this period, I attended a screening of Nagraj Manjule’s Fandry (2014). That's when I met Nagraj first, and he shared his script for Sairat with me. My team, along with another producer friend of mine from Pune, Mr. Shinde, were captivated by the story and decided to support the project.”

Sandeep continued, “Then we began the casting and signed Rinku Rajguru and Akash Thosar. We conducted auditions and shortlisted actors, after which we made the final selections. Nagraj also had a clear vision of what he wanted. Rinku, in fact, was Nagraj’s discovery. We also finalised the music director duo Ajay-Atul and worked on refining the script.”

Explaining why he couldn’t proceed further, he revealed, “During the shoot of Classmates, our attention was divided, and Sairat took a back seat. However, Nagraj was adamant about shooting the film in the summer. Therefore, we wished him good luck and had to step down from Sairat. Later, Zee Studios came on board, and the rest is history.”

The initial teaser poster of Sairat was launched a few years before the film's release, and it featured Sandeep Kewlani’s name as one of the producers. In July 2013, an announcement party was held for Sairat as well as Coffee Ani Barach Kahi at JW Marriott Juhu, Mumbai.

When asked about his transition from Marathi to Hindi films, Sandeep Kewlani responded, “I ventured into the Marathi film industry to gain hands-on experience. ‘Aap theoretical knowledge kitna bhi le lo, picture set par hi banti hai!’, No matter how much theoretical knowledge you acquire, living on a live film set is crucial for any aspiring filmmaker to grasp the intricacies of cinema and its various departments. I felt this is my world, my true calling.”

He added, “After working in Marathi cinema for 4 years, I decided to enter Bollywood and work as a writer and director. Every time I read a script, my reaction would be, ‘Something is not right or something is missing.’ A known writer, who is also a good friend of mine, got upset and complained, ‘Tumko kuch pasand nahin aata, tum khud hi likh lo’. "I realized that he was right! That gave me motivation. That's how I started writing."

Sandeep Kewlani, at this point, talked about how Rajkumar Hirani’s advice proved to be a godsend for him, “His film 3 Idiots (2009) changed my life. I saw that film during a tough phase in my life. I was directionless. My then-girlfriend’s family did not accept our relationship. Thanks to 3 Idiots, I knew what I wanted to do in life – that I’d marry this girl and I’d be a filmmaker. And eventually, I did marry that girl, Komal, who’s my wife and my life. Also today, I am a filmmaker (smiles).”

Upon being asked how Rajkumar Hirani inspired him and if there are any commonalities between them, he replied, “There are many things common between Rajkumar Sir and myself. We both are from Nagpur, both are Sindhis, and both belong to business families, who became filmmakers after coming to Mumbai. He’s like my silent guru. Even today, if I am stuck while writing or in anything, I just go back to watching his films and automatically find all my answers; that is a good way to proceed with my script. I don’t borrow or copy from his films, but I just get the divine answer I was looking for.”

Have you ever met Rajkumar Hirani? Sandeep replied, “Yes, I met him twice. The first time, I expressed my desire to assist him. He smiled and asked me what I do. Proudly, I mentioned that I am a filmmaker and had already been part of a few Marathi films. Without hesitation, he responded, ‘You don’t need me. Go and make your film. I am a patient director. It takes me 5 years to make a film. Why waste 5 or 10 years working under me? You can start making films right now’.”

Sandeep then expressed, “That advice gave me a new perspective on looking towards my future. Hence, I started working on my own scripts. This is when I stumbled upon the idea to make Runway 34. I found the subject very interesting and studied the incident in detail, then wrote the story. However, I wanted to improve my script and dialogues. This is when I met Aamil Keeyan Khan. We both collaborated on Runway 34’s script. Through a common friend, we met Ajay Devgn sir and narrated the script to him. I was nervous as it was the first time I was narrating to a superstar. But he liked it so much that he immediately decided to do the film. The best part was, he didn’t ask me about my experience or where I come from primarily. For an outsider like me, it was surreal. Because of Ajay Devgn, I am in Hindi cinema today. He is like a big brother and mentor to me who believed in me when no one else was even ready to meet during the challenging times. He will always have a special place and respect in my heart.”

Sandeep also confessed, “I always wanted to direct, so I requested Ajay sir to allow me to be his associate director on Runway 34. He agreed and replied, ‘Without you, I can’t make this movie. And anyway, you have to be on the set’.”

Sandeep added, “While working on Runway 34, Ajay Sir offered me Bholaa (2023). Aamil and I worked on this film. This was also the time when I was working on Sky Force’s script. I narrated it to Maddock Films and they greenlit the project.”

Before signing off, we asked him about his second meeting with Rajkumar Hirani. Sandeep shared, “The second time I met him was when I had already bagged Runway 34. I was at a movie screening where I met Raju Sir. I reminded him of the advice, how I took it seriously, and that I am a part of Runway 34. He gave a pat on my back and said, ‘I am proud of you’. I also reminded him that I am also from Nagpur. He smiled and replied, ‘I remember you. You don’t need to give me your introduction’.”

Sandeep smiled and said, “The relationship I have with Raju sir, it is beyond explanation, “Woh mere Dronacharya hainMain unka Eklavya. Eklavya ki tarah main bhi duur se unse sab seekh raha hoon.”

He signed off by saying, “I hope one day he will call me himself to tell me that, “Tumhari picture dekhi and I am proud of you’ (smiles). That would be the biggest award of my life!”

Also Read: Akshay Kumar starrer Sky Force wraps up; to retain its scheduled date on October 2, 2024

More Pages: Sky Force Box Office Collection


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