Team Guest Iin London – Producers Kumar Mangat Pathak and Abhishek Pathak, along with director Ashwni Dhir and actor Kartik Aaryan in conversation with Team Box Office India
Box Office India (BOI): When was it decided that you would make Guest Iin London?
Ashwni Dhir (AD): We decided that we had to do something like this and we had a story. Robin Bhatt and I started working on the story and the script. Later we got inputs from Kumarji and Abhishek Pathak and we all came to the mutual decision to make this film, since it was something that we felt should be taken ahead.
BOI: Was Kartik Aaryan your first choice?
AD: Yes, he was my first choice. Actually, it was a mutual decision to take him in the film.
BOI: When you heard the story for the first time, what was your reaction?
Kumar Mangat (KM): The way he had narrated the story to me, the film turned out to be the same. After the first narration itself I immediately said, ‘Let’s do it’.
BOI: Abhishek, was it the same for you?
Abhishek Pathak (AP): The story was locked earlier and once we knew that this film was to be made, the screenplay was developed. So it was on already.
AD: The story was clear and locked, but obviously there were angles like we should do this and that, the normal process. Once the final story was developed, everybody was kicked about it and said that this movie should be made.
BOI: Was shooting at a foreign location pre-decided?
AD: The story demanded that. If not London, we would have shot it in America. But we chose London. The story is about a guy who is an Indian working in London. He wants to live there his entire life and he manages that, falls in love with a girl and suddenly Pareshji (Rawal) and Tanviji (Azmi) come into their lives there. We can’t call it a culture clash exactly, but how we often use people, especially when we live abroad and we need our people, but we use them.
BOI: Also, there is an age gap in the film, and there is modern and traditional…
AD: (Cuts in) Traditional and modern is there. When people like Paresh Rawal and Tanviji go abroad from a small town like Bhatinda, the clash happens. In London, we find a culture clash and we have shown Pareshji as 65-70 years old so the culture clash was obvious. But that is not the story. In the film, Kartik says, ‘We all have become like a fake dog lover.’ There are dog lovers and then there are fake dog lovers. You pet a dog and cuddle him and when you go home, you are extremely lovey-dovey with the dog. However, if one day your mood is spoiled and your dog comes to you, you yell ‘Go to your room’, and he goes. After half an hour, once you calm down, you say, ‘Come baby, maine gussa kiya.’ That’s the situation. We love according to our convenience. We call people when we need them and if we don’t, we ask them to leave – saamne wala toh Tommy (dog) hai. This is how we have become. We love according to convenience. This is the gist of the story.
BOI: Kartik, who was the first to approach you? What was your first reaction after the narration?
Kartik Aaryan (KA): There was no first one as such. My first meeting was with everybody together. And the first thing I saw was London in the title. I was going to go to London for the first time. So half excitement was because I was getting the opportunity to visit London for this film. But I am just not talking about myself here, whoever heard the narration said that the script was amazing. And the best thing is, it’s relatable. The scenes that Ashwni sir and Robin sir have written, that does happen with all of us. All these situations do take place in our lives, like guests arrive suddenly and are also unwanted. There are emotional scenes too and the entertainment is so easy and subtle. It is the kind of film that emotionally attaches to you. This film is a complete family entertainer. For a long time we haven’t watched a film where we go with parents, and side me mooh chupana na pade ki yeh kya scene ho raha hai. It’s a clean comedy film after a long time, and you must have seen in the trailer that all the sequences are funny. There are no gags without reason.
BOI: Kumar Mangat, you have been in this industry for a very long time and you have made different types of films. Audiences now try to find something that relates to them in a film. Do you agree that the audience has changed?
KM: They have changed completely. We have been in the industry for a long time and we have seen that a good film never flops, while bad films don’t work. Take the example of Hindi Medium – itne bheed mein release hui – and Baahubali: The Conclusion… but there have been many films with big names that had no story and concept, so they didn’t work. So it has always been there. If there is a good film with a good concept, it will work.
BOI: Abhishek, you are a new age producer. There is now a division between commercial and content driven films. Do you think a good film is a marriage of both?
AP: It is supposed to be like that, otherwise you get carried away and make good content films with little money. It’s better to have a good budget and content, but obviously content is most important. If you see films like Neerja, Queen, Hindi Medium or Pyaar Ka Punchnama, they open with very small numbers, but then the numbers become huge because of the content. If you make commercial films, they are made big, but the numbers are small. It has to be a decent marriage, but the first thing has to be content. If that is not correct, then even if you spend a lot the film won’t work. You have seen examples of big films that didn’t work because there is no content. If the film releases on Sunday, by Monday it is over; if the film has content, it starts picking up from Monday and goes on for a long time. It has to be a good marriage, or else it doesn’t work.
BOI: In the trailer we see a lot of humour. Was it written that way or were there improvisations on the sets?
AD: There was not much improvisation on the sets. There is a little improvisation, which we normally do. Everybody has their way to shoot. In my case, I give the actor a scene and they perform, and then put a shot; not put the shot before. We do choreography first to see where the actor is comfortable, but halaki dono taraf se hota hai, lekin mota moti hota hai ki kaisa karna chahiye and while doing that, a line comes in and you say it if you want to.
There is an addition of five to ten per cent, because if you go on adding, the script will be doubled from 100 pages to 200 pages. Because every person is a writer and everyone gives a line, but we were open as we are supposed to be, like if someone has a point of view and it needs to be cooperated with, we did it. There are small improvisations, nothing major. We shot what we had written.
BOI: How did Kartik surprise you as an actor?
AD: He is a mature actor and maybe he wasn’t aware about this fact before doing this film. He is a very good actor. I had seen the first part of Pyaar Ka Panchnama, but not the second part. The image of Kartik saying the monologue is fine and good in its own place, but in this film there is maturity. There are many shades – emotional, poker face comedy and his reactions. The surprise was that you explore an actor. I had no idea about him and maybe he didn’t know about it either, so we explored, he must have also explored me as a director. Every person explores each other. He can perform and he does it well. So the surprise is that we don’t know about ourselves, and then we discover each other.
BOI: As he said, he must have surprised you, Kartik…
KA: I think he has surprised me a lot of times, because we were working on the script and as we were speaking about improvisations, he came on the sets with new ideas. Many situations that were written we found funny, but usse bhi alag ek tarike ke fun zone mein… there are many scenes that he brought to the sets on the day of the shoot – the same scene was done a bit differently.
Many scenes were created like this on the sets, and then there were some that were choreographed, while others were impromptu. As actors we get scared sometimes and think that kahi kuch gadbad toh nahi hua, but things are getting better. In this film, apart from the comic scenes, I like the emotional scenes. I think I am too young to comment on this, but I think there are very few writers and directors who make a complete package of a film in today’s time. So I am really happy with the way he has made this film and written it.
BOI: From his first film till now, what are the changes you have seen in him as an actor?
KA: Just beard has grown.
KM: He has grown in a very short span of time. He doesn’t know how much he has improved. He has changed as an actor and personality wise, he is now perfect.
AP: More than professional, we had a different relationship, we chilled together, played games… So we have that kind of a rapport. We played a lot of Playstation. I had a great tuning with him. During Pyaar Ka Punchnama he was a student in college, so he had to attend workshops for eight to nine months. From then on, he has progressed as an actor. After that he has done many films and we have seen his progression and timing in comedy, which is now very good.
BOI: Television has a greater reach than cinema. Is there a difference in the audience’s need for cinema and television?
AD: No, there is no difference. The need is only for good content, be it in cinema, internet or television, and that’s it. I don’t believe that the audience has changed now, because they changed long ago. Time has not changed for some people and that is our India. Time for 70 per cent of people has never changed. And we make films for other 30 per cent, that is the problem.
KM: I completely agree!
AD: So when you make a film for the 70 per cent, those that work are films like Hindi Medium. Then we say the same thing, that times have changed. Why? Because of that 70 per cent of people that you never considered to be your audience. While television reaches that very 70 per cent. Without taking away anything from anybody, the mass audience and elite audience have nothing to do with education.
We usually talk about well-educated people, but to be honest, I have seen well-educated illiterate people too. People who understand other people can be called educated, even the building watchman may be educated, but it is not necessary that he has a MBA degree. So someone who understands is called ‘sensible’ and anyone can have that sensibility.
But we think that jiski collar sabse zyada white hai, woh Ariel detergent use karta hai, aur jiski thodi kharab hai, woh Nirma use karta hai. We give more importance to people who use Ariel than to those who use Nirma. Another thing that I don’t understand is ‘youth’. If youth worked, then MTV or Channel [V] wouldn’t have shut down!
Youth means good, so you should get new stories or show new cinema because we don’t want to watch old things, but sometimes we recreate old things and shows that run well. Pasand sab ki ek hai – that is, good content.