Shoojit Sircar on the origins of ‘October’, how he treats deaths and if Dan still loves Shiuli

I watched Shoojit Sircar’s October last week. I walked out of the theatre numb. I saw the film again last weekend. I walked out of the theatre feeling loved and heartbroken at the same time.

I loved October with all the love I had.

And I’m ready to love it more, with all that’s left, with all that I’ll have again.

October features Varun Dhawan as Dan, an endearing hotel trainee student who undergoes a transformation when his colleague Shiuli, played by Banita Sandhu, is hospitalised after a freak accident.

I met Shoojit at his office recently to speak about everything, love, longing and grief.

In an interview with PTI, the director explains the origins of the film, why his characters behave the way they do and his biggest take away from October.

Excerpts:

Q) What’s your mental space right now?
A: I’m happy that the film and my craft has been appreciated. My directorial craft, from cinematography, music, how I edited, treated the characters, how honestly it was portrayed- all have been appreciated. It’s giving me joy that everyone has caught the craft which I was also exploring myself.

Q) But your craft as a director was always appreciated…
A: Every film is different. I had never tried this genre. To hold on to yourself, not let it go, not to play it to the gallery, be melodramatic. Holding on to yourself and still be relatable and realistic was a challenge.

Q) Was there ever a temptation to be melodramatic because there are points in the story where you could’ve gone that way.
A: I was sure from day one when I revived the script, that I will not go overboard in terms of performances, music, capturing of scenes. I had to restrain myself.

Q) You previously mentioned that the film draws heavily from your personal experiences. Were you Dan at any point of your life?
A: With my mother, yes I was Dan. She went into coma in 2004 for three and a half months in Delhi. Some of the similar doctors from that hospital gave us medical advice for this film too. I don’t know if I was exactly like Dan, but I went through similar things which any coma patient’s family goes through. Talking to her, waiting, sleeping in the hospital, the crunches of the money. Constant debates within the family and doctors- to pull or not to pull the plug. That’s a big debate which goes on when someone is on a ventilator for months. I’ve gone through these dilemmas.

Q) How old were you back then?
A: I would’ve been in my late 30s.

Q) What did that period do to you?
A: It definitely had a deep impact, it was a learning (experience) and since then I knew everything what happens in a comatose situation. Coma became my study since then. It’s an absolute uncharted territory.

Q) So was ‘October’ one of the first stories you wanted to share with the world before you made ‘Yahaan’?
A: ‘October’ story came from Juhi (Chaturvedi, screenwriter) but my only instruction to Juhi was, ‘can there be an unconditional love portrayed like a mother and child through a relationship.’ That was my basic idea.

Q) So what was the starting point for ‘October’?
A: My life, then bit of ‘Shoebite’ (his unreleased film starring Amitabh Bachchan) also dealt with comatose. Then Juhi’s mother was also on ventilator for a long time. So she came up with this thought and during ‘Piku’ we started working on it. She came up with the first draft around May 2016. I was really touched by the it was written. The process took us almost one and a half, two years.

Q) Is that the reason why—that your mother was in coma and Juhi’s was on ventilator—that ‘October’ has really strong mothers. The scene between Shuili and Dan’s mothers in the hospital is really powerful…
A: Yes absolutely. The unparalleled love of a mother which is always there for the kids, specially when they’re growing up and about to leave the family and go away—because there were trainees in the film and would’ve gone to work in a few months—but still that innocence is there. The mothers play a very strong part. They let go, they love selflessly.

Q) The hospital scenes looked so real. We haven’t seen hospital wards so closely in Hindi films. There were so many close up shots in the hospital. How was that process like?
A: One was my personal experience and we also had a doctor who gave us real life evidences and stories, as to what exactly happens, the languages doctor speak. We picked up evidences from newspapers, saw documentaries on similar subject to make it look real.

Q) All through ‘October’ we see shots of Metro passing by. The film begins with one too. Is there a metaphor I’m missing?
A: I didn’t want Delhi with India Gate. Every film we have, we know Delhi through India gate. But I thought we know Delhi also through metro. I’m from Delhi, I’ve lived there and I wanted to have a different eye to look at the city.

Q) One of my favourite moments is in the end when Shiuli’s brother—after her death—asks his mother, should he go to tuitions and she says ‘yes you should go ‘ without even blinking. Life goes on…
A: Yes, life has to go on. That’s what it meant, that we have to move on.

Q) Was there a debate between you and Juhi about the end. Some people feel Shiuli should’ve survived. You think she could have lived?
A: Yes, we talked about that. We kept on talking about how it should go but we both agreed that it has to end this way only. Because the kind of fall she has, she was not supposed to live. Even the doctors say that it was a brutal fall, how did she survive. But she pulls through. We thought, in the end, when he takes home the Shuili plant, he got his Shuili back. We thought that was the redemption. Is he still in love? I left it open. May be not, may be yes. But he did this thing very selflessly.

Q) Did Shiuli die happily?
A: I think so, somewhere down the line. I kept it open for people to interpret. When she calls out his name in the end, she possibly conveyed what she wanted to. She discovered him only through hospital visits. May be she was listening. In medical science there is a debate that coma patients listen to every conversation.

Q) The turnaround for Dan happens when he visits ShIulia in the hospital and later gets completely fixated when he gets to know that her last words were ‘Where is Dan?’ Why do you think he got obsessed with that? Is it because his life was aimless and he saw a purpose to the words of Shiuli and latched on to them? To make up for the nothingness happening otherwise in his life?
A: Well, his life was aimless and he still didn’t find a purpose. When he went to the hospital, he got sucked into that world. When he saw her body, it affected him because—and that’s what we felt—that he never saw her as a patient. He saw her as a normal girl.

Q) And that’s why does her eyebrows..
A: Yes, he saw her like that. That’s how I interpreted it too. But here (in the hospital) also he is different and does those innocent things which we think are funny.

Q) Is it a coincidence, when she falls from the roof her head lands on flower pots? We can see pots broken when her body is shown. Later, it’s flowers which heal her…
A: It’s a coincidence!

Q) Even her date of death mentions February 28 on the certificate. In the hospital too, she was patient number 28. Any relevance to the number?
A: Haha. No no, that’s purely a coincidence too.

Q) I was very curious about Dan- where he comes from. There’s no ‘Before and After’. So little is known about him. Was there a ‘before’ to Dan? Did he have a girlfriend before?
A: May be. Dan is a usual boy but what he does is unusual. These are the things people should do anyway. He says ‘do you do certain things only where there is a chance?’ He says don’t pull the plug. He hopes. This is what we need to do everyday in our life.

Q) There is also this funny scene where he is eating biscuit in the chemist shop inside the hospital and helps a chemist understand a medicine’s name!
A) That happened with me too. It’s very normal for anyone to get sucked into that environment. You start scrutinising things because you have nothing to do. Doctors will meet you for 5-10 minutes, then it’s just wait for 23 hours. All you do is explore.

Q) In that scene, the actor who comes at the chemist shop, I figured watching the end credits that he was actually the one who shot and directed the ‘Making of October’.
A: Haha. Yes. When we were shooting I thought he was the right guy and I made him do it. That was very random!

Q) The way you treat death is not grim, you don’t make it melodramatic. Be it ‘Piku’ or ‘October’. How do you look at deaths?
A: The idea, for example in ‘Piku’, was to take death as a natural process. Not to be morose but to celebrate. I thought it has to be dealt in such a poetic way- it shouldn’t hit you in the way that something huge has happened. I try keep it as normal as possible. You feel bad about it but after a point you’ve to move on.

Q) The pace of ‘October’ is so, life like. Is it a risk to not make it so slow that the audience gets bored. What’s the trick to make the film engaging even if nothing monumental is happening at the screenplay level?
A: You have to be with the character, the camera has to be in the milieu, my landing of the audience has to be directly in the middle of the ICU, they should be ‘ghera-oed’ by that situation. My brief to my DoP and actors is just that- the audience should be there with you and not watch you from a distance.

Q) Has ‘October’ changed you?
A: What it has done is, you start building faith in actors like Varun Dhawan who become so brave and jump into your world and give it their all, not bothering about what his world is all about, completely cut everything and experiment. Same with Banita, for her first film she gave it all, including cutting her hair. These youngsters when they do these things, it inspires me.

What I’ve realised about Varun is that he can laugh at himself. He’s like a treasure. He’ll do something silly and laugh at himself, if he does something which is the best, he’ll still laugh and say ‘I know you didn’t like.’ That’s his biggest gift.

Q) Was he ever unsure about the film?
A: He was trying to understand my mind all the time. His only focus was wanting to know what’s going on in my mind. I also played with that, kept on motivating him. When he went into the film, after two weeks he got it.

Q) Did you shoot it linearly?
A: The climax scene was shot first because then beard had to go. His toughest day was the first day because it was the climax, where he has a conversation with Shuili’s mother and then carries the flower pot! He told me ‘sir you’re starting with climax, you promised me you’ll go linear.’ I told him I can’t help it, this needs beard so let’s do it. For him it was difficult, but we had prepped very well so I knew he would pull it off.image

Advertisements

Imtiaz Ali on the journey of ‘Rockstar’ and if Jordan has finally returned home six years later

A common theme which runs in all of Imtiaz Ali’s films is two lost souls finding each other and realising they have a connection, this ‘thing’, which they can’t live without. By the end, they find each other.

The lost-and-found metaphor became quite literal in the case of Ali’s fourth feature- Rockstar. Ali wanted to make the film after his debut Socha Na Tha in 2005, but made it six years—and two more feature films—later.

As it turns out, he had lost the original script. By the time he re-wrote it, it became something else.  Released on this date six years ago, November 11, 2011, the film was met with divided reactions. Over the years though, the film has garnered popularity with many claiming it to be the director’s most complex work.

Over the years Rockstar became what Ustad Jameel Khan (Shammi Kapoor in his last appearance) describes Jordan as: Ye Bada Janwar Hai.

On its sixth anniversary, interview with the man who created the beast. Imtiaz Ali.

image

Excerpts:

Q) I remember watching Rockstar with my girlfriend and other friends after bunking college. I came out of the theatre and I just didn’t like the film.

IA: Oh you didn’t?!

Q) No! I couldn’t undertand why Jordan behaved the way he did. Few months later I broke up with her. Almost a year later, while we were chatting, she told me she was watching Rockstar and asked me to give the movie another chance. I saw it later and I was stunned. The film spoke to me in a language which I didn’t know I could understand. It changed things for me.

It has been six years since the release of the film. What does the film speak to you today?

IA: It’s a film I was most emotionaly involved with while in the making. I feel there were certain parts of it which were very clean, very pure. I didn’t intended to make it as restless as it has become. I also feel there are certain parts of the film that just hit you in the chest. What I can see very clearly now is that whatever merit might be there in ‘Rockstar’—or whatever you might associate with Jordan doing and getting affected by it—none of it seems logical.

What I see in the film now, is that there is an absence of logic even in the way the screenplay is written, that is coming from the way Jordan is. He is such an illogical person, nothing is cerebral. It can also be taken as a defect in the movie, that it doesn’t seem to be logical.

There is no reason why he should have the angst of ‘Sadda Haq Aithey Rakh’. So I think that’s what it tells me, that it’s such a non-cerebral film.

Q) When was the last time you saw the movie?

IA: Oh My God. It has been a really long time. I don’t remember!

Q) Jordan has so much angst in him, which is very unlike Imtiaz Ali that we know today. Where did the angst come from?

IA: There is friend of mine who said he could associate with the angst of Rockstar and he felt he was represented. He comes from a privileged background, rich family, he is doing well in his life and everything is good. I asked him the same question: where is this angst coming from?

There is no reason for angst in your life, you’re not like Jordan. He said ‘I don’t know where this is coming from!’ My answer is the same. I don’t know. It’s so illogical. It’s not as if something happened in my life to give me the angst.

Sometimes your personal experience may not touch you as much as some shared experience or some feelings. Sometimes when you imagine something, you might associate with it much more than your real life. It’s not possibly for us to expeirience everything before writing and directing. In society, there are inequalities and struggle and the angst might get reflected in a writer’s work. I guess that’s what happened in this film.

Q) Between Jordan and Janardhan, which came first? Did you think of Jordan first and traced his roots to Janardhan or did Janardhan blossom into Jordan?

IA: The plot came first. The thought that a guy says ‘I want my heart to be broken so I can become a musician’. But what happens with this plot is, the moment someone says this, you already start thinking what kind of guy he must be to say that.

What kind of a brain will say that and take it seriously? So you know he has to be non cerebral and stupid. He has to be ‘uncool’. Though the plot came first, the character was written between the lines of the plot.

Q) So six years later, where do you think Jordan is right now as we speak?

IA: I think he has moved away from any city. He is in a place where no one recognises him and he is not doing music.

Q) But I can’t imagine Jordan without music!

IA: Yes but he hates it, because he feels that’s what took Heer away from him. He is now showing his anger towards music, rather than through it.

Q) Initially you were supposed to make the film with John Abraham. How did the film come to Ranbir?

IA: I was making the film with John long time back. By that time I had only made ‘Socha Na Tha’ and after that I made ‘Jab We Met’ and ‘Love Aaj Kal’. Two films were made, many years had passed. The important thing which happened was, I lost the script of ‘Rockstar’! I lost it and there was no copy that was left.

Then I had to re-write it. When I re-wrote it, it felt different. The basic events that began the film and the basic flow was still similar but Jordan completely changed. In fact, I had met Ranbir who reminded me of this script. I said I have lost it, I’ll write it from my memory! So because I re-wrote the script, it took a new form.

Q) How much time did you take to write the new script?

IA: I took a week to finish the script.

Q) So, your writing process is quite quick. If I am not wrong, you wrote ‘Jab We Met’ in two days.

IA: Yes, but that’s the initial time you take for the first draft, then you work on it endlessly. The director and writer have time to write continuously but the initial time it took me to write the first script was a week for ‘Rockstar’.

Q) The film is known for its cuts. It keeps going forward and backward, jumps timelines almost consistently throughout. Was that a call you took on the edit table?

IA: No. It was always part of the screenplay.

Q) I’ve seen you always end your films with the two lead characters sharing a frame. ‘Jab We Met’ ends with Shahid Kareena dancing on Mauja Hi Mauja; ‘Love Aaj Kal’ with Saif and Deepika walking; Rockstar ends with Nargis coming on stage and a montage of the couple; ‘Highway’ ends with two kids playing together; ‘Tamasha’ has a beautiful scene where Ranbir-Deepika listening to music on their headphone and ‘Jab Harry Met Sejal’ shows Shah Rukh-Anushka sitting on a moving tractor. The couple is always shown before the film ends. What’s the fascination with this? 

IA: I don’t do it deliberately actually. I never noticed it till you pointed that out.

Q) But I always wondered that. Does this come from the ‘happy ending’ projection we do?

IA: If I were to attach an answer to it, I feel the reason is because most of these stories are to do with two people, having some kind of a conflict or situation and in the end that is resolved or you see the same people in a different thing. So because it’s a story of two people, at the end also you see them together.

Q) I remember you had once said that AR Rahman had created a 40 min version of ‘Kun Faya Kun’. What was the story there?

IA: What happened was he made a track and sent me long time back and then later he said I am sending you more tracks. He basically sent improvisations of music sessions in three parts after that. Each one was around ten minutes. There was a ten minute piece before which he had already sent. So it was improvisations of harmonium and vocals clocking around 30-40 min. We then selected parts we liked from different improvisations and then the track was made!

Interview done for PTI (Press Trust of India). 

Forever

It was drizzling in Bombay and Marine Drive never looked prettier than on that August noon. I reached near the Air India building where I was supposed to meet her, realising very well that I was nearly 20 minutes late.

As I approached the tall tower, I saw her, sitting under a neat porch beneath a tree, head buried in reding ‘Catch 22’, bangles in hand, covered in dark brown Mehendi, and that nose ring? That was new, but she looked so good. I paused for a bit just to capture that sight. This idiot, my idiot, might undergo a huge change from tomorrow.

I proceeded, hands already holding my ears.

“Don’t. It won’t work. Don’t even try to be cute,” Aliya said without even looking at me from her book. Damn! “Listen, there was huge traffic. And my boss? God you know him. Plus the work? God you know that too,” I tried cooking up a story.

She shut the book with a loud thud, removed her specs and finally made eye contact. “Of all the days Aryan, you had to be late today?! You know how difficult it was for me to sneak out?”

How could she manage to look this cute, I asked myself.

I quickly grabbed her hand and pulled her towards me. She stood up as her face banged my shoulders. “Ouch! You idiot!” she said and punched, slipping away a mild giggle.

I ran with her to sit on the Marine Drive, holding her hands, as my fingers kept touching those bangles, reminding me that from tonight our relationship won’t be the same again.

“How did you mange to come out?” I asked curiously, adjusting myself to the sea view while opening an umbrella to cover us. “Don’t ask!”, she threw her hands up in the air. “It was so damn tough. There was this uncle and aunty after me, I thought I won’t be able to make it. Thankfully Shruti is there covering up for me,” Aliya said, while crossing her legs and keeping the book on her lap.

“And on top of that, you know, all these rasmo-reevaaz, shaadi se pehle ye mat karo, waha mat jao, TUM se mat milo!” she said pulling my cheeks.

“Of course. And the way you are dressed, this pink salwaar kurti, mehendi, bangles, all you need is to change into your ghagra. Bhaag kay shaadi kar lete hai abhi, what do you say?”

Aliya laughed and pushed me. “Can’t even wait till tonight?”

Of course. I couldn’t. I kept looking at her smilingly as she closed her eyes and took a deep breath, allowing the moist winds of Bombay to tickle her hair.

We used to come at marine drive ever since we started dating. In fact, it was here that we started bonding and interacting beyond the small talks. It was here that we both fell in love with each other in college. Nariman Point had sort of become our own place. Our happy-sad place.

“Look at these college kids, that couple over there,” Aliya said pointing to a couple who were wrapped around each other, on a rock, little far away. “They don’t even know what’s coming their way.”

The couple were engrossed in each other. The boy slowly caressed the girl as they both fixed their eyes on the vast ends of the sea.

“As of now the only thing coming their way is a wave,” I say and immediately get shouted at. “ARYAN ya!” She said. “Think about it. College romance, that babu-baby waala pyaar? When you are going through that, it looks as if its the only thing which matters. Nothing and nobody else.”

“Yes. But isn’t this how it’s supposed to be? I mean that’s how most people start, with the hope to finish that way too. You remember how we were in college?”

She shuts her eyes giggling and says “No no no no not that please.”

I knew Aliya all along during my college years but it was only towards the final semester that we actually started talking. For years before our first ‘Hi’, I’ve had a terrible love life. None of my relationships ever worked, despite my thinking that I was doing everything right.

I had gone into my own shell after my previous relationship failed. I had decided that perhaps this isn’t for me. This babu-baby wala pyaar. Then one day I was forced to go out with friends. We bunked college, and there I was, at Marine Drive. Little did I know, of all the places in Bombay, it would be here that I would find peace.

I kept on coming to this place ever since I was a kid. Yet, this was the first time I saw the most beautiful view ever. It was Aliya. Singing, dancing, lost in her own world. Her energy was contagious. After a year of living in denial of love, meeting her was as if I was held by my collar, slapped multiple times and had buckets of cold water poured on me on an icy 4AM winter morning.

It woke me up.

“You don’t want me to remind you of just how clingy girlfriend you were during college? So, stop being this pessimistic cry baby. And wake up!” I said.

Aliya turned towards me, kept her hands on mine and said, “Yaar Aryan,” she paused, “I am freaking out. Darr lag raha hai. Shaadi se pehle aisa hota hai kya?”

“Well, I didn’t feel scared during my fifth wedding so…” She makes a face shows me her tongue.

We both stare at the high rise buildings on Malabar hills, quietly taking in the beauty of the city when Aliya breaks the silence and asks for a cigerate. I give her a puzzled look with a wide grin on my face. She is serious.

I handover one, and light it for her. I knew she smoked everytime she was tensed. “Nervous about the marriage?” I ask, holding her hands softly.

Aliya doesn’t respond and blows the smoke in the air, nonchalantly. She looks at me, her eyes carefully observing my face.

“We have come so far yaar. Wow. I sometimes look back and wonder just how much we have travelled together, emotionally,” she said.

“A lot,” I say, “We have seen some crazy times!” “No, but don’t you think there should be a way to measure how far we have come in love?” She said excitedly, blowing smoke and quickly turning her body towards me. That’s exactly the thing she did everytime she had to share a stupid idea.

“Like, how you measure distance in km, why can’t we have something concrete to measure love?”

“Years,” I say quickly, “You can measure how strong your love is from the number of years you’ve spent together. That’s a testimony.”

“Naah,” she said before taking another puff from her cigerate. “That’s bullshit. I have seen people living together for decades without really loving each other and then some who last barely months but are madly in love.”

I pondered over that thought and looked around. There was an old couple on our right. The elderly man was helping his wife climb the porch, holding his hands steadily and gently.

“May be that’s how you measure it?” I said. “Help each other grow. Together.” Aliya looked at them fondly, turned her head towards me and observed me for a few seconds. She took a deep breath
and asked, “Will you hold me? Forever?”

When I had met her, I realised, she was everything I once was and now wanted to be. You see, it’s less about falling in love with a particular quality of a person and more about falling in love with something in that person which reminds you, of you. Someone you were, or someone you want to be.

Aliya’s attitude towards life helped me shape the way I started leading mine. Soon, I figured that while it was her energy and care-a-damn attitude which reminded me of myself, for Aliya it was my optimism. She grew up watching her parents fight, barely talking to each other. To her, love meant a forced union, a make believe world for rasmo-reevaaz.

Untill, we happened. I reminded her of fairy tale romances, of world which existed beyond societal norms, of all thing filmy but real. I reminded her, to dream about love and marriages, again.

Aliya suddenly realised what she had asked and quickly turned her face away from mine. I gave a small smile, knowing well that this was a topic we didn’t want to touch, hours before the wedding.

“You came to my life when I was at the lowest,” Aliya said looking at the sea, watching waves hit the rocks. “It might sound cliched, but you were the light to my darkness,” she said, throwing the cigerate butt.

I smiled and said, “Because I thought you deserved all the shine in the world. I did nothing. You had it in you, all throughout. May be I just helped you see that. See you.”

Dark clouds are nowgathering over the skyline, with winds becoming slightly more cold and fierce. “Remove the umbrella,” she says. “I want to feel this weather. Please don’t shield me from anything.”

“You know I was thinking…” I say but Aliya interrupts. “It’s getting late Aryan. I think I should leave.” I nod slowly. “But I am so happy that I am seeing this day with you. I mean,” she says and pauses to search the right words.

“I don’t even know if this would’ve been possible without you. Thank you. For always being there.”

I give her a soft hug from the side, and try to hide my tears.

“Can I ask you something Aryan?” She looked at me, her eyes, too, slightly moist. “Have you moved on from me?”

That’s the thing with relationships. Whether a married couple filing for divorce after 30 years of staying together, or a college couple breaking up after months. Sometimes, despite everything right, there are still things which are beyond our control. Sometimes, I feel, all the love in the world is not enough.

After 8 years of being together, we fell apart. For all my promises of a love beyond societal norms, traditions and strong orthodoxes, failed. When it happened, our breakup, it was as if nothing else, no one mattered. Breaking up is just as intense as falling in love. It makes you go mad.

But you know how your soulmate reminds you of you? I thought, before I came to her life, Aliya was still pretty okay with things around her. She should be that, even after me, without me.

We both held each other after our break up and promised that we would let the times spent together change us for the better. At least, till we can deal with it.

“I need to go,” Aliya says and gets up, as clouds start thundering. “I was advised not to meet you today. But how could I not? We owe this much to each other. I owe it to you, to us. I don’t know how it’ll turn out…”

“Aliya relax.”

“Yes, why is it that I am the only one panics. What if he doesn’t turn out like you? What if I am not happy?”

“But what if he does? Listen, Aliya, listen to me,” I say holding her tightly. “It will be fine. I have faith in you.” She keeps her hands on her forehead.

“Congratulations for the wedding,” I say. “It’ll be good. Don’t worry.” She looks at me, like a glass on the verge of being shattered and says, “Don’t come tonight, Aryan, please. You know they…” I interrupt her and add, “I won’t. I promise.”

“And anyway you won’t miss much,” she says, “It’s pure veg.” We both burst into laughter, choking away with tears followed by a long silence where all we could hear was the sound of waves splashing the rocks.

It starts raining, which camouflages the tears of Aryan and Aliya. She walks away in a hurry, looking back at him to catch a final glimpse. He sits there, watching her go, watching her slip away from his sight as she walks past his sight. He sits there alone, on the same spot where they had found each other…

8 years ago:

Aryan: I want this place to be special for us. I love you, I want to marry you, makes babies, make an entire cricket team with you! I love you. I really love you.
Aliya, quickly turns her body towards Aryan. That’s exactly the thing she did everytime she had to share a stupid idea: I love you too baby! You know what.
Aryan: What?
Aliya: We will come here, at this very spot, all the time. We will come here now as college kids.
Aryan: Done.
Aliya: Then later when we are getting married, I would be all dressed up and you would look ok-ok too. We would come here straight from the ceremony?
Aryan: Yes mam!
Aliya: And then later when we grow old, we would come here too. We would come here, no matter what. You’ll have difficulty walking, but we will be here. We will have grand children, but we will be here. The world may break apart, but we will be here.
Aryan: Sure thing!
Aliya: Just tell me, Will you hold me? Forever?

Aryan looks at her, hugs her tightly, and smiles.

“Forever.”

When Tabu asked me to read a Scroll interview, seven times

There are some interviews you remember for days. Some you want to forget immediately. And some, which you can’t shake off your even after months.

That was my interview with Tabu. This happened sometime in late January this year for her movie Fitoor.

The reason why I hold this particular interview really close to me is because for the first time I felt the celebrity in front of me wanted to challenge and knock me off my comfort zone.

I went prepared with a set of questions, including those which are “important” and “headline worthy” stuff. To my surprise, in an interview which would last nearly 24 minutes, most of my questions, including the “important” ones, were over by 10 minutes.

I did panic a bit. I knew I had 15 more minutes to go with an artist who wouldn’t just settle for any random question. What happened then, was exciting, fun and an absolutely unforgettable conversation.

Here, the full transcription of the interview:

So Fitoor, how’s it looking like. How confident are you about it.

Actually I am so happy with the whole experience that I am not even thinking whether I am confident or nervous. (Laughs) mujhe toh lag raha hai picnic he chal raha hai (I feel picnic is going on). It’s one of the rare films where you’re not (says in a heavy voice) anxious or stressed. Lot of others are there to share my responsibilities (laughs).

What was the first reaction of yours when you were offered Fitoor. Where you on board instantly or took time to figure it out..
No no it was on because we didn’t have time. There was a set standing, I knew the role, the character, Abhishek had spoken to me about it so everything fell into place.

So did you read the script, or did he narrate you the film?
No no, then he sent me the script. So I had two days to do all the work…

So you had two days to get into the character?! How difficult was that?
Don’t ask! (giggles) We were fighting, discussing, I was colouring my hair with the right shade of red, trying costume. So do din may sab kar kay chaapna tha humko (We had to do everything in two days and be ready).

Wow. Okay. From the trailer it looks like the character is very intense and something which is also very (pause) emotionally consuming, if I can say. So how was it for you to do the character?

To do the character or?

To do the character. It looked very ‘heavy’ if I can put it that way.
Actually ya. She has a very heavy aura around her. She is living in her own world. She has no sense of time, stuck in a time warp, that’s why you see her dressed her like that. Almost in a costume, in a house which exists somewhere in the no-man’s land, cut away from the world. She does not want to interact with anybody. When you see the film you will understand so much about her. It’s difficult for me to explain. I am sure you know the character from great expectations. But this one has an extra layer if drama which is Gattu’s addition.

How was the entire experience of filming?
You know the entire experience was so short. It was like… khatam (over). May be because I wasn’t there from the start, I came only at the end in the whole scenario so mtv tally for me the association started only that time, in June, and my work was only on one set, for one schedule, and then one schedule in Poland and I was done with the whole film.

Haha. You were not in the inception stage of the film so..

Ya. Also physically, the entire work happens on the set, the house. But physically for me it was just one chunk. So it was a great experience like that (giggles)!

It didn’t feel difficult or heavy. I’ve known Abhishek for a long time. I don’t know how it would’ve turned out if we didn’t know each other.

It’s common knowledge that Rekha was initially supposed to do it…
(Raises hands and signals ‘cut)

You don’t want to? Okay.
Yeah, lets leave her out of this.

Coming to another question. Haider and Fitoor, both are adaptions of great literary works. Does it become easy for you as an actress to portray the role because it has already been written and fleshed out? Does that help you?

I didn’t know anything about these characters till the scripts came to me. I have not read these books.

Okay. So but then
Ya say

Has there been a conscious choice in your films where you are looking for author backed roles.
Not really. They have come to me. I don’t know why all book adaptations come to me (giggles).

Life of Pi for that matter…

Life of Pi, Nanesake, Maqbool,

Yes that too. All the book adaptations!
So I must become the poster girl for adaptations of books. (Pauses and thinks) Because I have not made my own thing about them, I go by the script and whatever brief my director or writer gives me about the character.

Is it also then, a conscious choice from your end that you want to associate yourself with a certain kind of cinema? For example, Haider, Fitoor or even a Drishyam for that matter which is more niche than the regular cinema.
That is now?

Ya. But is that what you’re aiming for?

Now?

Haa. That you do not want to associate yourself with the absolute commercial cinema.
Aisa kuch nahi! Aisa bolna bhi mat aur aisa sochna bhi mat mere baarey may (start laughing)!

If I am doing a certain kind of cinema that does not mean I hate the other kind. People will talk about only what is working and they get stuck with that.

I am the last person who has any judgement about any kind of cinema. Least of all commercial cinema because I am a product of commercial cinema.

Yes. I remember reading your reviews that you actually love watching a film like main hoon na, in which you had a small appearance too.
Ya because that’s entertaining for me. What has helped me is my success in commercial cinema. It has given me a platform for others to cast me in their films. If I did not have the commercial success then I wouldn’t be able to do the smaller films that I did.

There are lots of people who think, perhaps Tabu has disdain for commercial cinema.
Woh notion hai logo Ka I don’t know why they forget that out of the 80 films I’ve done, 70 have been commercially mainstream. If you see my work in Telgu films you’ll be like (makes a funny face and laughs).

Mujhe toh kabhi koi problem Nahi laga. Koi film offer hoti hai, aapko accha laga aapne kar liya. Par iska Ye matlab nahi ki aapko dusri cheez achchi nahi lag rahi hai. Hai na? If you look an apple, does that mean you hate an orange?

So people will only talk about what is working. Arey waah Haider and all very good. They get stuck with that, thinking ye nahi karna chahti hai.

Personally as an actress you don’t have any…
(Cuts in) Neverrr. Personally as an artist I never do any discrimination. If I am offered a Golmaal 4 I’ll run and do it.

You did Jai Ho as well..
So how can people make these assumptions about me.

Also, since we were talking about Namesake and Life of Pi, both are Hollywood films. Do you have a Hollywood dream, fascination? We see priyanka and Deepika as well.
Dream kabhi Nahi tha so I’ve done two biggest Hollywood films so ab kya karu? (Laughs)

So no such fascination?
Aisa matlab… (Pauses) see, whatever comes, you make it your… It depends on the experience you have na. I had great experience doing both these Hollywood films. And I am okay being content with just that. And if its great work, I’ll work anywhere whether its Telugu films, Hindi films, Malyalam films, Bengali films…

Golmaal 4…
Golmaal 4, Hollywood Bollywood whatever. So I am not stuck.

You were part of some of the most influential movies. Maachis, Chandni Bar, even Cheeni Kum, Maqbool, they broke barriers. But these dates there are a lot of debates happening within the industry that you cannot make a Cheeni Kum or a Chandni Bar today considering the regulations we have in the censor board which are very rigid…

(Signals cut with a smile)

Do you… Again… Nothing?
Mujhe mat poocho.

Okay then. Haider had a backdrop of Kashmir and Firoor too looks to have the same. Is there an apprehension from you that this is a tricky subject you are treading on. When Haider released, there were people who has problems with the way the army was projected.

We are not saying anything about Kashmir, or the political situations. It’s a love story.

Do you feel in today’s time people have become a little insensitive with the…
(Signals cut with a smile) don’t take me there, I am not going there (laughs).

I just wanted to ask you in general.
Cut cut cut cut.

Okay. What are the kind of roles you want to do after Fitoor?
I want to do an action film.

Hah.
Ek dum dhamakedaar, Out and out action.

Do you have a script in mind?
Not at all. People should think of me and cast me in an action film.I have never done an out and out action. I’ve done action in ‘Maa tujhe salaam’, that action of kicking and punching but not the out and out.

Are we talking of something like a ‘Kill Bill’, which is kind of a women oriented…
(Cuts in) Everybody has asked me this.

Really?
Ya. I have said that in my Scroll interview also.

Oho! It is already out there!
Then!!

Dammit. Arey nahi nahi, because wo pattern aisa hai ki Tabu is doing a certain kind of films. So that’s the common question that what next.
Ya what next. And action bolte he, Maine bhi dus jagah kill bill bola hai, so usko utha kay phir wahi puchte hai.

Okay chalo theek hai. Any upcoming projects we should be looking forward to?

Missing is complete since a long time now. Don’t know when it’s coming out. Should hopefully come out soon.

Also, if you would like to answer this; There is an issue within the industry that many actresses are complaining about, pay disparity…
(Signals cut). Read my scroll interview na. Please read my scroll interview na.

Ya I mean…
Please read my scroll interview na. Please read my scroll interview na.

(Both Laugh)

Please read my scroll interview na.

No mam I mean..
Please read my scroll interview na… (Laughs) Please read my scroll interview na, then you won’t take the trouble of asking me all this.

But then if you can..
Give me your email id.

Umm justin…
J-u-s-t-i-n (she spells it). You are from Goa Justin?

No mam. I’ll shock you. I am a Rao!
Telugu?!

Well not really. This is the MP wala Rao, because my grandfather was a Hindu

Ah

And my grandmother was a catholic.
Aaah!

And they both had a love marriage way back in the 1950s.
Fantastic!

So I am a product of love stories and Bollywood that way.
Justin? (Signals to complete my id)

(I give her the complete Id, she asks me curiously about how PTI actually functions while she sends me the mail)

Achcha this is one personal question that I wanted to ask you. This is NOT in scroll

Okay (excited)!!!

I am so sure about it!
Lets see!

Lets see! Okay here: you’ve been in this industry for…
Many years

Yes many years. Do you have any plans to perhaps pen your entire journey in a book.
I have just got an offer and I’ve refused (laughs out heartily)

But why? And this is not in scroll!

Because my journey has just begun (laughs out cheerfully). My life has just begun according to me. I don’t know how, where its going to be.

But it will be very interesting for readers to read from your perspective about the things you have seen and the journey you’ve had so far. Of course it has just begun, nobody is doubting that.
I can give one hour talks on this but I’ve to be paid a lot! (Laughs).

But this was not in scroll right?
No.

Yes!!!

(She claps)

Finally I got something which is…
No you should ask what I have said about the pay parity question. Then you will be glad you didn’t ask.

But then you are not telling me (puppy face)
See it!

It’s in this phone, the email id (I point towards the phone which is recording the conversation)
I’ll read it to you.

But then you’re not giving me the quote no mam (giggles)
No no no. That’s what I am saying. You see, that I’ve made fun of all journalists

Ouch
For asking me the most..

Ridiculous?
Predictable questions that they ask to everybody. (Grabs her phone and starts reading) ‘Are you reclusive? Hyderabadi? Sindhi? I laugh at these things.’ I’ll read it out to you.

‘Is it all right to talk about your craft’, ‘it is quite boring,’ I say.

(Both laugh)

‘I protest the one kind of perception created for anybody. Blah blah blah blah blah. The films I’ve acted in were not made by me, they were not my creation…. I just did my part…. Most journalists who come to me with the label of ‘reclusive’ haven’t even looked up the meaning of the word in the dictionary. They think it is a tribe or a community from Hyderabad. Like, are you Hyderabadi? Jatt? Sindhi? Reclusive? I laugh at these things.

(Reads a few more lines from the interview as I giggle sitting there).

Wait, wait. I’ll come to that.

(Keeps scrolling for the particular point) Shit I am so sorry ya.

No no it’s okay.
‘Will your action drama have a female protagonist?’ She asked me

Ha there we go
‘Oh God you asked me that. Now you will ask me about pay parity and feminism’ so she didn’t even ask.

Hmmmm!
So…

Mam I hope I didn’t make you angry or something
NO!!! Am I looking angry?! (With a smile)

Nahi bas, woh thoda sa..
Padna interview ye

I will I will…
Then you will understand what kind of person I am.

Matlab ab toh I can understand, people asking you the same thing again and again.

Acha ek swaaal puchta hu
Please puchiye

Which I’ve read, and you’ve said in one of our interviews only, that filmmakers have been lazy in the portray you.
Okay…

Do you feel a lot of the filmmakers have not been able to tap your full potential yet?
Absolutely. I don’t think I’ve tapped my full potential, forget the filmmakers…I think a very minuscule part of my potential has been tapped.

Why is that?
Ummm I feel that may be it’s not true. May be I feel that now when you have a different understanding of your own potential, of yourself. I feel I could’ve done things in so many different ways.

I’ve got to do a lot. But I feel there is a lot which can be done also. Of course everybody thinks and feels like that.

I think Vishal Bhardwaj has really explored the actress in you.
Yes!!! He has allowed me to do it. I got a chance to do it with him. I didn’t even know what was in store for me in ‘Maqbool’ or the kind of film he was going to make. I was just too excited to play this character which was unusual for a Hindi cinema heroine to do at that time.

Vishal sees in me something which not everybody else is able to. Just to get that from a director that ‘Oh my God heis visualising me like this’, it makes your work different. You look at yourself the way a director looks at you. Its very effortless. He didn’t ask me, he doesn’t brief me. It’s like a playground. He knows me too well! Both the films he wrote for me, with me in mind.

Acha ek last sawaal
Ok

Ek dum seedha sa, don’t know if its there in Scroll
Aha!

You’ve worked with Katrina in Firoor. How do you think she has evolved as an actress over the years?
I am very fond of her. She is one of the best that people I’ve worked with. Though we have worked only for three days with each other, we had very few scenes together, but I have fond memories of those days.

I always have this feeling of wanting everything to go well for her. I think she is one of the most hardworking actors I’ve known. The kind of involvement, attention, time and effort she puts into her work is really admirable and endearing. She’s had a long journey in Bollywood.

Thank you so much for talking to me mam.
Thank you, Justiiiin.

I hope I didn’t trouble you much.

At this point my recording stops. But just so you know, the answer to that question was a big NO from her, in her own style.

Before leaving the vanity van I informed her that this is my first job, perhaps even my biggest interview, and I will remember this conversation for my entire life. Tabu have me a huge smile and said she will too.

Thanks, Tabu. I did read the Scroll interview btw.

20160602-204226.jpg

To all those who discuss box office, I say just fucking watch the film: Emraan Hashmi

I met Emraan Hashmi a few days ago ahead of his latest release Azhar. For a man who was giving back to back interviews since two hours during the noon before my turn came, Emraan was still pretty interesting and also at times, refreshingly candid to talk.I had a 10-min conversation and here are the excerpts:

Q) You have often said that you are a great fan of Mohammad Azharuddin. How was it knowing up close and personal for the film?
A:
There have been new dimensions that I came across once I started talking and understanding his personal experiences. Not just about his cricketing career, ups and downs, but things like losing his son. He was fighting a court case for 12 years and just when he was about to win it, he lost his son. Portraying his personal journey as accurately as I could was challenging.

Q) So was getting into his shoes difficult?
A:
 I am not much of a cricketer so portraying that one screen was a huge task. I trained with Azhar bhai for three months. We used to train three hours every morning; I used to have 150 balls chucked at me, that is almost like a match. It was just to get the form right.

Q) The film might get divided opinions since it is based on a controversial figure.
A:
I am prepared for it, because when you are portraying someone’s life on screen, everyone has their own interpretation of it. You can never always accurately depict someone’s life. You can do it through someone’s perception, like this (film) is my perception of how I see Azhar bhai.

Q) But then have you taken any cinematic liberties to portray his life on-screen?
A: For screen it is important to slightly change and tweak things for dramatic effects. Some might not see it as 100 percent accurate but we are okay with it because it’s not a docu-drama, it is a Hindi film.

Q) Fans have been wanting you to get back to the Shanghai space of films.
A: 
I would love to get back too, provided I get a good script.

Q) But you did complete Danis Tanović’s international project Tigers. When do we see the India release?
A: 
They have released the film abroad, they still haven’t it here. It is the producers call and I can’t say much about that.

Q) And what about Murder 4? When is that happening?
A:
Murder 4 is on the pipelines, they are working on the script. It is going to happen for sure but I don’t know exactly about when the film will begin. Then there is Raaz 4 which will be a spook fest the way horror films are supposed to be. It will definitely take the horror genre more forward in India.

Q) You have been in this industry for more than a decade now. While it was always trade-hungry, do you feel today it has become obsessed with numbers like never before?
A:
Obsession with numbers gets the thrill out of working in films. Everything can’t be equated only with numbers. Sometimes it is a small film and you crush the spirit of the small film because it may not do the kind of numbers but it is appreciated to a certain extent and people need to understand that.They need to understand what the film tries to do. And not equate everything with the box office numbers.

Q) Does box office pressure dictate an actor’s choice of films too?
A: In some films it does, in some films you like to take a risk. But I think the more you have news articles coming out, the media talking about these terms, then it also gets the actors jittery. They are afraid of trying something new.

Either that, or they are pushed to try something new. Because the industry dictates, ‘Ok he is not doing anything new, so he should do something new’. But no one really knows what works or doesn’t work. At the end of the day, you have to let something touch deep inside you and understand this is what I am going to do.

Q) Have you felt the pressure to deliver?
A:
I have never been swayed by the numbers. It is a bit annoying because everyone has become a trade pundit. You go to the street and your watchman is telling you how much your film has collected, it has come down to that. Your driver knows about the trade collections. Even my family, friends who are not from the industry, trainer know how much weekend business a movie has done. I say ‘Just  fucking watch the film and enjoy it, why are you telling me numbers.’ 

Q) I think ‘100 crore’ has become the new age ‘4-star rating ‘review…
A:
That’s another thing. Some will say ‘this film is not good it got only two stars’ and then that becomes a benchmark of what one critic they like speaks. I am comfortable with constructive criticism, I am not okay with if you for no reason try to pull down an actor or a film, personal biases and all that. You can see through those kind of reviews. When you have done something wrong, you know it.

 

Interview done exclusively for PTI.check-out-the-motion-poster-of-e-752x440

How I Met Shah Rukh Khan

On April 7, I got a message from my senior that we were getting an interview of Shah Rukh Khan. On any other day, I would’ve probably lost my sleep with the anticipation of the meeting. Except, on that very day, I was out of town. I will admit, I was heartbroken. After almost 24-years of wishing, dreaming and praying, the missed-opportunity was the closest I had gotten to Shah Rukh.

Three days later
, I was shaking hands with him.

I can fill reams and reams of paper describing the journey to everything which led to the first ‘Hi’, but that is for some other day. This journey, has been all squeezed into– believe it or not– four days.

April 7, happened to be the 25th wedding anniversary of my parents. For a month now, I was planning to give them a surprise they will never forget. So here’s what I did: Made Shah Rukh Khan wish them.
Yes, he did.

Sure I was sad I couldn’t interview him, but nothing made me happier that here was a man wishing my parents– who had loved ever since I remember–all the happiness in the world. They got married the same year as Shah Rukh. I was born the year Shah Rukh made his feature film debut. My first movie in a cinema hall was Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and till this date, not a single Mumbai trip begins untill we visit Mannat.

So when he wished them, my parents were overwhelmed, with tears in their eyes and still trying to make sense of what happened. It wasn’t always just my dream to meet him, to talk to him, to just get any message from him- it was theirs too.

The next day, on April 8, my mother just casually said something which now makes sense when I look back. She said I missed interviewing him because may be God has it all planned in a better, more special way. Of course, I laughed it off. What better could it be to meet him at his place, talk about his upcoming film at length and get to know the man- one on one?

I was wrong. While my mother did say I will meet him in a ‘better and special’ way, what she, and both of us did not know was it would be, in all sense- ‘Historic.’

April 9, I get a confirmation that I have been assigned to cover Prince Williams and his wife Kate Middleton’s meet and greet with Bollywood biggies in Mumbai on April 10. I knew Shah Rukh was going to introduce the Royal Couple, but that was about it. Even then, my parents were more excited that I would be covering the event and were keenly awaiting my call, informing them that I had got what they wanted- Selfie with the couple.

I did call, though. But with a slightly different news.

“Mom, I just met Shah Rukh.”

I could hear nothing but loud cheering and sense nothing but excitement. This call was almost after an hour of my conversation with Shah Rukh. What took me so long? I was trying to regain my calm after shivering, smiling, almost teary eyed in one corner.

It was around quarter to eight on April 10 at Taj Palace Hotel, when I overheard a lady say, “Now the entire attention will shift to the man in white”. I was standing a good 30-feet away from the entrance, when I tilted my head slightly towards the right and saw a man greeting everybody.
I smiled.

I quickly rushed to the spot and saw him in a white tuxedo. Just a few feet away from me. Remember I said ‘historic’ moment? It was the Royal Couple’s first visit to India, and I was the only journalist in the room, getting access to cover the entire evening, with champagne, celebrities, businessmen and even Sachin Tendulkar around me.

And then it hit me. I should go and talk to him. Not ask for a picture, no, just walk upto him and talk. I waited for the right moment, as I saw Shah Rukh talking to several people- Karan Johar, Manish Malhotra, Jacqueline. Then a few more, important people, I assumed. Why will he talk to me, just a fan, tonight?

I remember standing barely 2-feet away from Shah Rukh when a lady walked away after talking to him. It was only a matter of 3 seconds before he would turn and join the group of other celebrities. For the first time in the entire evening he was alone, even though for fraction of seconds. On any other day, I would’ve let go of the chance, thinking that I will meet him some other time, for a longer duration, when there is no hustle bustle, when we can freely talk. But then, within seconds, I walked upto him, put a huge smile on my face, extended my right hand and said the words I had always dreamt of saying to him:

“Hi, Shah Rukh! I am Justin Rao.”

Holding a glass of water on his left, he shook hands with me. I don’t even remember looking at our handshake because I could not take my eyes off him. He looked me in the eyes and said “Hi”. I said I am from PTI. He nodded. I told him that I am the same guy whose parents he had wished a few days ago. “Ah okay yes I remember,” he said while nodding.

“I just wanted to thank you for that. My parents really loved it”, I said and like a nervous wreck started fumbling, “My mom got really sent… Like..” I tried to complete the sentence but could not get the right words.

I took a deep breath and continued, “My parents got emotional. Thank you for everything, it means the world to me.” And, what I never thought would happen, Shah Rukh blushed. “No no, it’s okay, I am glad they loved it.”

By this time, I had lost track of what I was saying and could see nothing but him. Then, for the lack of control over my excitement, I blurted, “I missed interviewing you recently. But looking forward to do that soon.” He smiled and said sure. As if that wasn’t enough, I quickly added, “I have also written a book about you.” Shah Rukh was then surprised.

“Oh wow, you did?” he raised his eyebrows, almost curious to find out more. I said I will gift him soon. Just then, representatives from the British Embassy asked me to make way for the Royal Couple. A man started talking to Shah Rukh, but realising that I was already talking to him, he turned towards me to hear what I was saying.

And that was it. If he could have the courtesy to acknowledge a nobody like me, in a gathering of who’s who of the world, then it speaks volume of a man’s character. Awed, yes, but not trying to take too much of his time, I shook hands with him again, and wished him luck for his Fan before moving to the other corner. Which was merely 10-feet away from him.

I watched him the entire ceremony. I spoke to him later too, when he had met the Royal Couple and used his quote for my exclusive story. Standing there, I watched each and every move of his. His body language, how he holds the glass, how he laughs, how he looks at you as if you mean the world to him. I watched him as I stood shivering in that one corner, trying to make sense of what happened. A fan’s dream had come true, interestingly, the same week that his film Fan releases.

It will be in the history now, about the Royal Couple’s first visit to India. What Prince said, what Kate did, how Shah Rukh felt. All because I was there in the room, standing as a journalist, doing my job. A job, which happened because he inspired me. Because all I had ever wanted to do– when I was scribbling his name on the walls as a kid, trying to woo girls like the way he did in my teenage, and writing a dissertation on him to get a degree – was become someone important enough to one day see him.

Long back after he left, I stood there taking in everything that had just transpired. A dream of 24 years crammed into four days. Those four days leading to the most historic minute. And all the blessings in the world, culminating with that one, special, ‘Hi’.

And that, everyone, is how I met Shah Rukh.

20160411-191642.jpg

Men can do ‘gandi baat’ but women cannot say ‘Look, my lunch is coming’- interview with Pan Nalin

A week after his film Angry Indian Goddesses has released and garnered both, critical acclaim as well as box office numbers, director Pan Nalin is a happy man.

What I thought would last for a few minutes, my conversation with him clocked nearly 30 minutes, where the ecstatic Nalin talked about how he is overwhelmed by reading blogs, articles, tweets and Facebook posts regarding his new film.

“On a flight I was in recently, I saw that the entire crew was female. Even the pilots were women. That does not happen even in Europe. Such is the story of Indian women. It is incredible,” he says.

His film may be titled Angry, but Nalin anything but that.

Excerpts from the interview.

20151213-014811.jpg

Q) After years of struggle, your labour of love Angry Indian Goddesses has finally released and is doing well.

A) All my films have been a struggle but fortunately not a single film of mine has lost money. People trust my instincts and they have always paid off. My films can’t be like Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. The aim was to create a film which people will be talking about and create a thought pattern… When we were facing rejections, I told my team that when people reject something, it means it is something really important.

Q) No wonder the film is being appreciated all over…

A) It is a simple story. It has nothing in it, I am telling you (laughs) there is nothing. See simplicity has become so rare in our industry. My film is just about these 7 women, who meet, spend time… it is like smoking a cigerate, putting your arms around your buddy and asking, ‘How have you been?’ It is that simple… But also, there is a story. If 7 women in India meet, there will be, if not more, 7 different stories coming out from their life.

Q) So is there a sense of relief that you have proved the cynics wrong who didn’t believe in the project earlier?

A) The people we approached never had the time. Now everybody is saying that they have contributed to the story with some suggestions. That is good too. But when I set out to make the film, no one stood behind us. Jungle Book came in, the girls were there and an investor from Bangalore who had seen the film and wanted to back it.

The first question the studios used to ask was ‘Who is in the film?’ In 21st century, it is a wrong question to ask. You must instead ask, ‘What is in the film?’ People today are opening up to great content, let us provide them that.

Q) And audience has reacted very positively to the film.

A) It is humbling that people are connecting with the film. It is a small film with epic ambitions. We had to struggle to ask the distributors to give at least one show for the film. We were like at least give the audience a chance to watch it. Whether they love it or hate it, let them decide.

Q) Do you think we limit our audience’s intelligence?

A) Indian audience should not be judged, that is extremely wrong. Sure we love watching the Khans and the Kapoors and they will always be there, but they come up with one film a year. What about other weeks? There are 52 weeks and we need to keep the momentum rolling.

20151213-014947.jpg

Q) But then you may get typecast as a certain filmmaker making a certain type of cinema.

A) I personally never differentiate between an indie film or commercial, off-beat or mainstream. I say, make a film which will fight with Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. You have these films and they will continue to exist, you can’t escape. There is an audience for that too. But don’t say ‘watch my films because I am a different kind of a filmmaker’.

When I made Samsara, people said I have made a regional Ladaki film. It then travelled to various international film festival and people said ‘oh it is a festival film’ and then it bagged 30 awards and people said ‘it is an art house film’. Finally when it got released, they said ‘He is an Indian trying to make an exotica, selling sex to the western.’ They will always doubt and label you, because your film does not have any stars so there must be something wrong with it.

Q) Interestingly, the success of a female buddy film like Angry Indian Goddesses comes right after the success of Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2, which many deemed a women-bashing film.

A) The audience doesn’t think if it is a male-bashing film or female-bashing film. They want to be entertained and if they are getting inspired by it, like what is happening with Angry Indian Goddesses then that is great. I haven’t seen Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 but is a franchise film backed by studio, it works differently.

Q) This year, there were two big women centric films, Piku and Tanu Weds Manu Returns and both had stars. Angry Indian Goddesses had no A-lister and yet it is doing very good.

A) We would’ve loved to bring in talented important stars too but it would have been difficult. I believe Deepika and Priyanka, both are amazingly talented. They can open a film alone on their own merit. They don’t need a man to do that.

But you cannot venture out to make a ‘women centric’ film alone, that would be a failure. You can have a central women character with a beautiful, sensible well-crafted story around it.

20151213-015043.jpg

Q) So will we see you taking the story forward and making a sequel?

A) Right now we are totally engrossed in the success of the film. But I would really love to do a sequel. Even the actresses are saying that the journey should continue and I cannot stop it. The film’s story is endless and we will always keep finding some journey similar to this.

We have just taken a breath and are still living the dream. We have a big international release lined next year for the film, including a big German dubbed release. We are still in dialogues with the audience, understanding what they liked, how are they reacting to the film. That gives us the clear picture of what to do next and take it forward.

Q) There were reports the film would be adapted as a TV series…

A) We have got an offer from a big Hollywood network which is coming to India. Right now I cannot divulge any details but they loved the film. They have asked to adapt it as a TV series, chronicling tales of Indian women because they can sustain the series with great content of their stories.

Q) You recently released a list of dialogues and scenes which were chopped off, censored by the censor board. You think it has hampered the film in anyway?

A) Impact of the film has not been lost but certainly when the words are muted and images are blurred, it breaks the flow of the movie. I never understood the logic behind muting words anyway. As filmmakers we work on every little detail. If there is a garden scene then we add the sounds of birds chirping and so on. And when you see little details getting away from the film, it takes away the joy.

We have in writing whatever they asked us to remove. For decades Indian men were shown teasing women and it was normal. They can say ‘gandi baat gandi baat’ but women cannot even say ‘Look, my lunch is coming’? (Laughs)

Q) Is it an unnecessary controversy?

A) Today people are awaken and smart. You cut 30-second kissing scene from James Bond, they will imagine 30-hour of the kissing scene. At this age, where information is available freely, where porn can be accessed at our finger tips, I don’t see the point… Censor Board needs to rethink what it is doing.

Q) The ‘Gods’ are angry over our sanskaars it seems.

A) (laughs) If the kissing scenes were not cut out, nobody would have even spoken about it anyway. They did that and highlighted it themselves.

Interview done exclusively for PTI.

20151213-015201.jpg