Nagesh Kukunoor, who is ready with his next offering, Lakshmi, admits that he has got a loyal audience in the youth. “They are always at the forefront of change. They embrace new ideas without being cynical,” he says.
Based on “several true stories”, Lakshmi portrays the journey of a 13-year-old girl, Bangaru Lakshmi, who is abducted and thrown into prostitution. She is later rescued by an NGO and she drags her traffickers to court. This time, Nagesh has taken the “the hard-hitting material” directly to his audience.
Ahead of its release in January 2014 and submission for international film fests, he is screening the film in colleges in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad and is holding discussions.
“I like interacting with the youth. And, this time, I predominantly want women to back the film,” adds Kukunoor.
But will the “free” screenings not eat into business? And what if there’s an early negative buzz? “Footfalls are the last thing that we need to care about in India. We are a huge population,” says Kukunoor, adding, “In two weeks the trailer had 1,50,000 YouTube views.”
But Lakshmi will come to Hyderabad colleges only by the year-end and Nagesh is excited because the film was shot entirely here in “22 days flat”.
So, is Lakshmi about an actual Hyderabad case? “No. I got the idea while interacting with girls who had been rescued by the NGO that I support. And, sadly, AP is on the list for having the highest number of human trafficking cases.”
In the Rs 5-crore film, director Nagesh also plays a pimp. “I didn’t want others to fake the Deccani accent, which I know well,” says Nagesh, who roped in 28-year-old singer Monali for the lead role. “I was clear I didn’t want a child to do this role and be exposed to the agony of a child prostitute.”