ND: I think it depends on the part that you are playing. I usually get offered parts that are ‘normal’. The last time I played a really complex character was in Phas Gaye Re Obama. My director literally said, ‘I just want to see a man, not a woman.’ So I had to prepare for that. And I had to master an accent too.
For Divya’s character, it was not like I had to rehearse a lot. I was just walking around on the sets and getting to know my surroundings. I needed to know where the mug of coffee sits when you have been working somewhere for five years. Other than that, I was just the way I am and talked the way I am talking.
Having said that, the heavier scenes needed a lot of rehearsing, and we met for a couple of script readings. Those were at Ranvir’s place, and while we were doing that, it was just about eating a lot of food and drinking a lot of coffee.
MC: I also think it is the director’s job to write a script well enough so that the actors don’t have to go out and start doing their own prep for it. If it is autobiographical, then sure, you have to go out and understand the person, but if it is fictional, then it is the job of the scriptwriter and the director to write it in a way that they get what they want.
RS: It is different for me. I mean, I am a glutton for rehearsals. The more rehearsals you give me, the happier I am. About prepping for the role… that, again, depends on, as Neha said, what the part is and what the film is. Some scripts demand more preparation than others. For this film, because I was playing a middle-class Delhi guy, there was not much prep I needed to do because I know enough middle-class Delhi guys. The character arc is of a man whose morals and ethical lines are changing fast, without him realising it. So that for me was the real meat of the part. And, like Munish said, it was all in the script.
RS: No, there is no switch. One thing I love about my job is that when you start work on a film, you leave your life behind. There is a slight transition that takes a couple of days, which is why I like to go to a couple of workshops or join in a couple of days early so I can start living in that world and get my head in the right space.
And our schedules are such, especially with small-budget films that I work on, that you are working from morning to night. In this film we worked morning to night for 30 days at a stretch. We were going home just to eat and sleep. As far as cutting that off is concerned, you just come back to you own life and there is a transition period there too, where it all stays with you for a while and then slowly fades out.
BOI: Is it the same for you?
ND: Yes, it is exactly the same. I don’t think I want to add or subtract anything.
BOI: You’ve been an executive producer earlier. How much did that experience help you in this film?
MC: That was a huge problem, actually. The fact that I have been a chief assistant director, an assistant director and an executive producer means it is very difficult for me to switch off those parts. A lot of my friends who were working with me on this film were always saying, ‘We will handle it don’t worry.’
MC: My team still tells me to stop being an EP and be a director. But it does help to know how to handle such things. And I have been really lucky to have always worked with friends. Ranvir and I have worked together earlier; I have worked with Rajat Kapoor; I have assisted Kumar Shahani, who was a mentor and a guru; and I have worked with Manu Kaul, who was again a mentor and a guru to me. So I have been lucky to be on sets where you have so much more to do. I think having had all those experiences helps when you are making your first film.
BOI: Now that the film is complete, how happy are you with the final product?
MC: Extremely. When you finish a film, you have no idea what you have done because you just did what you wanted to do, so you wait for people to react. The first good sign came when the film was picked up as the recommended project at last year’s NFDC Film Bazaar. That was the first validation.
From there, it was picked up for the New York Indian Film Festival, the London Indian Film Festival and then it went to so many other festivals without me even applying to them. So I am gaining confidence. Now I am really looking forward to seeing the audience’s reaction.
BOI: And how happy are both of you?
RS: I am quite happy. It’s a small-budget film that punches above its weight. It’s a small budget that aspires to be so much more. To be able to make a convincing suspense thriller with the kind of budgets we had, with so few characters in such relatable situations… to be able to pull that off is great.
ND: I am very happy with the film. I don’t like seeing myself on screen, so I have a different problem.