Anubhav, a movie about an actor-turned-gigolo, is slated for a summer release this year. In an exclusive interview with IndiaFM, Anoop Menon, writer-cum-actor, tells us about his experience penning the story of this film and dealing with a theme as bold as male prostitution.
How did you come up with the storyline of Anubhav?
The movie is inspired by a real-life character I saw in Mumbai about two years ago. He was a theatre actor and due to unfortunate circumstances he was forced, rather embroiled in this cobweb called prostitution. That was the take-off point from where I got the idea. Later when I interviewed many male prostitutes to get a better understanding of this, and also did some research work, I found out that these guys had a different story to tell altogether. Very commonly we see that female prostitution is not that big an issue right now because most people know they do it for a living and this has been shown in films before. But male prostitution is still an untouched topic in Indian cinema. So we needed some other platform than the bare necessities of life to standardize the story. So I had to start his story with a theatre background.
You are the writer of this film. How did you decided to act in it too?
The character I play is a South-Indian guy. So we were looking for a South-Indian person to play this role. After much deliberation we came to the conclusion that I should play this role. My last movie, also directed by Rajeev Nath, was Moksham with Zeenat Aman. It was an unconventional love story between a 45-year old woman and a 30-year old man. So I had the Mumbai connection at that time itself. So they thought I would be appropriate and that is how I landed up being the actor as well.
Tell us about the two drama-school dropouts in this film.
My character is called Aditya and Sanjay Suri's character is called Anubhav. Both of them have been shown to be school-of-drama dropouts. And after that they both pursue Bollywood dreams. Their film gets shelved and it is not as easy as they thought it would be, to make it big in the industry. The characters were unable to cross even the first step. And then something very obscure happens in Anubhav's life and the story goes ahead from there. My film is not about how Anubhav becomes a prostitute. It is about how an actor is compelled to be a prostitute. And then the actor in him takes over. He sees every client as a prospective character in his film. He tries out different roles with them. So he reaches a point where he doesn't know what he is - is he an actor, is he a prostitute, or just an ordinary man? He becomes immune to this identity crisis from which he can't get out. That is the crux of the story.
What is Gul's role in the film?
Gul Panag plays the role of Anubhav's wife Meera. In his identity crisis, Anubhav comes to a fatal point where something that no husband and wife could imagine, happens in the climax. There is a scene between the two in the climax, which has never been done in world cinema before.
How was it working with Jackie Shroff?
Jackie Shroff plays the role of Ibrahim Vakil, who is the teacher of the two drama school dropouts. He is such a happy-go-lucky guy who has very radical ideas about what life is, what cinema is and what theatre is. He is an unconventional thinker. It was fantastic working with Jackie; he is such a good guy.
Male prostitution is something that is going to be depicted on Indian cinema for the very first time. How do you think the audience will react to it?
I am more concerned about how the people are going to take it. Anubhav as a story is going to give a shock. It is going to be a morality issue here in India. It is going to create a controversy, I know that. And it is going to raise a few eyebrows but we are ready to take it because unless and until we target something very sweeping and unconventional we can never move forward. Everyone knows that male prostitution is prevalent in this country so we can't turn a blind eye to it.
How was your experience working for this film?
Sanjay is a fantastic soul. Gul and Jackie both are also great. Everybody was great to work with. And we could never have got better producers than Famous Studios. Rajeevji is an excellent director and I am very thankful to all of them. We were supplied with whatever we needed. The experience was fabulous.
What are your expectations from this film?
Sky high! But I pray to the audience that they should not be prejudiced before they see the film. There is nothing in this film that a family can't watch together.
Anubhav is a very clean film. I insist that every husband and wife must go watch this film because it is a film about love. Besides everything about male prostitution, the basic strength of Anubhav, is that it is a pure love story which tells you the meaning of love. It tells you how trust and belief in each other helps carry on with life, that is the basic message of this film.