'Will comment only if I am directing it...': 'Shabaash Mithu' helmer Srijit Mukherji on Sourav Ganguly biopic

National Award-winning filmmaker Srijit Mukherji is in Mumbai to begin the prep for the Mithali Raj biopic, Shabaash Mithu. The movie sees Taapsee Pannu stepping in Mithali's shoes. But, this is not the only cricket film that the filmmaker is associated with. Three years ago, the director was supposed to helm a movie based on the life of cricketer Sourav Ganguly, but it didn't work out then. And with Sourav Ganguly confirming that he has given a nod for his biopic last week, where does that leave Srijit? Is he still in the race to helm the movie?

Though Ganguly refused to share details, when quizzed for an update Srijit said, “Right now, I don’t know what is happening on that front. Ajit Andhare (COO, Viacom 18) is a cricket buff, and our aspirations started with that. Even before the web series Ray began, we had been planning Dada's [Sourav Ganguly] biopic. We met Sourav and discussed the plan of doing his biopic, but it didn’t come through. In fact, I met a couple of other producers also with Sourav because in 2018, he really wanted to make the biopic; it didn't work and I moved on.”

The project is still in it's nascent stage, with no director or cast being announced. But Ganguly had recommended Ranbir Kapoor's name to play him on screen. Last year, when he appeared on Neha Dhupia's chat show, he had also suggested Hrithik Roshan's name. So, who does Srijit feel would fit the part Hrithik or Ranbir? “I will comment on that only when I know I am going to direct the biopic,” the filmmaker chuckled.

Currently, Srijit is excited to start filming Shabaash Mithu. “Taapsee and I have met, discussed things and are raring to go. Shooting depends on a lot of factors — we need clearance for a stadiums depending on the place, dates of actors have to be confirmed, among other things. The shooting for the film had commenced, so now we have to see what to retain and what not. These things will take time to get sorted, but I am hopeful that it will be done soon,” Srijit informed.

Shabaash Mithu was initially being directed by Rahul Dholakia. In fact, he had even shot a part of the movie. But, last month Srijit took over the helms of the film after Rahul's exit. So, how does Srijit plan to take the movie forward? “It is a first for me to replace another director. But, I don’t look at it from an emotional point of view. It’s like the way often live footage is used in sports films, I am treating whatever has been shot as a footage. I need to make a movie, so I will use parts that are in sync with my vision for the film. The parts which don’t fit, will not be used. It’s as simple as that.”

Srijit says he was apprehensive as far as the script was concerned. “When I was asked to direct Shabaash Mithu, I was initially apprehensive because it is such a brilliant opportunity. I am getting to make a film on my first love, which is cricket and that too on one of the legends of the game. Everything was coming together, so what would happen if the script wasn’t up to my liking? But thankfully that didn’t happen. I loved the script, though I along with the writer, Priya Aven, made some alterations to it as per my vision for the film,” he shared.

While the announcement of the replacement came in June, the director had already started training and workshop for the cast. “Cricket is my first love. I am in Mumbai to begin prep and pre-production. I did some on-field workshops in Kolkata, mainly cricket training. The dramatic workshops haven’t started in full swing yet, but we are working towards that. Taapsee is shooting for another film and the moment she finishes, we will start our sessions. I conduct workshops before every film. Here, the workshops are going to be intensive as I am also a cricket buff and I have played the sport till university level and had a guest stint as an IPL commentator,” Srijit added.

Ask him about his lead actress and he gushes, “Taapsee is a fabulous actress and I like her choice of roles. Her filmography is fascinating. She is doing two sports films – Shabaash Mithu and Rashmi Rocket, and then she did movies like Haseen Dillruba and Manmarziyaan... She has an awesome range of roles and works hard for every character. She gives her 100 percent even to those that don’t centre around her.”

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