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In conversation with director Rajiv S Ruia and lead actor Rajniesh Duggall of Direct Ishq

Box Office India (BOI): Rajiv, you have been making composite animated films like Main Krishna Hoon and My Friend Ganesha. So what made you opt for a feature film?

Rajiv S Ruia (RSR): I started with My Friend Ganesha, which I made for Baba Films, and I received very positive feedback from the audience. So far I have been known as a children’s film director. This film happened by chance - producer Pradeep K Sharma narrated the script to me and somehow I loved it. Also, for a very long time I wanted to shoot a film in Banares, as I loved the ambience when I visited the city. So that’s how I decided to direct this film.

The film is about three protagonists, Rajniesh Duggall, Nidhi Subbaiah and Arjun Bijlani. These days the meaning of love has changed and so has the approach. They say these days ki direct ishq ho jaata hai, WhatsApp pe. Our film revolves around the same storyline, where two heroes fall in love with the same girl. The female protagonist played by Nidhi has an aim in life - she wants to fulfill her late father’s dream; he wanted her to become a rockstar. So she is a small time pop star in Banares chasing her dream, while Arjun, on the other hand, runs an event management company in Mumbai and Rajniesh is a student leader at the Banares Hindu University (BHU) who has this dabang attitude.

BOI: Rajniesh, how did you bag the film?

Rajniesh Duggall (RD): When our writer AM Turaz and Rajiv sir narrated the story to me, they initially approached me to play Kabir Bajpayee, which eventually went to Arjun. It is a sweet and sophisticated loverboy role which I have done in the past, the kind of role that I am always offered. Our writer saab Turaz bhai, who is a loud North Indian, was narrating Vicky Shukla’s role. I was very impressed with Vicky’s character, so I told them that if they would allow me to play Vicky’s role, only then would I do the film. They said that it would be challenging and there would be several workshops conducted for the role. Since that was what I was looking forward to, I took up the role and attended the workshops to get into the character and get the right accent. I used to have long conversations with our writer to learn more about my character. And he is very loud, so I had got a reference point in him, but we were still missing that one touch…somehow we were unconvinced about my character. Then a few days before the shoot started, Turaz bhai and I left for Banaras to observe the locals there and that’s when we noticed that 80 per cent of the youth were consuming paan - that’s how we broke it! My character is shown chewing paan through the entire film. After that breakthrough, performing became quite easy. I am sure that till we started the film, the entire crew had doubts about whether I would be able to play Vicky Shukla or not.

RSR: (Cuts in) Yes, we were (doubtful), till the first shot. I remember we were shooting at BHU with a crowd of 2,000 students and everyone was eager to see Rajniesh play such a role. But then when he gave his first short, the entire campus was clapping. He has worked really hard for this role.


BOI: Rajniesh, is it also difficult to get out of the character?

RD: For such a character, it is tough. We were in Banares for 30-40 days and I had started talking like Vicky Shukla even when I was not shooting.  I used to consume 20-25 paans
a day!

BOI: Lately we have seen a lot of films based in Banares, so as a director, how did you try to shoot the film differently?

RSR: Yes, that was a challenge. But we have covered the entire city of Banares - usually people shoot their films around Assi Ghat, but in our film, we have covered the entire city.

RD: It’s not a very complex film; it’s more of a romantic comedy. What stands out is the way the characters have been scripted. Dolly Pandey, Kabir Bajpayee and Vicky Kaushal - these three characters have been scripted in a never-seen-before manner.

BOI: Rajniesh, given your pivotal role, what are your expectations from the film?

RD: I want people to appreciate the film. There are many releases (with our film) but we are hoping to get a good share. Our film is a total single-screen masala product. The character I am playing is very relatable and he does everything possible to get the girl. Also, after seeing this film I hope people will take notice of me and that it will take me out of model-turned-actor bracket. Hopefully I will be offered more diverse roles.

BOI: So what’s next for both of you?

RSR: We are planning a horror film with Rajniesh, but it is too early to talk about it.

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