DKK: Filmmaking is always tough. I always say it is like a war zone. You have to be like soldiers and you need to be constantly fighting because the challenges keep coming. For instance, this time, I was shooting in Canada and I arrived there a few days before our unit was to arrive. Our line producer in Canada had nothing in place, no permissions and no hotel bookings. My unit was arriving within 10 days so I got the shock of my life. I was especially worried about the budget going haywire. I hate doing production but I had to run to various offices there and get everything sorted before the unit arrived.
So sometimes you have to step into production and it is extremely tough. I enjoy direction because it is more satisfying but obviously, as a director, I need a right-hand man who would keep everything ready so that all I need to do is direct. Obviously, it doesn’t really happen that way and you have to be involved and take charge of everything, and you have to keep the team motivated especially under the circumstances I shot in. Sometimes, there was snow, it was biting cold and we were living in tents. We stayed in hotels in Kalpa, where there was no electricity and no water. So your unit gets demoralised. All these things go into making a film even though reviewers decide the fate of a film in just one word.
BOI: Sameer, technically, how difficult was it for you to shoot the film?
Sameer Arya (SA): It was very difficult. We ran into a lot of trouble with the weather. There was so much wind that sometimes five people had to hold one light. When we look at those scenes now, it seems very funny but only we know how we shot this film. We ended up wasting so much time as the weather was just not allowing us to proceed as we wanted to. Time is money and we had a tight budget.
BOI: What about the understanding between the two of you about the vision of the film, in terms of colours and…
SA: (Cuts in) After Yaariyan, she was very clear about her colour schemes and her vision. She is clear about every scene, how the first half should look and how the second half should look. So when we execute things, there is no waste of time. Once she explains what she wants, I am prepared for it.
DKK: (Cuts in) I think we have developed an understanding, of sorts. During Yaariyan, we used to communicate a lot but now that he knows what I am looking for, we barely spoke while filming Sanam Re.
DKK: Sameer reads my mind and he knows what kind of shot I am looking for. So he used to frame the shot exactly like I wanted and sometimes he also took extra shots, which he thought I might like. You have to be compatible with your team, especially the writers, DoP and editors. These are the three senapatis who should be very strong when you are making a film.
BOI: What was Bhushanji’s reaction when you narrated the script to him?
DKK: When I finished narrating the script to him, he immediately said, ‘Wow’ and he instantly gave the go-ahead! We have an abundance of rom-coms being made in our industry, but there are very few love stories. Aashiqui 2 was one and now we have Sanam Re. The film is very strong on emotion and he (Bhushan) felt really connected to it. And, of course, after Yaariyan became a success, he obviously… (Laughs)
BOI: He couldn’t say ‘no’ to you?
BOI: You understand the commercial aspect of business very well. From the trade point of view, what makes Sanam Re hot property?
BK: First of all, when you make a musical love story, the music has to be very strong. And by ‘very strong’, I mean it has to be top of the charts. If you don’t achieve that, there is a serious problem. With Airlift, you don’t need music to get an opening; all you need is good music to market the film, which we got in Airlift, whose songs went on to top the charts. But in a love story, you need to have blockbuster music, like we had in Aashiqui 2. If you don’t, it becomes very difficult to get an opening.
If you look back at all the love stories with great music, all those films got good openings and those which didn’t have good music, didn’t open well. I am talking about pure love stories, not films like Piku or Airlift, which worked because of their content. For people to come and watch your love story, which you are not even making with a big cast, you need great music to bring the audience to cinemas. In fact, recently, there was a big film with a big jodi but because the music was not so great, it didn’t open as expected.
But having said that, while music is very important in a romantic film, content is equally important because aap opening lagaa do ge music se, then how will it survive if the content is not good? People say that a film has worked because of its music. But that’s not right; you can’t fool the audience. It might open well because it has great music but it will survive purely on its content. That is why, for a love story like Sanam Re, I look at the great visuals that Divya and Mr Sameer Arya have given. The songs are beautiful and it has a little humour in the first part but then it becomes an emotional journey.
The love story has been tackled very well, with beautiful screenplay, and Sanjeev Datta and Hussain Dalal have done a great job with the dialogue. I believe she was inspired by Yash Chopraji. So many people have told me that the scenes which we say we have been shot in Ladakh were not really shot in Ladakh. We are telling them that we have shot those scenes very much in Ladakh!
DKK: (Cuts in) Several people are calling it VFX work.
BK: Yes, but it is not VFX. They were shot in our very own India even though nobody believes us. So visuals make a difference, the dialogue is working, the music is working. And although Pulkit didn’t have a blockbuster before this film, the pairing is working today. We have received only positive feedback on social media sites. Usually, when you have a fresh pair, people have differing opinions but here everyone is responding only positively.
BOI: Sameer, how much has she (Divya) grown as a director from Yaariyan to Sanam Re?
SA: Oh, it is quite a lift! One thing, for sure, is that she was very confident during Yaariyan and she is very confident with this film too. She is very clear about what she wants. Of course, she has matured because everyone matures with every film, as a person and as a director, and it is very evident in this film too. Yaariyan and Sanam Re are poles apart. That was a college film and this has so much emotion in it, and to tackle and execute emotions the way she has done is a big deal for a young director like her.