Team Bhoomi – director Omung Kumar and lead actors Sanjay Dutt and Aditi Rao Hydari – go behind the scenes with Box Office India, on the making of Dutt’s comeback film, Bhoomi
BOI: What sparked the idea of Bhoomi?
Omung Kumar (OK): Basically, we had scripts lined up for Baba (Sanjay Dutt), and Sandeep (Singh) and I approached him. He listened to the ideas but turned down all of them except Bhoomi. Somewhere, deep down, the story touched his heart and the character was what he was looking out for. He had made up his mind that he wanted to act his age; he wanted to do something that would make him more powerful. I think he also liked the (father-daughter) relationship in the film.
BOI: Sanjay sir, you returning to the screen has left everyone very excited. What are your feelings on this?
Sanjay Dutt (SD): It makes me very happy that people want to watch me on the big screen even after so many years. There is so much of love and respect. It humbles me and makes me extremely happy.
BOI: Did you feel any pressure?
SD: There is no pressure to live up to expectations. This movie has everything that will satisfy the audience. It’s a very, very strong relationship between a father and his daughter. It has a message too. But I want to tell everybody one thing, that this is a commercial film, an out-and-out entertainer. There are songs, there is Trippy trippy with Sunny Leone, there is the other song Will you marry me and all the other stuff. There is a lot of action.
OK: Yeah, it is a full-on Bollywood entertainer. It has a message and powerful acting by the cast. They have taken it to another level, which you have to watch in cinemas. And, of course, Baba is there, so expect some action, but action in a different style, he has upgraded it. Times have changed, so, obviously, this movie is one step up from whatever they have done and whatever I have done before. That’s why Bhoomi is very special to us.
BOI: What went through your mind the night before the first day of the shoot?
OK: We thought it would be hectic to start preparing, and rehearsals karenge, but nothing happened. We decided to leave early and start the shoot. There was anxiety. It was the first day and there was a one-year gap since my last film. So there is always nervousness on the first day. But everybody was nervous and we were all in the same boat. Everybody was consoling each other.
We felt we had to get into our comfort zone when we were together on the first day itself. We were planning and prepping for Sanjay’s arrival much in advance. We were there the entire week. We were preparing, location-wise.
And he (Sanjay Dutt) arrived a day before the shoot. It was a hectic journey also. He said, ‘let’s all meet together on location and take it from there.’ So the scene was very light. Obviously, sab log comfortable ho gaye, then we started with the main action drama.
BOI: Tell us about the very first shot.
SD: First shot yeh tha ki baap beti ko bol raha hai ki dye laga lo. You know, she is putting dye in my hair. I think that was our first shot. It was amazing, because it was a good environment. People were happy, I was happy. It was very emotional for me.
BOI: Aditi, were you scared, were there any nerves?
Aditi Rao Hydari (ARH): Of course, I was nervous. Initially, when Omung sir and Sandeep took me to meet Sanju sir, after I had been cast in the film, I was sitting quietly and only observing. Omung sir noticed this and said, ‘I hope you’re not going to be like this on set because it’s a father-daughter relationship. And the daughter has grown up with the father, she is not an adopted child. You know, she wasn’t adopted yesterday, or has just entered his life. She is his child. So there has to be a comfort level.’
Sanju sir called me and gave me a big hug. His famous jaadu ki jhappi. And everything seemed fine from that moment onwards. The first shot was a little scary because every equation flows from that shot, and there was no time to settle into it. But Sanju sir said, ‘I am also nervous.’ But we got that shot in just one take. After that, it was super smooth.
BOI: Sanjay sir, why were you nervous?
SD: Yaar, chaar saal ho gaye the pinjre mein bandh tha ek panchi (smiles). It’s like when you ride a bike after many years, you feel a little funny and it takes some time to settle into it. I don’t know whether it was nerves. I think it was more about being emotional than anything else.
BOI: You are playing a father who would go to any lengths to protect his daughter. Were there any challenges you faced while prepping for this character?
SD: I don’t prep for any character. So that’s one thing less to stress about. But, yes, it’s about a father who goes to any lengths to get justice for his daughter. It is not that he doesn’t go with the system. He does. He’s a simple man, yaar. If something happens to his daughter, he will first go to the police station, file a complaint, register an FIR, fight a court case and all that. But if it still doesn’t work, then what? Toh kya karega? Then too they pretend that everything is fine with each other till a point comes when they know it isn’t. It’s a commercial picture.
OK: Please don’t reveal the entire movie. (Laughs)
SD: I am not saying that what I have done in the film is what everyone in this country should do. This is a movie.
OK: It’s about how much you can push someone and how much they can take. And if it’s Sanjay Dutt as Baba, you expect some fireworks.
BOI: All of you are working with each other for the first time. How did you break the ice?
OK: For me, it was easy because we had met before. And, yes, there are stories about this aura surrounding Sanjay Dutt. And when you actually meet him, everything changes. I mean, he’s just a normal guy, he is your friend, he is your pal and he is your brother. You’ve grown up watching him but when you finally come face-to-face, yes, you do get nervous but, after that, he’s the most humble person on earth. He’ll put you on ease and everything works out properly.
He’ll push you, he’ll encourage you and say, aise karenge toh kaisa lagega, and suddenly you think, okay maybe that’s right. He takes you a step forward. So the ice breaks early. Hence, it was very comfortable.
Yes, to walk onto the set as a director, to say ‘ACTION!’ and all that made me feel a little nervous. But, after some time, it just flowed. And Aditi gelled with him (Sanjay Dutt) well. I mean, after some time I forgot that they were not really a father-daughter jodi. They look so good together that they were my father and daughter for Bhoomi.
SD: I’m just the way I am. Basically…
OK: (Interrupts) There’s no ice to break…
SD: I know. (Smiles) I mean, there’s no ice to break with you people here at Box Office India either. I came in, asked for a cup of tea, sat down, talked. This is who I am.
BOI: What were your most memorable moments from the shoot?
SD: Omung had said that we would be shooting in Panvel. I said okay, let us all go to Panvel. When I got there, there was this train and I asked Omung where he had managed to find it. It was on a track somewhere in Panvel, and we were shooting on those tracks. Whenever a train was about to pass, people would shout and tell us to stand outside the tracks. We would stand on the side and allow the train to pass.
OK: (Interrupts) That literally left us shaking. There are lots freaky moments in the film, the emotional scenes which tie us together, which is what I like in the film. There’s unbelievable action that both of them have done. There are unbelievable places that we’ve gone to shoot in. We even shot in the Chambal, the most dreadful place to visit. Also, the days are very hot there and the nights cold. But we got good shots. Obviously, we wanted to do something new, something that had not been done before.
Emotion wise, the movie works really well. Yet the fun part of the film was what he (Sanjay Dutt) used to do behind the scene and in it too. He would really push Aditi such that when he was not in the frame and the camera was on Aditi, he would make her laugh even in the most serious scenes. Those are the things you always remember.
BOI: Aditi, your choice of films has always been unusual. What is the one thing you look for in a script?
ARH: I don’t know… it’s instinctive. I didn’t grow up on the sets or watching how movies are made. I just like listening to a kahaani. And if I’m listening to a story and I’m engrossed, if I want to know what happens next… if I can feel the relationships between the characters, then I want to do the film. Having said that, it’s been one step at a time, honestly. It’s not like I decided I would only do movies that were ‘different’. I just choose projects that appeal to me. I do know that box office numbers are really important, but I also feel that films can live beyond their numbers. Actors can have characters that stay memorable for years, and that’s what’s really special. I like to choose stuff like that. Also, I have been lucky. A lot of amazing people have picked me to be a part of their films without having known me. Maybe they saw my work. I don’t know. It’s just been one step forward and then another, and I hope it continues to be like that. That’s all I strive for.
BOI: This time, was it the kahaani or Sanjay sir?
ARH: Honestly, it’s been the kahaani first, because they were very clever. It wasn’t disclosed initially that Sanjay Sir was part of the film. I guess they were checking if I was interested in the story. I heard the kahaani in the dead of the night, in the middle of another shoot. And I felt I had to do this film. I actually opted out of stuff to be able to do this movie. And the next day they told me the clincher. I was like, ‘Oh my God! Okay! I am on!’
BOI: Are there aspects of the daughter in this film that you relate to?
ARH: You know, the father-daughter bond and parent-child bond are universal. In this story, it’s a simple, small-town single parent and an only child. They’re there for each other; it’s that kind of a bond. And I think everybody can relate to that because a daughter’s first and ultimate hero is her father.
I also feel I had an amazing actor to react to. Sanju sir generally has got a very protective aura about him. When he walks in and gives you a hug or just puts his hand on your head, you feel that things are going to be okay. I call him the BFG (Big Friendly Giant); he looks imposing but he is the big friendly giant. He is like a teddy bear.
He doesn’t like to rehearse, which was great because I hate rehearsing – and quite often you can’t say that, being the younger or less-experienced actor on the set. With Sanju sir it was so cool; you just had to go with the flow. Every time, he would do something different and you just had to react to him. Sometimes he would tapli maro you, or say a different line, or pretend to find lice in your hair and make you go ‘Ewww’. It was a lot of fun doing the film.
Behind the scenes too, he keeps you so entertained. I actually felt the bond because our work was so real and instinctive, so improvised, open and very generous. He would always give real emotions, real tears and everything. It feels very special when somebody does that.
SD: I told him (Omung) I don’t do rehearsals, when I first met him. I said ‘Yaar Omung, main rehearsal kar lunga, lekin woh rehearsal dekh ke ghabra mat jana ki yeh kya ho gaya hai’. I asked him to bear with me. Once I do those rehearsals, three-four times, I lose my spontaneity.
OK: (Cuts in) I was prepared for that, so it was okay. (Laughs) First two takes mein okay ho jata hai. You don’t go to a third or fourth.
BOI: What’s going to happen on September 22? All the Sanjay Baba fans are waiting to see him on the big screen. How are they going to react?
ARH: Oh my God… the slogan is ‘Baba is back’! I think Sanju Sir elicits this unconditional love, which I saw in Agra. It was insane. I think people are just sort of dying to see him on screen. People were hovering and some were also a little nervous. And I’m thinking, ‘He’s so chill, why are you nervous?’
BOI: What happened on the last day of the shoot?
OK: Everybody had a different last day of shoot.
ARH: For me the wrap was the ‘Will you marry me’ song. I ended it on that high, so it was really fun.
BOI: Sanjay Sir, your last day was…?
SD: Omung, there was a scene in Virar, right?
OK: In the middle of the traffic, chaos and bazaar situation, and it was a night shot. This shot was jinxed. Kuch na kuch toh hota tha aur woh shot nahi banta tha. We tried at least three times. Finally, on the last day, we got it. It was Sanjay and Puru Chibbar in the shot.
BOI: Omung, tell us what you’re expecting on September 22.
OK: On September 22? All my fingers are crossed. Hopefully people will like it. I mean, we have poured our hearts and souls into this film. The actors have performed exceptionally well. To get the best out of the actors so they can look back on it as their best performance, that is the goal for me in every film. And here, the maharathis that they are, they have outdone themselves completely.
The whole range of emotions is what I feel the audience will experience on the 22nd of September. You will see some of yourself in the film and maybe you will like it and you will get angry when they get angry, and you will laugh with them, want revenge as they do.
BOI: Sanjay sir, we’re also going to see a biopic on you next year, featuring Ranbir Kapoor. Does that feel surreal?
SD: It is an honour for me that they are doing a biopic on a guy who is still alive. And has a long way to go, I think, God willing. But yeah, it’s great. Raju (Rajkumar Hirani) kind of liked.