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Affirmative Action

Team Commando 2 – lead pair Vidyut Jammwal and Adah Sharma, along with director Deven Bhojani and producer Vipul Amrutlal Shah – in conversation with Team Box Office India 

Box Office India (BOI): Vipul, how did you approach Deven Bhojani to direct the film?

Vipul Amrutlal Shah (VAS): Deven and I are college friends and we are like brothers. People are aware of his skill with comedy but he is a very serious person. Even in college plays, he usually played the role of a villain.

Vidyut Jammwal (VJ): They were going to cast him in Force 2. (Laughs)

VAS: There is a suppressed aggression in him, which he never shows. There is also a tremendous sensitivity in his work. I thought this was a great combination for a film like this, which is not about blind action. It has great action but it also has a terrific story, a great plot, a lot of sensitive moments and a variety of roles. That’s why I thought he was the right director for this film.

 BOI: What was Deven’s reaction when you approached him for this film?

VAS: His first reaction is always ‘Main soch ke batata hu.’ Then he disappears for two days. The same thing happened here. He took his time, got excited about it and that’s how it started.

 BOI: Vidyut, what was your reaction when you learnt that Deven was directing the film?

VJ: I believe in him so much. I believe that he can get anybody on board and do a good job with that person. Here, he believes in me and has given me this opportunity.

 BOI: Did you have the story ready at that point?

VAS: We had only a thought ready, at that point. After Deven came on board, we started developing it with Suresh and Ritesh Shah, my writers. And, of course, Vidyut started training for the action in this film, the day after Commandoreleased. He was working on the kind of gags we wanted to include in the action etc. We worked on everything simultaneously.

 BOI: Deven, what did you think during those two days?

Deven Bhojani (DB): As Vipul mentioned, we know each other quite well. I like to challenge myself and move out of my comfort zone, and he knows that about me. When I am pushed, I give of my best. For example, I was studying Accounts with a view to becoming a chartered accountant. One day, I happened to see the notice board in college about an inter-collegiate drama competition. I decided to take part and see what happened. I got there late, for which I was scolded. Eventually, I got the lead role and also the Best Actor award. None of this was in my plan as I wanted to become a chartered accountant and here I was, suddenly being given an award for Best Actor. This is just an example and Vipul knows about it.

VAS: He also lost a job because of me. (Laughs)

DB: I am known more as a comic actor on television but, for the last 12 to 15 years, I have also been directing for television, and have done a variety of genres including an action-drama series called Pukaar, which Vipul produced and we directed it together. The genre was not new but switching from television to film direction is a big thing.

So when Vipul asked me to direct this film, I said, ‘Sounds like a great opportunity but give me two days to think about it. Let me think about whether I can contribute enough.’ Vipul said, ‘I knew you would say that.’ After three to four days, I said ‘Yes, chalo karte haibolo kab se shuru karna hai.’ That’s how it happened.

BOI: How were you approached for this film?

Adah Sharma (AS): I was in Hyderabad and had two simultaneous film releases. One was Garam, a commercial entertainer, and Kshanam, a realistic film. I came back and auditioned for this film and they did not get back to me for a month. I had heard that they were auditioning a million people. After my second film Kshanam released, Vipul sir called me and said, ‘Are you planning to shift to Hyderabad or do you have plans to come back here?’ I came back here and Deven sir said, ‘Yes, you are on.’

 BOI: What is Commando 2 all about?

VAS: As the title suggests, the film is about the black money trail. It is about black money stashed away in Swiss bank accounts or in various other parts of the world. This is a mission to trap that money and bring it back to India. It is an action-packed thriller with lots of characters, intrigue and mystery. The narrative is loaded with action while the plot has intrigue. It’s a combination of action-meets-brain.

 BOI: How did you decide to cast Esha Gupta in the film?

VAS: We wanted a strong and sexy personality and Esha Gupta represents that. She was clearly the first choice for the part.

 BOI: You are keeping her character under wraps.

VAS: That’s because she is not able to join us for the promotions and is shooting for Baadshaho. When the actor is not present during promotions, it looks like we are trying to conceal her character but that’s not true. If she were present, we would have talked about her more. That’s why it seems like we are keeping her character under wraps but that’s not true.

 BOI: This is an action film. What kind of preparation did you undergo?

VJ: I have been training ever since we stopped shooting for Commando. That’s seven months before we started shooting for Commando 2.  I spent every minute planning and thinking about action.

 BOI: Did you choreograph all the action?

VJ: Not all the action but most of the spectacular things you will see have been done with my stunt team and me. Only I know what my body is capable of doing. I used to train in the evening or afternoon and send clips to Vipul sir, saying, ‘Sir, yeh ek idea hai, what do you think?’ His approval is most important and he used to say, ‘Wow, spectacular!’

In Commando, everyone liked the window sequence, and we had to surpass that. So we trained very hard for that.

BOI: Was the script written first or the action?

DB:  It happened simultaneously. I would say that because the story has intelligence and romance… like James Bond romancing two heroines… the script was worked out at the same time. We knew how many action sequences would be required for the larger part of the story, so Vidyut had already started working on it.

VAS: The idea was that we wanted Vidyut to create at least 20 new ideas which were not part of Commando, and we would fit those visual gags that he had created into every action piece that we were going to use. So we had a rough idea of where the action would be, but how exactly that would happen was decided later.

The idea was to create action that was kind of timeless. When you watch a Jackie Chan film of the 1990s’, that action is believable and relevant even today. We wanted to create action that would be relevant even after 10 years. And, keeping that in mind, Vidyut created so many gags which we can see in the trailer and many more in the film. Then we decided where to insert which sequence and gag. That was a separate journey while the script was being written.

BOI: Vidyut, did you charge extra  for this?

VJ: I should charge extra for this, right?

But for Vipul sir, I would jump from the 10th floor of a building for free. There are very few producers who really believe in an actor. I am not a star son, whose dad is a producer, director or an actor. That’s why I would do anything for someone who believes in my talent. Charge extra toh bohot chhoti cheeze ho gayi.

BOI: This is a sequel. How is this film connected to the first one?

VJ: The characters are the same. For example, in the James Bond series… every time, the guy goes on a different mission. The only difference is that every five years, Bond changes. Here, the commando cannot change because nobody can do what I do.
DB: That was a threat. (Laughs)

BOI: Are there any parameters you have to keep in mind while making an action film?

VAS: Whether it is a domestic film or an international one, you have to always take it to the next level. Action films are the toughest to make because even if everything else is right but your action does not move forward in time, it could be your undoing. So we have to keep an eye on what is happening internationally and make sure our action is at least one step ahead of that. Since we don’t have the kind of budgets they have, our job is that much more difficult.
DB: We have to set the bar so high that it will be difficult to surpass even in future. And there’s this guy who has the capacity to raise the bar.

VAS: For example, John Wick 2 has released. And two weeks down the line, Commando 2 will release. When they compare the action in the two movies, they will not look at the budget of John Wick 2; they will only look at our movie and decide if they liked it or not. So we have to make sure that our action in the style that Vidyut has is better than anything else. That’s why timeless action is very important.
I think we have been able to do that. When people watch the film, they will be proud that an Indian actor can do what a Hollywood star can. There’s a simple thing I ask everybody… to compare this trailer with any James Bond, Jason Bourne or John Wick movie and tell me whether any of the other actors do action better than the kind of action Vidyut is doing. You will find none. That’s the kind of bar that Vidyut has set for us. I think it is a great moment for India to have an action hero who can set global standards.

BOI: Can you share something about your character?

AS: I play Bhavana Reddy, this girl from Vijayawada, which is a small town. She is on this mission with Vidyut to catch the bad guys who are laundering money. Since she’s going abroad for the first time, she is keen to click pictures with people there, as she has never been abroad before. So she wears nice clothes and shops and goes sightseeing.

DB: She’s a corrupt officer, she’s an encounter specialist with a Hyderabadi accent. She is a very quirky character who loves branded clothes but can’t afford them. So she will do anything to get branded stuff. She would even kill for a Gucci bag. Her character adds a lot of humour to the film.

BOI: Do you have any action scenes?

AS: There’s little action for me compared to what Vidyut does. And since I can’t do what he does, I have been given nice clothes and heels. So I have done everything in high heels, including 6-inch heels.
VJ: We all lost weight after the shoot of Commando 2.

BOI: Vipul and Vidyut, the two of you have been part of both parts of Commando. Do the expectations add pressure this time around?

VAS: When Commando released, he turned from a villain to a hero. So there were hardly any expectations. When people don’t expect anything from you, it’s very scary. I don’t look at expectations as a burden, rather as a compliment from the audience. And I take it in a good spirit so that I can meet their expectations. That’s how the entire team of the film has worked.

VJ: I don’t know about expectations, but I feel a great sense of responsibility, because Commando was supposed to create a benchmark in action. Before that, we saw people hitting 15 guys and cars flying. But we wanted to do real stuff. When we were hitting people, we were really hitting them. We signed a contract, saying that the action was going to be very real. So we had raised the bar. And that’s why I believe it is my responsibility. I received a message from Scott Atkins, one of the biggest action stars in the world, saying that he was inspired by the action.

BOI: How happy are you with the film?

DB: I can’t express how I am feeling right now. I always wanted to do different things in life and this is the opportunity I was waiting for… debuting with action. I am not an opportunist to accept anything and everything that comes my way. I knew I had Vidyut Jamwwal, who’s an international action star; and I had Vipul Shah, who has vast experience with making action films and who’s a talented director. He’s my best friend as well. I had that kind of support backing me. I also thought I had the vision and passion to pull off this film.

VAS: Basically, he is very nervous right now and is saying anything that comes to mind. A debutant director is allowed that freedom. One of the main things we want to convey through this film is that there is a preconceived notion about action films. People often look down on action films. But it is difficult to make an action film, where you have to raise the bar.

It is also physically demanding, which means injuries to the people involved in the film. We are fighting a battle to treat this film on merit. Don’t write it off because action films don’t work. India is the only country where action films are not respected. The moment a Hollywood action film is about to release, people give it great reviews. If an action film is made in India with Indian actors, it is panned by everyone. So we are asking people to treat the movie on merit and not write it off based on genre.

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