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Creating Magic With Cinema

Actors Manoj Bajpayee, Kay Kay Menon, Vijay Raaz and director Sanjeev Sharma talk to Team Box Office India about their film Saat Uchakkey

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Box Office India (BOI) : What was your experience with the script?

Kay Kay Menon (KKM): When I received the script I kept reading it again and again. It has rarely happened that I read a script a few more times to understand it. This happened for the second time with me where I took some time to understand the lehja and the gist of the script and that too because I am born and brought up in Maharashtra and the film talks about old Delhi culture, which is kind of alien to me.  Whenever, in a script, apart from drama and emotion you have a story about the place, that story becomes unique in itself. In Saat Uchakkey, you have the location almost as a character. What I liked more about the story was that the characters based in that area are almost like fantasy characters. You just can’t believe such characters exist in reality.

Manoj Bajpayee (MB):  For me it was different as I have studied in Delhi and also did theatre there. I was familiar with old Delhi. I used to visit food stalls in Paranthewali Gali, go there to eat jalebi and kachori. We had few boys who were from Old Delhi in our group. Their way of speaking was different. A lot of my friends used to tease them for their way of speaking. When I got the script, it was like a flashback to those days and for the first time I was reading the old Delhi culture on paper. It took me two to three days to decide on the script. As Kay Kay just mentioned the characters sounded more from a fantasy world and it makes you think, is this real? After reading the script I realised that whoever has written this has actually lived this life for ages. In this case it’s Sanju (Sanjeev Sharma).

In fact, after a few weeks I called up Neeraj Pandey and told him that the script is little long and if it can be edited a bit, it can become a tight, interesting story. There was something about the script which was very compelling. That’s why I said ‘yes’ to the script.

Vijay Raaz (VR): I am born and brought up in Delhi, my instant reaction was that I will become a part of this film. Somewhere I knew all the characters. I have known them from my growing up days. I feel lucky to be part of this film.

vyg_6388BOI: Sanjeev, how did you come up with the concept?

SS: I was born in that world, I studied in old Delhi till my higher secondary. And I was one of those dumb kids who used to look at everyone around me with an open mouth. I have seen these characters in real, and I was very fascinated with them and their lives.

I used to stay close to a haveli where Delhi’s royal families used to reside. The language spoken in my house was very respectful. Ek alag hi tehzeeb thi ghar pe but we were surrounded by people who spoke a totally different language. That is the language you will hear in my film. In those days if we heard some new word, we would ask my father its meaning. He used to explain it to us so beautifully that the whole disgust of that foul language used to vanish.

Gradually, I started to understand that world more closely. I realised that it’s a different world. Today those characters seem like from a fantasy to us but they were real characters. So the inspiration came from there. In Old Delhi there are many such havelis. There is a haveli in Chandni Chowk called Chunnamal Haveli This haveli is Chandni Mahal in our film. There are lots of many such stories in Old Delhi around Chunnamal Haveli.

When the Mughal Empire ended, some of such havelis were taken over by the firangs. When a King loses his crown, it’s not just the raja leaving his throne. The entire trading system and therefore the entire social order gets affected

Now, nobody from the royal family wanted to work as they had royal blood. You might be in loss, without a job but because you belong to a Royal family, you just can’t do any odd jobs.

With the passage of time, there were 12 families residing at the same time in a haveli. With each passing generation, their needs increased and everyone had to take up petty work. I have used those characters in my film. They all belong to blue blooded families. They are surviving the changed social-economic scenario. Everyone is trying to better their economic structure. I have based the premise on these characters.

An important fact about Chunnamal Haveli was that the last emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar got arrested but what happened to his descendants?  One of them resides in Mira Road (Mumbai), while one is in Kolkata. The family which resides in Kolkata works as a ragpickers. The Mira Road family gets `200 per month allowance from the government.

BOI: Besides the overall story, what was it about your individual characters which attracted you?

vyg_6394KKM: That is very difficult to say. It is very subjective; When you look at a particular person that you are playing, like I have said it many a times that I don’t play roles, I play people. It doesn’t matter if I am playing five cops in different films. I am not playing a character but playing Mahesh, the cop or Suresh, the cop. So in this film I am playing Tejpal, not a cop but Tejpal, a different person. It’s as simple as that. Normally, we actors tend to play people. When we play people that is when things tend to get interesting and unique. Tejpal has major love/lust for this girl and he is out to achieve it. He is also very gullible so is easily taken for a ride. When you actually play a character that is when you realize there are so many things that you can’t actually explain in words. It is not as simple. So the question about what your character entails is very irrelevant. Also there are too many intricacies in these characters for it to be explained. You have to watch the film to understand it.

SS: Post the script reading when we came down to discussing the character, Kay Kay asked me what I see in this character. I told him that there are seven people along with so many other characters in one place in the film. All of them live in their own fantasy world. I felt that Kay Kay’s character is the only one in the film who is living in reality. On a daily basis, he meets and encounters all these people who live in their fantasies. Kay Kay asked me a very interesting question which was if he deals with all these daydreamers then by now even his reality would be a bit unbalanced. I agreed with him and asked him to feel it and go with it to essay his character.

BOI: Manoj, what was your attraction towards your character?

MB: It’s actually very funny because my character Pappi is basically the local goon of that area. He has been there with a lot of attitude and brashness in his time. What I liked about him was that now he has fallen in love and is smitten, anybody and everybody is taking him for granted. Anyone and everyone is coming and fooling him. The desperation to acquire the object of his love has made him weak. That transition is what I loved the most. The fact that he has become so vulnerable because of the fact that he is in love, he is now ready to listen to anybody. He is willing to take any path to try everything.

SS: Manoj and I have had some discussions on his character. This character was a goon in his hey days but now he doesn’t have as much power as he used to. In the given situation, he goes through a lot of humiliation. That was also in a way a kind of a hook for this character.

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