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Sandeep Singh: I will never make a film about Sushant Singh Rajput’s life. People have offered me money for it – Exclusive – Times of India

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Filmmaker Sandeep Singh‘s next, Safed, is the heartwarming tale of a widow and a transgender who, isolated and abandoned by society, find solace and love in each other. As the movie gears up for an OTT release on December 29, Sandip talks to ETimes about his unconventional subject, what it takes to make a film work and more…
Why did you choose the subject of a widow-transgender love story?
To start off with, why do you and I (women and men) call them third gender? They don’t rank us as first and second.Why do we discriminate? Recently, a transgender was teased as the third gender to an extent where the person died by suicide. Seeing all this made me make Safed. My plea to the honorable Supreme Court is that they give the right for transgenders to have the equality to live their life and express their love.
What were the struggles you faced during the making of the movie?
I am an outsider. I have realized that nobody is going to support you or put their money on you. If you are talented, they will compliment you and move on. People forget that money doesn’t make films. Films make money. The industry is divided into pieces. I request everyone to acknowledge talent and give breaks to the deserving.

I have made this film in 50 lakhs rupees. Big producers were not ready to support this film. AR Rahman gave some respect to Safed at Cannes. It took three years to release this film. People were not ready to take the film despite me offering them for free. Finally, Zee5 came on board.

Tell us a bit about your casting Meera Chopra and Abhay Verma.
Abhay is from Panipat and was struggling. He used to do some ads here and there. I spotted him and he worked as an assistant in my office for a year. He started preparing for this role. He used to walk from his home to my office in a salwar-kameez. He used to wear clothes like Kinnars in Banaras and would tease men at the ghats. As for Meera, I approached many actresses who are my friends for the lead role. They showed solidarity with the subject, but didn’t do the film. I offered this role to Ankita Lokhande and Mouni Roy too. But Meera came on board in a ten-minute conversation. Every member of the cast and crew has worked for free on this film. They have not taken any remuneration from me.
Did Abhay get cold feet?
He was scared that if he is not able to do justice to this role, then his career would be over. He called me at 3 am at night and asked, “Would it be okay if I don’t do this film?” I made him understand and then, he never discussed it again.

Old video of Sushant Singh Rajput dancing with Ankita Lokhande grabs attention; netizen says ‘Wish they didn’t break up’

How has the transition from producer to director been?
I wanted to become a director only. But I knew that nobody will believe in me. So, I produced many films. I told Sanjay Leela Bhansali that I want to direct, but he thinks that my mind is of a good businessman. He told me not to direct which disappointed me a little. That’s when I decided to move out of Bhansali Productions. But I learnt a lot from him.
Do you think Safed should have released in theatres?
No. Because the censor board would have killed it. That is the reason why I wanted to direct it because I knew that the audience wouldn’t be able to digest a story of two hours that would shock them. There’s a community that we need to accept. Let’s see who supports us.
Does it help to take a film to festivals?
I don’t want to become a festival director because people here would give me respect, but not money. I won’t send my film to many festivals. I want rewards, not awards.

Do you want to make a film on Sushant Singh Rajput’s life?
Not at all. I think people should let him rest in peace. I will never make a film about his life. People have offered me a lot of money for the same. They don’t realize what his family, friends and relatives must have gone through. I didn’t see SSRians (his fans) at his funeral. They were not there earlier, not at his house, nor the hospital. I was standing there alone. People should have stood by me but they made an issue out of it, and for what? People were targeting me and others just to gain popularity on social media. The saddest thing was that his family never came in support of me. They could have given one statement and my life would have changed. but they made me struggle again. This year is my restart.
One journalist sent me a voice message saying, “Sandeep ji ab aapka yahan kaam khatam. Ab aap wapas gaon jaao ya toh jail chale jaoge. Log aapke munh pe thookenge.” (you are done here, go back to your village or you will end up in jail) I still have that voice note saved. I was very low. For six months, media was standing outside my building.
What’s next?
Main Atal Hoon will release in January 2024. I approached Pankaj Tripathi for the film and he readily agreed. With director Ravi Jadhav, I was doing Bal Shivaji. People told me not to take a Marathi director and take someone from UP. But I wanted Ravi Jadhav to direct the film and he agreed to do it. Apart from these, Swatantra Veer Savarkar will hopefully be released in February 2024. Filmmaker Zeeshan Ahmad has gone to court against Atal… They had the rights to a book on which they wanted us to make the film. However, we also had a book that we eventually went ahead with.



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