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All Guns Blazing

Getting up close and personal with the makers and star cast of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz

Who says that all the action in a thriller has to be on the big screen? We were invited to the shoot of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz directed by Kushan Nandy, and had a blast on the sets. So, to get in on the action, we travel to Stage 2 in Madh Island, in Malad, Mumbai.

When we arrive on the sets, we are given a warm welcome by the producer of the film, Ashmith Kunder.  Next, we meet Kiran Shyam Shroff, also a producer, and director Kushan Nandy.  The perfect host, Kunder offers us a cup of coffee. Yes, nothing can go wrong on a day that has coffee and conversations on the movies. It is the last day of the shoot, a mid-point in the film, which now heads into post-production before it releases in cinemas in April/May.

We choose a cozy spot just outside the set to chat and Nandy speaks at length about the film. “Babumoshai Bandookbaazis a character-driven drama, which chronicles the life and times of a fictional, small-time contract killer Babu. He wears his attitude on his sleeve and is loveable. And he doesn’t give a damn about anything. This is a story about his life, his love, the conflicts that engulf him when competition creeps up and his battle to survive despite what life throws at him. Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays Babu,” sums up Nandy.

About coming up with the quirky title, he says, “ ’Babumoshai’ is a term that doesn’t exist. People have heard it in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anand and it simply means ‘Mister’. It has an endearing connotation. The name is a contradiction of sorts. A contract killer being addressed with respect is unusual. It’s something Babu would like.”

The team says shooting the film was like a road trip for them. It was shot all over Uttar Pradesh, where they went into villages like Basti, small towns like Malihabad, then travelled to Western Uttar Pradesh and North Uttar Pradesh. They say it was a great place to shoot and point out that the state government supports filmmakers financially. In addition, the state is large and the topography changes from West to East, making it visually diverse.

After talking about the location, we speak about the characters in the film, which makes it one of the most interesting films of 2017. Kunder remarks, “They are like you and me. No one is good. No one is black. The moral lines keep changing from situation to situation. It is an interesting ensemble of great actors.

“Of course, Nawaz is Nawaz, and there are no words to praise his prowess. But his performance in this film is unique. It’s a journey of a character, which keeps changing shades. This is probably widest range of Nawaz you will see, to date,” he says.

“And, of course, there are fine actors like Bidita Bag and Shraddha Das. Divya Dutta enacts a character you haven’t seen her play before. And there is Jatin Goswami, a fine actor, straight out of FTII and currently works with Barry John, who will surprise you in a stellar performance. “

After a detailed discussion with the makers, we decide to talk with the stars of the film.  We first meet Shraddha Das, who plays one of the two female leads. “I play a Bhojpuri struggling actress in the film, who is very loud.  Her dress sense and characterisation is also very loud. She is very flamboyant and there are many layers to her character. I watched a lot of videos of Bhojpuri actresses on YouTube to prepare for this role. I needed to speak a lot of Bihari words in the film, for which I had to prepare a little.

“The fun part is that my character is a tomboy and a feminine character at the same time. For example, when my character is alone, she behaves like a man but when she is in front of men, she turns feminine and coy. What I like most about my role is that she is extremely entertaining and adds a lot of colour to the film,” says Das.

Next, we meet the lead actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who plays the titular role of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz. “I play the role of a sharp shooter, basically a contract killer who falls in love. It is said that contract killers don’t fall in love, but then they’re human beings, in the end.  He is a strong and hardened man, who doesn’t easily fall apart even in tragic situations.  He is not emotional.  He is the perfect fit for his profession. When Kushan narrated the script to me, I was very excited knowing that the film was a thriller with a lot of twists and turns.  It also has all the commercial elements required.”

On working with the team, Siddique adds, “It is a very innovative team and Kushan’s realism is gritty and hardcore. But it doesn’t go over the top and is very natural.  We try to hide our emotions publicly and Kushan understands that perfectly. We have shot for some intimate scenes as well, which have been shot with extreme honesty and are not in any way mechanical. No scene should be mechanical, especially intimate scenes, which are pretty elaborate in this film. Thanks to both my co-actresses, Shraddha Das and Bidita Bag, all these scenes have been shot very bluntly. ”

After the conversation with Siddique, we walk into the vanity van of Bidita Bag, the lead actress of the film. “I am playing Phulwa, a cobbler from Uttar Pradesh. Since I am from Bengal, I had to work on my Hindi a lot, as this role is pretty rustic and needed that earthy touch. I was confirmed at the last moment so I had very little time to prepare for this role. I sat for three days with the writer, rehearsing my lines. “

She adds, “Not just my character, all the characters are very raw. They have layers because the area where they hail from makes survival very difficult. When I read the script, I realised that the character was very raw and her life was not very easy. 

“I have done a lot of art-house films, so I got to visit many places in India, practically all the notorious places in rural India. I studied their lives and body language. If you have not seen life or how tough life is, you cannot play this role. People living in the cities can never fathom how difficult life is in the interiors,” Bag says.

Were there any memorable moments on the sets of the film? Bag recalls, “It was very hot when we were shooting in Uttar Pradesh. It was almost 45 degrees, but the team was still shooting with energy and zest. When I started shooting, it started raining. In fact, it started pouring. So everyone on the set started calling me ‘Barkhaa’ as the monsoons arrived after my arrival.” 

Finally, after a day of vanity van hopping, our last and final chat is with the other actor in the film, Jatin Goswami who plays Siddique’s mentee.

“I play a contract killer whose life is full of ups and downs. I am new to being a contract killer and I look up to Nawazbhai’s character.  We share a guru-chela kind of relationship. I want to work under him and I want him to train me. The script was so tight and eventful that I immediately decided to come on board to do this role. Another reason was that I had always dreamt of working with Nawazuddin. He is an actor’s actor,” says Goswami.

Finally, after a day of talking to the entire cast of the Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, we ask them about the one takeaway they had from this film and they unanimously say, “It is an entertaining film. But you don’t need to keep your brains at home. Bring them with you. Hopefully, you will have a great time.”

(Babumoshai Bandookbaaz is a film directed by Kushan Nandy and produced by Ashmith Kunder and Kiran Shyam Shroff. The film features Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Bidita Bag, Shraddha Das and Jatin Goswami in the lead roles.)

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