MMaking a nationally award-winning film was never part of Samruddhi Porey’s plan. She is a graduate in microbiology and a lawyer by profession, but always loved to tell stories as a child.
In 2010, she directed her first film, Mala Aai Vhaychay (I want to be a mother). This Marathi film focuses on the topic of surrogacy in India and has won seven state awards and two national awards. The film’s carefully woven narrative, starring Urmila Kanetkar, is about a foreign couple who sign a deal with a rural Maharashtra woman to be the surrogate mother of their child.
The film received critical worldwide acclaim and was even remade in Telugu (Welcome Obama) by acclaimed director Singeetam Srinivasa Rao in 2013. Now Maddock Films Pvt Ltd is set to release its Hindi remake, ‘Mimi ‘with Kriti Sanon, Pankaj Tripathi and Sai Tamhankar on Netflix.
It finds a special place in Samruddhi’s life, as the story was inspired by a case she worked on while she was a lawyer.
An actual couple who abandoned one of these contracts within six months of the surrogate’s pregnancy after finding out that the child could be born with a disability. However, the child was born without one. The biological mother wanted it now, but the surrogate refused. So the two women approached Samruddhi. Moved by the question, she delved into the subject and discovered the dark realities of female carriers in India.
What has followed since is a plethora of awards and recognitions, as well as a whole new world for Samruddhi.
“I am delighted to see my child (film) growing up. I made and nurtured this movie like my own baby with a lot of hardship, love, commitment and care. Hindi film may have its additional creative input, but the message is the same. Surrogacy has been a suppressed topic in our country due to the highly unregulated trade and unethical practices surrounding it. For example, brokers often end up taking the lion’s share, mothers run away with the newborn, and families are duped, ”says Samruddhi. The best India.
Making a film on an often stigmatized social subject is not easy, especially for someone who has never owned a camera before. However, Samruddhi embarked on this journey without any cinematic relationship, experience, or production support. Its sole purpose was to bring the problem to light.
Finding success despite the absence of takers
Born and raised in Amravati, Samruddhi would watch movies, give them a creative touch, and tell this version to her friends and family. While the film bug never really went away, like most children, she grew up and chose a non-film career. At 20, she married and moved to Mumbai, ironically the hub of Hindi cinema.
She graduated here and quickly decided to pursue law studies at Government Law College. “After working for a brief time in a lab, I realized this wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I wanted a job where I could help people and that’s how the law came into the picture. At the end of my studies, I was already the mother of two daughters. With the support of my husband and family, I began to practice civil and criminal law. During the 15 years of my career, I have fought many cases and each one marked me. I helped disadvantaged people and focused on contributing to the empowerment of women, ”she says.
To remember each case, as well as the people and emotions involved, Samruddhi kept a personal journal. The stories served as an inspiration and a reminder of how justice plays such a crucial role in a person’s life.
His reconnection with cinema was made through one of his cases for a film company. As a legal advisor, she ended up giving suggestions in the script. Impressed by his contributions, the producer asked him to write the story in his own style. She spent the whole night weaving a story. The exercise gave him an immense sense of satisfaction, which served as a starting point for a career change.
So Samruddhi took a degree in filmmaking at the University of Mumbai and started writing a script on surrogacy. She directed, wrote, produced, acted and did a lot more to complete the film.
The hardest part, she says, was finding a white child for the role of Madhav the son. “We auditioned 200 children, but none did the job. I finally found my actor in a mall. I convinced his parents over a cup of coffee to let their child act in a regional film with a director for the first time. Incidentally, the boy, Aiden Barkely, was a surrogate child, so the father understood the plot and the message of my film. I used my savings to turn in 15 days in the interiors of the Melghat-Chikhaldara belt of the district of Amravati in Vidarbha. It was a crazy experience but done with complete sincerity and love. ”
However, there were no takers for the film. No distributor was willing to bet on a new director and a subject as precarious as this. So Samruddhi reinvested his own funds and gave it a theatrical release. Her worst nightmare came true when the film received a disappointing response at the box office. Yet she continued to fund it and directed it to the theater for 100 days.
Things took a dramatic turn when her film was accepted at film festivals not only in India but across the world, including the prestigious London International Film Awards. “The film resumed and the shows were sold out. Receiving two national awards was the icing on the cake, ”she adds.
After the success of this film, Samruddhi directed two feature films – Dr Prakash Baba Amte – The real hero (2014) with Nana Patekar, and Hemalkasa (2018). Samruddhi is currently working on several scripts on various social issues and hopes to start filming soon.
Edited by Divya Sethu