Actor-filmmaker Divya Khosla Kumar’s latest acting outing in the digital short Bulbul is already creating the right buzz. She tells Box Office India what attracted her to this unusual story
How did this film come about?
The long version of the story goes all the way back to when I was new in Bombay. One of the first ads I had done was for Sunsilk directed by Kundan Shah. Incidentally, the director of Bulbul, Ashish Panda, my assistant on my last two films, had also assisted Kundanji previously. In January of 2017, I had acted in a music video of a song titled Kabhi yaadon mein aao. I happened to show it to Kundanji and he was so kind and generous and encouraged me to do more acting. I had not done acting for a while having been busy with directing my two films but I decided to get back to it. That is how we decided to write a short film with Ashish directing it. And we asked Kundanji to help us write the story and he readily agreed.
So from February onwards, we would sit in the Mehboob studio canteen everyday having discussions. Finally, by May, we were able to crack the story and began working fully on the script. We wanted to ensure that we made comedy in a clean way but exciting and different. Whenever I select a story, it is always all heart. I don’t go by what genre it is or if it has a particular theme. If the story excites me, I go with it. We also wanted to get the story across to the audience without much dialog. So the order was tall.
Fortunately or unfortunately, this is Kundanji’s last piece of work. We had started shooting the film in October when all of a sudden, he passed away. I am really missing him now because we hadn’t even discussed the climax with him. We went to his house and searched his iPad but couldn’t find the climax. Everything was in his mind. So we just went ahead with our own interpretation and now I am happy and thankful that the audience is appreciating it. Kundan Shah was so nice and ready to work with us. He helped us write for so many months without even charging us. After he passed away, I met his wife and gave her the cheque for the work he had done. Who does work for nothing in this world today?
The treatment is very Charlie Chaplinesque. Was that deliberate?
Yeah, actually we did that deliberately. We wanted to do it this way because it was going so well with the story and theme. We ramped up certain portions up to 22 frames, just like Charlie would do. We also wanted it to appeal to all the audiences especially the family audience.
What message do you want to give with Bulbul?
That if you love a person and you are all heart about it, you will go to any lengths to get that person. But there is something called moving on in life and at times, you have to learn to let go. Bulbul is a little silly and she stalks the man. But in the end, she moves on. This is reflective of the times we live in. Not all love stories have a happy ending but you have to be strong and move on. I also wanted to put across this thought that we are in the 21st century, why should it always be a guy proposing to a girl? Why can’t people accept that a girl can take the first step too? And we have tried to show this in a comic and entertaining way so everyone enjoys it.
What did you bring to the character that was not already written?
Honestly, I am not what Bulbul is. I am not like her at all. She is too bubbly and a little over-the-top. She is also comic and entertaining. I don’t think I am comic in real life. I am more simple. I also realised that to deliver a comedy performance is not easy. Now when people tell me I did the comedy very well, I think that this is what I got to the table. Also, I feel direction has taught me a lot. I give full credit to my time behind the camera which has polished me as a creative person.
Why do a short film?
I have always encouraged new talent. Even in my first film Yaariyan, I selected five newcomers. With Ashish, I wanted to give him an opportunity. I think he has done a very good job and I am proud of him. If I am in a position to help someone, then why not?
Tell us about the song in Bulbul — Tere bin o saajana.
In short films, the budget is relaxed. As of now, short films don’t have a proper revenue model, you just put it on YouTube and get views. But with the super hit number, automatically, the budget will be covered.
How has the response been to the film?
The response has been very good. The love and appreciation is making me so happy. I am getting a lot of reaction from kids. They are finding it very funny and entertaining. We are now trying to figure out how to reach it out to more and more people. It is a digital world and we want more people to click on the link. I think it will happen more by word of mouth. The industry too has been very encouraging. The media has responded very positively too. I did have butterflies in my stomach when the media saw it but their response, thankfully, was good. Umesh Shukla, the filmmaker, called and told me that I should have made a feature out of the film because he thought it was a good concept. But we never thought that far.
How did you prepare for this role?
My preparation starts from the script level, sitting in the script narration and discussions. Wahi se, I catch hold of the character and try to understand her motivations, what will her thought processes be, what will she be as a person. When you understand the character, you become that person. I tried to become Bulbul and on the shoot, I was actually Bulbul. I had to leave my own self behind and become Bulbul. In the crying scene, in the first two takes, I couldn’t get it but in the third take I just started crying so much for ten minutes, even after the director called cut. Frankly, I don’t know what triggered it. I didn’t think of any painful instance from my life, I was just crying and I couldn’t stop. I tried to give it the same energy and commitment as I would if I were doing a feature film. Jo bhi karna hai main karungi because everything has to be for the film, for the visuals.
What is your view of where the short film movement is moving? Do you think it is just a trend?
I think it is here to stay. With a short film, a lot of talent is discovered. People can use their short film to enter the industry without even knowing anyone and also to connect with an audience. Also, digital has become so strong. Digital has closed the distances around the world so for example, someone sitting in Canada can now watch my film online immediately upon release. It has made the world a lot smaller. A person can make a short film on a smaller budget anywhere in the world and it can be appreciated across the world. And the short format is the only thing people are watching.
So for someone like you, why would you make a short film since you would not be looking to be discovered?
For me, as a creative person, I am always looking for opportunities to challenge myself. Life would become very boring if I stopped challenging myself and stopped growing. I have a lot to learn. I am always looking to grow. For me, this film was a fabulous opportunity to explore a side to myself I might not have known. Bulbul, the character, has so many shades, it was amazing. I didn’t know how she would come across because starting mein, vague hi hota hai, na?
Who inspires you as a filmmaker?
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movies like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Yashji’s movies like Lamhe, which is one of my favourites. Chandni I think I saw when I must have been five years old. These are the two filmmakers who have really inspired me.
What are your future projects?
I am working on a script but I have been so consumed by Bulbul that I haven’t been able to give it much time. Only once I am completely happy with the script will I take it forward. It is a film with a social message and is unlike my previous two films. Also, if as an actor I get a good script, and I feel I can do justice to it I am ready to act too. People have also asked me if I am doing Bulbul part 2 or a series but I haven’t really thought about it. Agar Bulbul ko bahut sara pyaar mila toh definitely I will consider.
BULBUL FILM LINK:
SONG LINK – Tere bin o saajana: