Lead actor Sunil Grover, director Vishal Mishra and producer Vinod Ramani of Coffee With D, in conversation with Team Box Office India
Box Office India (BOI): How did the film begin?
Sunil Grover (SG): With the opening credits. (Laughs)
Vishal Mishra (VM): The idea was to make a film on an underworld don, which had not been attempted in India. We have always glorified them in a very typical manner with item songs etc. But when we went through the material – there was a lot of material available online about different gangsters – we found out that they lead a very different kind of life, which is very realistic. What we also found was that they face the same problems we do, especially at retirement age. In real life, we joke about what would happen to a don after retirement, and those one-line jokes became a story. We asked ourselves whether it was good enough to become a film. Then we worked on the story and wrote the screenplay.
I am close to Shabinaa Khan and Sanjay (Leela Bhansali) sir and they were the ones I first narrated my idea to. They felt it was a good enough topic and that I should cast an actor who is not associated with any particular type of role or image. Sunil (Grover) had done Gabbar with them. I don’t really watch television but am aware of his popularity and stardom, which I witnessed first-hand when we were shooting and now that we are doing interviews.
VM: Then Sunil came into the picture. We got actors like Zakir Hussain, Dipannita Sharma, Anjana Sukhani, Rajesh Sharma and Pankaj Tripathi… everyone is a powerhouse of acting. It is a controversial subject and very sensitive, so I wanted actors who would do justice to the film.
BOI: What was your first reaction when he approached you with the script?
SG: As Vishalji said, it was Shabinaa who referred me to him. As soon as he narrated the story to me, we decided that we would be doing the film. He was very clear about what he wanted to make, in how many days, the schedule, editor, cameraperson. Also, he had a very clear vision about how he wanted to tell a story about a gangster which had not been told before, in such a manner. We seemed to share the same vision, like how I should approach the role.
BOI: Did he share the one-line concept or the entire script with you?
SG: Initially, he shared the storyline with me, which I liked. Then, he shared the script but then he narrated the story, which I liked most. And after saying ‘yes’, he shared the bound script with me but it was the idea that I liked and then his narration. When a director narrates a story to you, you get to know his vision and that’s why I agreed to be part of the film.
BOI: Now the don is obviously Dawood Ibrahim. Did you, at any point, think it would be better to make a fictional character to avoid problems?
VM: Everybody has seen the promo and once you watch it, you know what the film is about. Like many say, it’s like The Interview. I don’t know how many noticed that Sunil’s house has a big poster of Frost/ Nixon. I believe The Interview is a comic version of Frost/Nixon, and I love that film.
Luckily or unluckily, it is not popular in India and I am happy we are competing with The Interview and not with the Cohen brothers.
In Tere Bin Laden, in the first 10 minutes, you know this guy is not Bin Laden but somebody pretending to be Bin Laden. Here, that’s not the case as both people are real. Arnab is going to interview D but what’s happening is very real. In the promo, everyone is serious yeh media wala mujhe pasand nahin hai, iss wale se meri patti hai.
VM: Since he was playing a journalist, there were two challenges. First, Sunil should not be recognised by those names by which he is so popular. So people should not be able to say jaise woh Dishoom mein tha, they put Viraj for Virat and our film has Arnab Ghosh. We deliberately used Arnab so that people would say, ‘Oh, he is playing Arnab Goswami.’
BOI: Obviously, in a comedy, getting the right chemistry between the actors was crucial. Was it something that happened on the sets or was it rehearsed?
SG: I had to work with Zakir Hussain, who is a good actor, Pankaj Tripati and Rajesh Sharmaji. I am a fan of Rajeshji, even Zakir bhai is a very mature actor. So unlog ke saath I had to be just one with them. You have been given your lines and you have to simply act it out. That’s it.