What would Modern Love be if there wasn’t a chapter on self-love and self-acceptance? Modern Love Mumbai also features a short film on the subject with Shonali Bose at the helm of it and Fatima Sana Shaikh at the heart of it. The short is titled Raat Rani with Lalli (Fatima) learning to love herself and find a new holding in life after her husband leaves her. While the short film is directed by Shonali, the filmmaker told News18.com that it was writer-director Nilesh Maniyar who selected the story for her.
Shonali and Nilesh go back a long way. They collaborated on Margarita with a Straw and The Sky Is Pink. “He was about to direct his own feature but I grabbed him and said ‘please write this for me.’ Actually, he’s the creator of Raat Rani. He wrote an amazing adaptation story and then a screenplay along with John Belanger and I was blown away as was everybody else with the script. Very, very excited that it is his baby, nothing to do with me. I was terrified whether could I do justice to what Nilesh has created,” Shonali said.
The director confesses that Raat Rani wasn’t her first pick. She had her eyes on the story which eventually went to Vishal Bharadwaj, which was titled Mumbai Dragon. “Vishal and I at the same time clicked that and his I believe went one minute before although I doubted them. I said, ‘Just because he is more famous, you (gave him). I want that (she laughs).’ And I cried,” she recalled.
However, after Nilesh chose the story for her, she realised that Raat Rani had a connection with her personal life. “Nilesh chose it for me and you won’t believe it and he knows this about my life that I, after losing Ishan, was a single mother living in Santa Monica. I had a cycle that really saved my life. I would cycle around, I would talk to Ishaan. I found myself on that beautiful cycle. It is so to do with my life but Nilesh chose it for me and I am so grateful to him because actually, it is to do with my life. but not of my choosing,” she confessed.
Fatima also revealed that Raat Rani came her way when she was struggling emotionally. “I am very happy it came to me because it came to me at a time in my life when I was also struggling emotionally. Sometimes, things come your way in life when you really need them and this is that film. As Lalli (her character in the short film) starts liberating, as Lalli starts loving herself, I feel that is the same thing that has happened to me,” she said.
The Dangal actress went on to reveal that when she found out that Modern Love Mumbai was in the making and Shonali was going to be a part of it, she knew she had to be a part of it. “When I got to know that Modern Love is in the making and that Shonali is directing, I told my team that please just inform her that I am interested and I love her work. As far as I know, somebody was already selected. But that was not the case. So I was like, ‘bus bol do na, bus bol do na,'” she recalled. Fortunately, the word reached Shonali and things eventually fell in place.
Whereas for Bhupendra Jadawat, Raat Rani was a birthday gift. “I auditioned for Raat Rani on my birthday. My friends said, let’s get together, it’s your birthday. I said my birthday celebrations will keep happening, but right now I have something else in front of me. I went to the audition at 4:30 pm and left at 9:30 pm. After I was selected, I met Fatima. When I reached her house, she was seated with a dialect coach and a great process began,” he recalled.
The original Modern Love series has already set a benchmark when it comes to telling a story about different types of love, especially about self-love and self-acceptance. Ask them about possible comparisons between the Mumbai edition with the US one, and Nilesh says, “Let there be comparisons with the original one, I am not scared. They’ve done a fantastic job, I’m just proud of them.”
“And actually that story, because I liked the Anne Hathaway story the most. It’s a valid question because it is a high standard to go for but I also agree with Nilesh that what Fatima has done is no less than what Anne Hathaway has done,” Shonali added. “Bahut pressure ho gaya (I’ve got too much pressure now),” Fatima reacts with a laugh.
Modern Love Mumbai premieres on Amazon Prime Video on May 13.
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