'Baai' is homecoming for me: Hansal Mehta on returning to romance with 'Modern Love Mumbai'
New Delhi, May 8 (PTI) As somebody who first received recognition as a storyteller courtesy relationship dramas on television, directing a love story in the anthology series "Modern Love Mumbai" was like celebrating his on-screen journey with romance, says Hansal Mehta.
The filmmaker, an engineer by qualification, joined the entertainment industry at the beginning of the satellite era with Zee TV's popular food show "Khana Khazana" (1993) and went on to direct numerous romantic short stories for the network.
With "Baai", one of the episodes of the upcoming Mumbai version of the popular international anthology "Modern Love", Mehta said he has got the space to explore relationships in a detailed manner.
"'Baai' is like a homecoming for me. When I used to do short stories for Zee TV, that's where my work was discovered, I started with love stories. I enjoy making relationship dramas. This anthology has given me the extra impetus to explore this in a longer format," the director told PTI in an interview.
Produced by Pritish Nandy Communications, the Amazon Original series will feature six heart-warming stories about "discovering and exploring love in all its shades and emotions".
"Baai" features Mehta's "Scam 1992" star Pratik Gandhi, Hindi cinema veteran Tanuja and marks the acting debut of celebrity chef Ranveer Brar.
Inspired by one of the stories from the famous New York Times column 'Modern Love', the short follows Manzu (Gandhi), who returns to see his grandmother (Tanuja) at their home, and is struggling to open up about his sexuality with her.
The director said he had watched the American "Modern Love" and thoroughly enjoyed it, so when the opportunity to direct one of the episodes in the Mumbai version came he "didn't think twice".
"I was looking forward to it. I had watched "Modern Love" first two seasons and I enjoy watching love stories," he added.
With his contemporary take on romance, the filmmaker aims to present love in its "purest possible form", unhindered by the man-made barriers like "sex, age, religion".
"I feel love transcends barriers of age, sex, religion. I've treated it like a love story. The approach was to follow love as a purest emotion, to explore the purity of these relationships and go beyond all these man-made barriers. These are barriers which we have created because of conditioning. It's a sweet and pure love story," he said.
Citing the example of Raj Khosla's 1960 film "Bombai Ka Babu", starring Dev Anand and Sadhana, the director said love stories were much more complex and evolved during the early days of cinema, but the content became "regressive" somewhere in the middle.
He credits "Dil Chahta Hai" (2000) for bringing in the resurgence in the genre.
"I believe post 'Dil Chahta Hai', there has been a resurgence, more exploration, an attempt to tell stories beyond 'boy meets girl and parents don't agree'. Those narratives still exist but the perspective has changed. It's the process of evolution."
While he made chef Sanjeev Kapoor a household name with "Khana Khazana", Brar's cooking videos on the Internet made the director realise that there was an actor in him.
"I've been a fan of Ranveer's food for many years. During the pandemic, I used to watch a lot of his food videos online, and I realised there was an actor lurking in him somewhere," he said.
Mehta believes in Brar, who is known for hosting popular food-travel shows like "The Great Indian Rasoi", "Station Master's Tiffin" and "Himalayas the Offbeat Adventure", the industry has found an actor.
"Ranveer did a short audition with Mukesh Chabbra (casting director). He is really easy with the camera. I can just say an actor is born," he added.
"Modern Love Mumbai", also features stories directed by Vishal Bhardwaj, Shonali Bose, Dhruv Sehgal, Alankrita Shrivastava and Nupur Asthana.
For Mehta, it was fun to be a part of an anthology series as it gives filmmakers the freedom to experiment.
"For filmmakers, it's great fun to be part of an anthology... It gives them the freedom to experiment and show new facets of themselves without any pressure. And allows the audience to enjoy the work of these filmmakers who are coming out of their perceived comfort zone," he added.
The series premieres on Prime Video on May 13.