“Maatr was not made for critics but to galvanize women to unite and demand changes in society” – Michael Pellico

American writer and producer, Michael Pellico, discusses ‘Maatr’ (21 April 2017), his views on Bollywood and his upcoming projects in this interview. His work includes a number of US documentaries and films, such as ‘Tim Timmerman’, ‘Hope of America’ (Executive Producer), ‘I See You’ (Short) (Executive Producer), ‘Queen Mimi’ (Documentary) (Executive Producer). He is credited as the writer of ‘Maatr’, which is touted as the comback movie of popular 90s actress, Raveena Tandon.

Tell us how ‘Maatr’ landed in your lap.
I was fortunate to meet Ashtar Sayad, an Indian director and immediately realized we shared many of the same views on social issues. I then wrote the story of ‘Maatr’ and based it in India because I wanted to collaborate with Ashtar. I loved his amazing directing style.

‘Maatr’ trailer shows Raveena Tandon’s character fighting for justice after her daughter Tia is raped. Was it difficult to write about such a subject, considering how sensitive rape is currently in India?
I did not find it difficult to write the story because for years I was aware of the numerous rapes both in India but in too many countries. The fact it was a sensitive subject just made me more determined to write the story.

What were the challenges working on ‘Maatr’?
The difficulty was to make sure we portrait rape not primarily as sexual crime but a crime of violence against a helpless victim. To me rape is a manifestation of the disrespect men have of women. Rape is just a more heinous example of the way women are treated by society.

How was the experience working with Raveena Tandon?
Working with Raveena was a wonderful experience. She was perfect for the part because she is extremely smart, beautiful, a great mother and extremely professional.

What are her best qualities as an actress?
She often suggested scene changes based on her past experiences and as a mother. I learned so much from her.

Your past work dealt with what is happening in society. For example, ‘Queen Mimi’ looked at homelessness. What incites you to produce such assignments?
I have always been drawn to issues of social injustice and this topic needs to be discussed as part of larger social issues.

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