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Ketan Mehta: It was heartbreaking to not do Freedom Radio

Updated on: 29 February,2024 10:26 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Upala KBR |

Director Ketan rues having to put brakes on biopic of freedom fighter-aunt Usha Mehta, after Ae Watan Mere Watan makers announced Sara-led film on same subject

Ketan Mehta: It was heartbreaking to not do Freedom Radio

Ae Watan Mere Watan is set to première online this month

A heartfelt tribute to his aunt Usha Mehta, who had played a crucial role in India’s freedom movement—that’s how Ketan Mehta had envisioned Freedom Radio. In May 2022, the director and producer Anubhav Sinha announced the ambitious biopic. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. After the Sara Ali Khan-led Ae Watan Mere Watan was announced last year, Ketan was persuaded by Sinha to drop their project as both movies had the same subject. 

Now, as the Karan Johar production is slated to première on Prime Video on March 21, Ketan remembers how his film was to be an intimate portrait of his aunt, who established the underground radio station, Congress Radio, during the Quit India movement. “Developing this story was pure joy. Sifting through her personal diaries and delving into my own memories have been a crucial part of the work. We were planning to make Freedom Radio, but another film was already being made on the same subject. That had progressed substantially, and we were still in the pre-production stage. It wouldn’t have been wise to repeat it,” he says. The decision to drop the story, which he held so dear, was not easy. “It was heartbreaking when we decided to not do Freedom Radio. But that’s part of filmmaking; you have to take it in your stride.”

Ketan Mehta and Usha Mehta Ketan Mehta and Usha Mehta 

The team of Ae Watan Mere Watan released the teaser in January 2023, while Johar and Khan launched a motion poster at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa last November. In director Kannan Iyer’s film, Khan steps into the shoes of the late Mehta, who was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1998. Did the film’s team reach out to Ketan or his family during their research? “Not at all. We were planning to tell her story, with flashes from her childhood till India’s independence in 1947. I lived with my aunt for 15 years before she passed away. So, we shared a deep connection.”

One wonders about the road ahead for Freedom Radio. Has he shelved the biopic completely? “I’m not making it for the time being. We had an independent perspective, and since [we had] personal knowledge of the family, it would have been a richer film. But Anubhav felt that having two similar stories come out was not the best idea. We kept it on the backburner; we’ll see how it works out.”

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