Team L.O.E.V – Director Sudhanshu Saria, Producer Arfi Lamba, and actors Siddharth Menon and Shiv Pandit– in conversation with Team Box Office India
Box Office India (BOI): Sudhanshu,what prompted you to make your debut as a director with LOEV?
SudhanshuSaria (SS): What prompted me to make the film was heartbreak. People deal with break-ups and heartache in all sorts of ways, my way of dealing with that pain after the obligatory week of cheesy heartbreak songs was to write. I went to my family home and came back with the script.
Arfi Lamba (AL): The narration was so wonderful; it took him 90 minutes to narrate the entire script. It was one of the best narrations I had ever heard in my life and it took me only 90 seconds to feel that this was happening. We had no resources, we didn’t know how it was going to come out and I think the journey with thisfilm was magical.
BOI: How did casting come about?
SS: Shiv and I met for coffeeand I realised that we had attended the same boarding school. However, people said that Shiv wouldn’t do it and I too was sceptical of narrating the story to him. People kept saying that Shiv wouldn’t do this kind of film as he was doing Boss and Shaitan and films like that. He is a commercial actor and was not meant for this. However, he surprised me when I did narrate the film to him and he said yes.
As for Sid (Siddharth Menon)… I had seen him in Peddlers.When he walked in for the auditions, it clicked instantly for me. Initially, we had told everyone that the film was based on male bonding and friendship as we didn’t want people to know what it was really all about. So when Sid came in for the audition, I asked everyone in the room to leave and I explained the subject of the film. I told him, ‘It is okay if this is not your cup of tea, I understand that actors might have reservations about doing subjects like this.
Dhruv Ganesh, who plays Sahil, is also a very important part of the film, and he did an amazing job in Teen Patti and Table No 21 but I hadn’t seen those films before. Coincidently, we ended up hanging out at a friend’s house that night and I was, like, we spent two to three hours hanging out, now atleast call him for an audition or else it’s very rude.
BOI: Shiv, he said there was baggage with youas you have been part of commercial films. Were you aware of his apprehensions?
Shiv Pandit (SP): I think the baggage was more on the subconscious level, from school, because we belong to a boarding school which was for boys. I saw reflections of homophobia there too, which I am not proud of. I think our upbringingin this country is like that; there is always a subliminal level of homophobia.
I was at a point in my life, where after doing Boss, I was offered quite a few big-ticket films which I didn’t sign on for. Perhaps I had lost my self-confidence. I had probably lost the instinct I had when I had started out. I guess every actor goes through this as it is a very human reaction.
And I was unhappy with myself as I was asking for opinions and later regretting it because I did not make the decisions I wanted to. When I heard Sudhanshu’s script, it immediately spoke to me. It had a very simple narrative in terms of a love story. As an actor – and this is easier said than done – you should always be willing to breakdown all the barriers and inhibitions that you have. It struck me that in the five years of my career, nobody has offered me a role like this and they probably never will.
When Sudhanshu came over, he said, ‘Listen, I want to do this my way, so just bear with me.’He pulled out a speaker, he had some songs queued, and at a certain point in the narration, he played those songs. He was very prepared and very confident of his material. I respected that and it also meant that he respected me enough to take the time to put up a proper presentation.It also showed clarity of thought.
BOI: What was the result of the narration he gave you,Siddharth?
Siddharth Menon (SM): Shiv has already said whatI wanted to say. The first thing he said when I went to his placewas’, ‘I am from LA and I am making a film on friendship.’ I was, like,‘Okay,’ as I do a lot of meetings like this. Most of them don’t materialise or they ditch you. So, I am, like,‘Fine, what do I have to lose? I’m just going to do whatever comes my way.’
I went there and he said,‘Hey, you were in Peddlers’ and I was, like, ‘Wow! God had selected only a few people in the world to see that film and he was one of them!That really grabbed me. I was, like,‘Okay, he has seen something of mine and that’s very rare.’And he had this whole set-up. So he showed me his short film and I was blown away.
SS:This is a fairytale ending. It couldn’t have been better to make a film like this. We had our world premiere on November 2015. OnOctober 2016, 11 months later,we had the first screening in Mumbai.Our tickets went on sale at the Mumbai Film Festival and, in 15 seconds, all three shows were sold out. That’s when we were, like,‘Okay, there is real demand here.’But when we would go to distributer meetings, they made us feel as if they were doing us a favour by just being in the room. It’s a complicated process with a film like this. It had never occurred to me that something like this was possiblebecause we had already sold the films in so many countries by then.
SP: But that’s the best part.Luckily,we got this opportunity and I feel bad for all the filmmakers who came in before us. I think they are so lucky that these platformshave come to India, like Amazon Prime, Netflix and so on. I think it has given films like ours voices and creativity like this to actually be given a proper chance.