Team Nirdosh – producer-director Pradeep Rangwani, co-director Subroto Paul and lead pair Arbaaz Khan and Manjari Phadnis – in conversation with Team Box Office India
BOI: The trailer is out. What is the reaction to the trailer?
Pradeep Rangwani (PR): It is my baby so, of course, for me I will say ‘wow!’
Arbaaz Khan (AK): The response has been pretty good and the feedback after the initial promotional phase has been encouraging. There are certain parameters to judge if it has been well received or not in terms of reviews, appreciation and the comments that follow. All that feels pretty good.
Subroto Paul (SP): We have got good reviews so far. My wife basically doesn’t like what I do but, this time, she said the trailer looks good and that she wants to go watch the film!
BOI: The trailer says this is India’s first ‘suspect thriller’. How did you conceive the story?
PR: We wanted to do something new and we wanted to experiment with the script. We told the writer what we were looking for and after it was written, we started polishing the script. Later, we got a fresh script. It is quite different from other murder mysteries.
SP: It was quite late in the day that we decided to turn it into a suspect thriller. As we kept writing the script, we realised that every character could be a suspect, including even the minor ones. All the characters are placed like that. After a point, even Arbaaz, who is the investigating officer, looks like he could be a suspect.
BOI: Arbaaz and Manjari, tell us about your journey with Nirdosh.
Manjari Phadnis (MP): The director introduced the script to us and we were all on the edge of our seats. He did not reveal the end of the story to most of us. We were very frustrated and wanted to know how it ended! Even while shooting, we did not know the end for a very long time, and this only helped keep up the suspense for all of us. It was quite exciting!
SP: …so that the curiosity level was maintained while shooting.
AK: This kind of genre is not very popular in our industry. So when you hear a script like this, which is so interesting and it is in that space, it gets you excited. And when the script is so well written and your role is very well sketched, you just have to be a part of it. I was also excited because the film has a first-time producer and director and they come with a lot of enthusiasm and energy. Also, they are very positive, wanting to do something good, and I am happy that I chose this film. They have made the film as it should be made, in terms of the script. It is a quality product and it has shaped up pretty well.
BOI: What kind of preparations did you make to essay your roles?
MP: I had to personally go through this emotional journey of the character, Shanaya Grover. She is a reporter and she leads a simple life like any other simple Indian woman. She has a happy family and she is in a good space in life, and suddenly, she is put behind bars and now, has to prove her innocence. She is not a criminal, and she hates criminals. How would you react if you were put behind bars? That’s how I prepared for it.
AK: I play an investigating officer called Inspector Lokhande, a Maharashtrian cop. He speaks in a specific dialect. This needed a little preparation. Fortunately, I was born and raised in Maharashtra, and I had a fair idea about how the language is spoken. The way he walks, the way he talks, his basic nuances, his gestures were all pretty much set, and the director was there to help me. We had a couple of readings, we sat down a couple of times to discuss how the character should be approached, there were traits which were pretty distinct.
Fortunately, we found our way and figured out how to portray the character. When I look back or when I was dubbing for the movie, it was the first time I saw the entire character unfold on screen. I am pretty happy with the way the character has come out.
BOI: Arbaaz, your last movie was also a thriller. Is it just a coincidence that you are considered mainly for thrillers?
AK: No. I am very passionate about acting. When I sense that something is going to be challenging and exciting, when I have a lot to explore, I take it on. Even in the thriller genre, there is a romantic angle. Tera Intezaar was a very different kind of film; it was little more a supernatural sub-genre of thriller but this is more like a murder mystery, a whodunit kind of scenario. The difference between a suspense thriller and a suspect thriller is the way in which the characters are introduced. Everybody looks like a suspect. So, it is a little different from all the films I have done before.
BOI: Do you think directors are now exploring thrillers as a genre, more than they used to?
PR: Definitely! In Hollywood, it is one of the most popular genres but that is not the case in India. We are looking forward to seeing a bigger audience this time.
SP: I agree. Things are different in India, where we are not into stories, like who is the killer, but we are talking about a greater mystery that lurks behind it all. This movie will keep you guessing about the identity of the murderer. I repeat, we aren’t following any formula that has been used before in the thriller or suspense genre. We are in a totally different zone that is meant purely for entertainment. It is not related to any real story. It is a paisa vasool movie.
PR: In Hollywood, a suspense movie or a suspect movie lasts for an hour and a half, but in India, what is challenging about these genres is the inclusion of love scenes and some song-and-dance sequences. All this takes away the focus from the main storyline. On the other hand, Hollywood thrillers do not have to include a love scene or songs and the focus remains on the story.
SP: Our songs in this movie have a story and the main storyline unfolds through them as well. They are not meant to create breathing space for the audience. So, one has to be attentive while watching and listening to the songs.
BOI: Arbaaz, you have worked with Manjari before. What was your equation like on the set?
AK: To be honest, in the first two films, we didn’t get to spend much time together but, in this movie, we are pretty much the main lead pair and we worked back-to-back. This gave us an opportunity to get to know each other. I had a really good time working with her because she is a phenomenal actor and I got to know her as a person. I want to add that she is extremely professional and has a lot of talent. We have a great rapport on and off the set. I would love to do another movie together. (Laughs)
BOI: And what was it like working with Subroto Paul and Pradeep Rangwani?
MP: It was wonderful. In fact, Subroto and I have worked with other associations before, and this made us feel that he was not new to the set. On the other hand, Pradeep Rangwani is extremely enthusiastic, he has been a great producer, and like Arbaaz Khan said, he has left no stone unturned. He has been doing everything he can do for the best of the film.
AK: I think both Subroto and Pradeep are prepared for each department and Pradeep has conceptualised the whole thing and is pretty much the creative director. In terms of execution, Subroto took care of most things. We felt like we were in good hands, which is very important for an actor to be able to give their best.
BOI: Subroto and Pradeep, this is the first film you have directed together. What were the challenges you faced as debutant directors?
SP: I did not face any challenges in pre-production because it was all about the script and the treatment it required. I have my own style of taking shots which is generally not common in suspense thriller movies. The biggest challenge for me was working for the first scene with Arbaaz and Manjari. It was the first day and I was utterly nervous because I couldn’t stop thinking that I was directing Arbaaz Khan, who is already a director, a producer and also an actor. But he made me feel very comfortable working with him and we even discussed and added elements to our script. Manjari, on the other hand, was a lovely actor throughout the shoot.
BOI: Manjari, the trailer suggests that your role is a de-glam one.
MP: I thank God it’s a performance-oriented film and not a glamour-oriented movie because this has saved me from sitting in front of the mirror for hours in order to get ready in the morning. Here, it was effortless as the only thing I had to do was wear my costume and sit at the back of the stage.
BOI: Plays, web series, regional films and, of course, Bollywood movies… Manjari, you have been a part of them all. What platform excites you most?
MP: I am not sure. I always go by my instincts. I pretty much pick up anything I feel I want to be a part of. I am selecting stuff from the best choices that I am getting. I am happy in my space where I am doing everything I am passionate about, whether movies, short films, music, plays etc. It’s easy to balance it all because it is the same business. The bottom line is that I am acting.
BOI: Arbaaz, you are also a master at balancing because you are an actor, a producer and a director.
AK: That is true. But I think when I am on the set as an actor, I am primarily just an actor. I don’t try to fill the director’s shoes. It is basically one man’s vision and I am hired to do a job to the best of my ability. I am more than willing to offer knowledge or information that I have but I don’t force my views or my thoughts on people because that is not the right thing to do. For that, I have my own films. I have been a filmmaker for a very short time but I have been an actor for too long to know that I have to surrender to what my director wants to get out of the character.
BOI: Subroto and Pradeep, this is your first film. How important will the box office numbers be for you?
PR: Yes, the numbers are very important and we do keep track of them. I am involved in many other things, so essentially I am a businessman and it does matter.
AK: I think box office numbers are extremely important. Who wants to have all the effort they have put into making a film go in vain? You can deal with lack of appreciation for the hard work that everyone has put into the film, but financial losses suffered by the producer or the distributor are not easy to recover unless you have another hit movie on the cards. And, again, those don’t come to you quickly when your previous project doesn’t work.
But I think everyone gets into a project with their eyes open. I also think people prepare more for the worst-case scenario rather than for the best because the statistics suggest that the chances of a film doing well are less than it doing average or badly. It is as unrealistic as saying that I am definitely going to win the lottery. When you make a movie, you figure out that there is a chance you might not recover the entire investment. But it’s a movie, something you do out of passion and so it’s okay.
BOI: Speaking about numbers, were there any apprehensions about releasing the film alongside two other thriller movies?
AK: I am sure the producer will have something to say about this. But I believe it is completely unavoidable, given that we have 52 weeks a year and 150-odd films releasing every a year. It is impossible to hope for a clean week, before, during and after every film. These are some of the pitfalls of being in this business. There have been instances when smaller films have released alongside big-budget movies and the former has made a mark. Or five to six movies have released together and one of them has done really well. Kangana Ranaut’s Queen is an example of this as it released along with four or five films that week but it did exceedingly well.
PR: I think Arbaaz has said it all.
BOI: What are your expectations from the film regarding the audience’s reaction?
PR: We have made a very good film with a very good story and cast. We are trying our best to reach everyone so that they go and watch the film. This film is like our baby, there are no expectations from it, as such. We have got good guidance from Arbaaz bhai. Everything else is in the hands of the audience. We cannot do anything more than present them with the best product.
SP: I feel exactly the same way. Everyone in the team has worked hard and we hope the audience recognises that.
MP: As they said, it is up to the audience.
AK: I think there is always a certain amount of anxiety that you feel before a film of yours hits cinemas. But there is a better sense of preparation in terms of not really expecting too much. I have done that in the past and there is a good chance that the result is below your expectations. You are disappointed at times and sometimes you are completely surprised. You are shocked by the response you get and feel that you didn’t think your film was this good, that it would receive this kind of love.
So, it is better not to get into that space. I will react to whatever comes my way rather than build expectations and start to act on them. Hope for the best but don’t expect too much. If it works, damn good and if it doesn’t, learn something from it. Don’t consider it a setback, move forward.
BOI: Can you all tell us what’s on your plate after Nirdosh?
AK: I have two films that I have already shot for and they are pretty much ready for release. One is a film called Jack And Dil, which also features Amit Sadh and Sonal Chauhan. Then there is a movie which is temporarily titled Coming Back with Aindrita Ray and Vikas Verma. These are my upcoming movies which should be releasing before the middle of this year. Then there is my own production, which I will begin some time this year.
MP: I am waiting for the release of my film Baa Baa Black Sheep. It’s a dark comedy with Manish Paul, Anupam Kher, Annu Kapoor sir, Kay Kay Menon and myself. It will be out very soon.
SP: A script has come my way from Mr Narendra Singh at FilmyBOX. It is the sequel to BA Pass 2. It is still at the script level. I am just going through it for now. After the release of Nirdosh on January 19, we will most probably lock things.
PR: I have two projects on hand, one of which will be announced very soon. We will mostly go on floors in March.