Team Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana – producer Vinod Bachchan, director Ratnaa Sinha and lead pair, Rajkummar Rao and Kriti Kharbanda – in conversation with Team Box Office India
BOI: Ratnaa, how did your journey with Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana begin?
Ratnaa Sinha (RS): I had met a writer who had given me a story that I really liked. Then we met with Mr Vinod Bachchan. He liked the script and came on board for the project. Then there were the stars, Rajkummar (Rao) and Kriti (Kharbanda), who were narrated the script and fortunately they also really liked it (Laughs).
Rajkummar Rao (RR): It’s a very likeable story.
RS: Actually, before I met Vinodji, I had three or four meetings with other producers, but they didn’t work out. Then he said yes. It wasn’t a huge struggle but it is always difficult to set up a film, especially when you don’t have a big star or a very well-known face. People are not interested in investing their money as they want returns.
BOI: Wedding films are always full of celebration. Was your set full of celebration?
RR: It was a lot of fun on the sets. I think all of us, including Vinodji, bonded really well. Not just us, our supporting cast too, who have done a really fab job on the film, had fun. When we were on the set, all our energies were channelled to make a wonderful, honest film.
RS: Also, I think we really don’t talk about the technicians. For me, the DOP contributed a lot to the film. After the shoot, the editor, the background score and others come in. A film turns out well thanks to the synergy between various departments and professionals. We usually talk about the ‘faces’ that make a film work, forgetting that our technicians, our writers are why these ‘faces’ work.
Kriti Kharbanda (KK): I had a blast shooting for this film. Our director even made us gatecrash a wedding in Lucknow because Raj and I had not attended one for quite a while. Since we were in wedding attire, it was all quite funny. When we were shooting one of the shaadi scenes, just to get the vibe, Vinod sir got these chaat counters and kebab counters set up on the set for us to eat at. They made sure no one sprayed mosquito repellent on the food, which people usually do so that no one eats the food! (Laughs). Raj and I have binged on paani puri like there was no tomorrow. After every shot, we were, like, chalo pani puri kha ke ate hain. That’s the kind of nonsense we did.
I have also had parties in my van for no reason at all. I used to lie to Ratnaa and send my assistant to tell her that Kriti was crying in her van. When she came in, she would see that the lights had been dimmed and everyone was in a party mood. Me, my girls, Raj, a couple of other people from the set, we were all dancing. We were having a party! Then she would join us, followed by the cameraman. Then Vinod sir would come looking for everyone, saying, ‘Kahan ho sab log? Meri picture chal rahi hai aur tum log party kar rahe ho!’ Then he too would join us and we would make him dance (Laughs). So yes, the film looks so much fun on screen because it was really so much fun!
BOI: Vinod, how did you come on board as a producer?
Vinod Bachchan (VB): I was introduced to Ratnaaji via a common friend. I had heard that Ratnaaji was looking to make a movie for a year or two but hadn’t found investors or producers. The film had also been pitched to corporates but that didn’t work out. Even with Tanu Weds Manu, the script had been doing the rounds for two years, looking for investors, before it came to me. I said yes the very day I spoke to my partner and Aanand L Raiji.
The same thing happened with the script of Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana. Ratnaaji wanted to make her directorial debut for quite some time but it was proving difficult. But after I heard the script, I told her not to worry as I would produce the film. I was confident that this film would work for me. I also knew that Ratnaaji had a passion for this job and would therefore give it a hundred percent. She had been working on the film day and night and we gave her the support she needed. There was no interference and everything was provided on the set. The director was happy to get a good producer and our hard work has paid off as there is now a good buzz about the movie in the industry.
I had been planning two films before this, one of which was Yaaron Ki Baarat. I was trying hard to get that movie going but before that happened, I heard this script. Ratnaaji and the writer of this film came to see me and narrated the script to me. I really liked the story. And since I had made Tanu Weds Manu before, I was familiar with this genre and got on board immediately.
However, I did tell Ratnaaji that I didn’t like the title which, at the time was Yatha Katha Prem Katha. I didn’t think people would understand it. I suggested Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana and everyone thought it was a great title. That’s how I started my journey as a producer for this movie.
BOI: Rajkummar and Kriti, how did you react when you heard the script?
RR: When I read it for the first time and then when I heard it, I connected with the characters. I could relate to the story. And, as an actor, there was so much for me to explore, there was so much scope to perform in this character that I had to say yes. The content is really strong and, as an actor, I had a great opportunity to do so much.
KK: I absolutely fell in love with the script. There are no two ways about it. I read it and I didn’t want to let it go. It is very hard to find characters that you feel so strongly about and they usually don’t write characters as strong as this for women. My first reaction on reading this script was that I had to do this film, come what may!
BOI: Rajkummar, five films in 2017 – Trapped, Behen Hogi Teri, Bareilly Ki Barfi, Newton and Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana. What is your headspace right now?
RR: Thinking about the next five films! Honestly, I am as neutral now as I was when I started acting in 2010. I don’t really think about what’s going to happen, what I have done or not done. I have no idea how many films I have done to date. I live in the moment. So, right now, I don’t think of anything apart from the fact that our film is releasing tomorrow. I am happy and nervous but that’s about it. I don’t want to get unnecessarily stressed about the numbers and collections because that is beyond our control. I know we have made an honest film without any compromises and we are all really proud of our film.
BOI: All of you are working together for the first time. What was the dynamic like on the set? How did you break the ice with each other?
RR: All thanks to Ratnaa ma’am. We had a couple of reading sessions before the film started, so we were acquainted with each other on the set. I have been meeting Vinodji for a while now and Ratnaa ma’am too. We were planning something earlier which she was going to produce and I was going to act in. So I knew her before this film. As for this film, once the cast was locked, we had reading sessions. Kriti and I started reading a couple of scenes together and I think the ice broke right there. We didn’t have to make an effort. We aren’t people with a lot of attitude or ego, so it was easy.
KK: Now I feel like I have always known Raj. It’s quite bizarre but the truth is, we hit it off so well. With Ratnaa, I don’t know yaar, how did we break the ice?
RR: I think with your first pegs, you actually broke the ice (Laughs). It doesn’t have a graph, it’s an organic process.
VB: For Raj and me, it goes way back. We were about to sign a film together called Jassi Weds Jassi. But this script came to us before that one did and I decided that we would make this one first. Then I met the others through the film and everything fell in place.
BOI: Vinod, how hands-on were you as producer of this movie?
VB: I always work like a member of the crew on the set, not like a producer. I don’t sit in my vanity van as I am not satisfied unless I work on the set. Apart from that, we incorporated a few suggestions that we had discussed for the script while we were on the set. I give due credit to Ratnaaji for tweaking the script to make the story better.
Since she is from North India, she is familiar with the wedding culture there, how weddings take place, what happens, etc. I too am from that region and so we shared a connection and were in sync with most ideas. Also, the shoot passed off smoothly… haste khelte film bangayi, which we completed in just 45 days.
BOI: Kriti, you had mentioned in one of your interviews that South movies are your first love.
KK: The thing is that I will never pass up a good film. If I am offered an international project, I wouldn’t turn it down because Hindi meri matrubhasha hai. I want to be a part of good cinema. It’s as simple as that. I have maintained that Telugu cinema is my first love because I made my debut there. That’s why I am here today. But I cannot say what I will choose because I cannot see the future. There will be days when I will want to do films for people and there will be days when I will want to be selfish. I have no qualms admitting that. I will do what’s best for me.
BOI: From the trailer, we saw both your characters do a 180. Initially, they are in love but, later, the other side of their personality emerges. What was this dual-character experience like?
RR: It was fun. I think I have already experienced this in Bareily Ki Barfi. My character has many shades and dimensions and I look for things like that in my characters. The second half is completely different from the first half. I love doing that as an actor.
RS: There was a time when, in one day, they would play different shades of their own characters. Sometimes, if I missed out on something, they would point out their mistakes. They were so much into their characters.
KK: It was very difficult to get Aarti out of my head. The day before the release, I felt extremely emotional because it was my last day with Aarti. On the day of release, the character is out there. It is a little overwhelming but the process has been very close to my heart. I think that making that shift from one character to another, having different personalities, is very relatable because we all react differently to different situations. Getting to know Aarti was one of the greatest experiences for me.
BOI: Did you all face any other challenges while shooting the film?
RS: There will always be challenges but the point is to overcome them. We overcame all our challenges together.
VB: Every film has its own challenges and it all depends on how you handle it. I have faced many challenging situations ever since my parents died when I was a child. That’s why I believe that these are merely minor bumps on the road. Professionally, the challenges I face are the same as any other producer but I handle them easily because everything seems like a cakewalk when compared to my past. In both my films – Tanu Weds Manu and Zilla Ghaziabad – we did face some obstacles but managed to beat them all just like we did this time. I was relieved and happy that Ratnaaji would leave no stone unturned to make sure the movie turned out to be good.
BOI: The songs of the film have been very well received by the audience.
VB: I always like to give newcomers a chance. Since I have struggled so much in the past, I believe I should help those who are going through it now. So I keep finding new people and bring them on board my projects, provided they have talent. During Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana, we had gone to Lucknow for one schedule. The shoot that day was supposed to take place in the office of this IAS officer. When I went in, I was in awe of the many books mounted on the walls of his office. I asked him if he was a writer and he said yes. I asked him to write a few lines for a song in this film and the next day he gave me a mukhda. I showed it to Ratnaaji and she loved it too. After that, it was composed and made into a hit song which has since crossed 10 million views on YouTube.
There was a similar incident associated with the song Pallo lat ke. I was sitting with a friend who introduced me to the new boys, Sam and Jen. They made me listen to this one song they had which was Pallo lat ke. I told them many times that there was neither the space nor the situation for another song in the movie. But they insisted that I listen to it. I loved it so much that we especially shot a sequence to be able to use the song in the film. That song has over 15 million views today.
BOI: Rajkummar, you have called Bollywood a ‘surreal planet’. Do you still feel like that?
RR: Yes, when I was a kid back in Gurgaon, I used to think of Bollywood as a surreal planet with people who were not ‘human beings’; they were from some other planet. I always wanted to be a part of this place. I entered this industry in 2006 and my first film released in 2008, after two years of struggle. Now, it doesn’t feel surreal; now it feels very professional. We are all passionate about cinema and that is why everyone is making films. Now I feel a part of this place.
BOI: What do you have to say about the cast?
VB: I had many lengthy discussions with Ratnaji before things were finalised. She has worked really hard and struggled for years. She has met producers and many other people for this film. Since we were both passionate about making this film, we ended up collaborating with each other. I believe nobody could have made the film better than she has. Raj was already on board. After Kriti’s audition I felt she was perfect for Aarti’s role. The entire team of technicians is new.
BOI: Kriti, you started with a horror film, then you did a comedy film and now drama. Are you deliberately mixing it up?
KK: I am not a big enough star to make choices and I choose from what is offered to me. Raaz happened to me in the most unexpected way. A week after Raaz’s release, I was offered three films and I felt Guest In London was the best of the lot. While I was shooting for it, I got an offer for Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana. This is the first time I had to audition for a film, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to but we went ahead with that anyway. So, for me, it’s all happened by chance.
I was worried about getting typecast after Raaz but I was very lucky I was offered different types of roles. I haven’t really made a deliberate effort. I am very grateful to God. If I ever become a bigger star, I will be in a space where I can choose.
BOI: Rajkummar, what is your most difficult and favourite genre to act in?
RR: I am still figuring out my favourite genre. Every genre has its own set of challenges. Nothing is easy, least of all comedy and drama. There is no comfort zone in acting; the moment you discover that zone, it will be the death of you as an actor. I mean, I could never imagine playing the character of Bose, but I took it up as a challenge.
BOI: What are your future projects?
RR: Bose is releasing. Then there is a film called Omerta.
KK: I am currently shooting for Veere Di Wedding with Pulkit Samrat and Yamala Pagla Deewana 3 with the Deols.
VB: After this film, I will be starting a film called Bin Ferey Hum Tere and then Yaaron Ki Baarat. YKB is a very North Indian comedy based on a group of friends and Bin Ferey Hum Tere is a romantic movie and will be a little more urban. But hai yeh desi film. Isme rishte-naate, maa-baap, yeh sab milega. I want to make films for the masses and I want my audience to relate to my movies, no matter what I make.