Box Office India (BOI): Dinesh, last year, you delivered a `100-crore-plus hit with a new director and with Luka Chuppi too, you are working with a new filmmaker. Does this freshness appeal to you for the films under your banner?
Dinesh Vijay (DV): The first film I made was with a debutant director. It was a film called Being Cyrus with Homi Adajania. Then there was Amar Kaushik, who debuted with Stree and after that there is Laxman Utekar with Luka Chuppi. He is not really a new director because he has directed Marathi movies before, but this is his first Hindi film. Even my upcoming film, Made In China, is with a first-time director, Mikhil Musale. For me, the most important thing is the subject and the script. If that works, then you should find a person who completely relates to it, understands it and wants to make it.
In this case, I was lucky that Laxman sir brought this script to me. It is written by Rohan (Shankar). I think it was a narration where, all of us, when we heard it, had to pause because we were laughing so much. This was the initial reaction to this story. I had never done a film like this before and I don’t like doing films that have a reference point. I like to have something new to offer.
This was a good combination of so many elements, like those of yesteryear Hrishikeshda (Mukherjee) films. It is a clean, family film. You can watch it with your family and it still has something unique like having a sah-parivaar live-in relationship. I don’t think I have a mission to launch debutant directors but since cinema has changed a lot, the base has widened. Small town is the new big town. I think that is the choice of stories. Laxman sir has done Hindi Medium (as cinematographer) with me before this. It was very organic. One of the main reasons I have done this film is because I have not worked with a director who is clearer than he is and has such a good work ethic. In fact, he has such a good work ethic that he doesn’t even talk to his actors! (Everyone Laughs)
BOI: Why is that so?
Laxman Utekar (LU): No, no, it was not like that! Without talking, how could I have finished the film? (Laughs)
Kriti Sanon (KS): He talks about the film and nothing else.
Kartik Aaryan (KA): Sirf direction dete hain. He only talks about the shots and the script. Apart from that, he doesn’t talk about anything else.
LU: Actually, I just wanted to talk to the characters of Guddu and Rashmi throughout the film.
KS: Haan, Kriti aur Kartik mein interest nahi tha. He’s like a horse with blinkers, he cannot see anything else. (Laughs)
BOI: Laxman, you have been part of big films as a cinematographer and directed a couple of Marathi films too. Was there a reason you took some time before entering Bollywood?
LU: Well, yeah I am doing this at the age of 45 (Laughs). I did two Marathi films and I was not desperate to direct Hindi films because I was enjoying the fact that I was shooting good films with good directors. Luckily, since I have worked in the industry for 15-20 years, I got the opportunity to direct this film because of Dinu sir. Rohan has written this beautiful script and it was a challenge to direct this film because I am a Maharashtrian based in this state and this film is based in the North. It has an altogether different flavor. It is of a different culture, a different language, and all this made it a challenge to direct this film.
When this script initially came to me, my instinctive reaction was, ‘No, I can’t direct this film,’ because I had no clue about how North Indian people talk, what they wear, their language, their culture etc. But then I thought, what was the point of being in this industry for so many years? When James Cameron did Avatar, he must not have actually lived it, na? (Laughs)
So, I thought let’s take it up as a challenge. Then we took a year and a half to write this script. We went to places like Mathura, Gwalior, Agra and others to get the vibe. We used to stay there, write over there. As soon as I was confident that I could direct this film, we approached Dinesh Vijan.
KS: It is so nice to hear him talk for a change because we have not done interviews together where we have heard him and his point of view.
KA: Mere toh kaan khul gaye hain (Laughs). Suddenly, it feels like this is what his voice is outside the direction zone.
LU: If you look at the past year, new concepts are coming in and the reason is directors are coming from small towns and they have a lot to say about actual Indian culture, Indian colours and Indian humour. Before this, our films would be shot in Australia, the UK, New Zealand, Switzerland etc.
Also, when you have a good script, you approach many studios and by the time the studio heads see it, the words start fading and the script is not the same. But the moment Rohan and I were happy with the script, we went to Dinu sir. There was a direct approach and we could start working on the film quickly. We released the film within seven months.
BOI: Dinesh, you had mentioned in an earlier interview that you like to reinvent actors through your films. How did you do that with Kartik and Kriti?
DV: They were both my first choices for the roles. Kartik and I were chatting and again, as mentioned, I like my actors to be slightly reinvented. All my films to date, like Badlapur with Varun (Dhawan) or Love Aaj Kal with Saif (Ali Khan) or Cocktail with Deepika (Padukone), set the course for me. In this film, I wanted Kartik, who has played roles with a lot of dialoguebaazi to play a small-town boy who is really in love with this beautiful girl and is willing to do anything for her.
The advantage of this and the way he has played it is that since the promos have come out, a lot of girls want to take him home. (Laughs) Which, let me tell you, is helping. And he has done that journey so well. I remember, on the first day of the shoot, we were talking and both of them were walking together, it was their first interaction. The good part was that he got the sur so perfectly. When I saw the film, he retained that, he understood it. I have not told him this before. This kind of thing helps me take risks with actors. Now, the next time, I wouldn’t want to do a love story with him; I will want to push him to another level because he is not afraid to take risks.
With Kriti, it was a very natural choice because she has lived that North Indian life. Bareilly Ki Barfi was just the teaser. That girl was brash, this girl is strong. There is a difference. And I feel that there is a point to her character that she is trying to make. For me, she is also very strong-headed. As a person, there is a certain energy to her which fits this character. They were both my first choices. They heard the script and instantly reacted, connected to the story. For me, it is very important for the actors to connect with the character because only then we will value it. It was organic.
BOI: Kriti, in an earlier interaction, you had mentioned that after Heropanti you were being offered urban-based roles and after Bareilly Ki Barfi, you were getting only small-town roles. Do you think it is difficult to break the mould you set in this industry?
KS: I don’t know, yaar. I think two films cannot really set a perception but sometimes they do. As an actor, it is very important for me to reinvent myself, for the audience to start seeing me differently. I think you need to keep doing different kind of films. I don’t want to get stuck in one kind of genre. It also satisfies me as an actor when I do something different. So, I am glad that Bareilly Ki Barfi happened and the previous perception was broken. And as Dinesh said, Bitty and Rashmi are very different. I also don’t want to do the exact same thing, I am looking to do something different in every film I do.
BOI: Kartik, what about you? You said the image of an actor changes every Friday.
KA: Last year, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety did so well and it is still fresh in the minds of so many people. The audience still looks at me as the character of Sonu. For me, it was an important decision to do a film whose genre is not new to me but whose territory is very different. The world of Luka Chuppi is very new to me. I am playing a small-town guy with a certain dialect. People have always seen me and my characters as the Delhi ka launda, dialoguebaazi karne wala banda. They have never seen me in this avatar, in this particular space. It wasn’t a conscious a decision because the Luka Chuppi script came my way and the narration told me it was something different from what I had done before. There were a lot of dimensions to it as well. Of course, the script was really good. When my first narration was underway with Laxman sir and Rohan, I laughed so much. And when I laugh, I am very loud.
KS: Yes, very loud (Laughs).
KA: Well, because of the way I laughed, I am sure that Dinu, who was sitting in the other room, was sure that I would say yes. Since the script was good and my character was different, the space was different. It was a reinvention for me, with Guddu Shukla from Luka Chuppi. This Friday will once again change something for me. First it was Sonu and now it is Guddu.
KS: Also, he has a romance instead of a bromance in this film.
KA: Yes! It’s not bromance. In this film, there is actually romance.
KS: You have gone from Tere yaar hun main to Main dekhun teri photo.
KA: Exactly. I didn’t have a heroine before this film. In SKTKS, I didn’t have a heroine at all.
KS: And the ones he had before that, he didn’t like. (Everyone Laughs)
BOI: There is a trend of trying to convey a message through all genres of films now. Is this film, where the protagonists are taking certain steps for their relationship, trying to tell the audience to let love be?
DV: It is saying more than that, but to know exactly what the message is, people will have to come to theatres. (Laughs)
KS: But, you’re right, that is part of it. I truly feel that you should let love be.
DV: In fact, the trailer showcases the first half. In the second half, there is a lot more that is not revealed through the trailer or the songs. It will take you on a slightly different journey. In the first half, you kind of know what is going to happen but the second half will take you by surprise, which is good because in our country, we kind of show it all.
I feel that we should go beyond the trailer and that the audience should go home with something. I think Kartik feels more strongly about this happening than any of us. The film should say something but it cannot be gyaan. It can’t be preachy. When you go home, you sit and think about it and say, okay, that was a good point.
BOI: All the songs in the film are recreations of popular original numbers. Was it a deliberate decision for better recall value?
DV: Actually, 98 per cent of the music that I have done before has been original. I think I have done only one remake to date. There is just one remake of a Hindi film song, which is Poster, which is the theme of the film. The other four are actually regional songs that I had liked over the past year and I wanted to use one song in each film. Later, I felt this would have been an injustice to the music director. Music directors work hard and when you use one of these songs, it takes away from their effort.
I wanted these regional artistes to get a national platform. This was my intent because music has given me a large part of my identity. The intent was to do that for them like Tony (Kakkar) with Coca cola, which is about to touch 800 million views. This gives artistes like Tony, Akhil and Karan (Sehmbi) a platform and hopefully in a year or two, they will be able to do an entire album on their own. That’s why I chose to do it in one film. I would rather do an album once in two years which I curate, which I pick. The sole reason is to be fair to music directors and to give these guys a platform.
BOI: Kartik, you had earlier said you wanted to do a film in the thriller genre and slowly you are trying to get into that space. What genres do you think will break the mould even further?
KA: More than breaking the mould, I love thrillers. In particular, I would like to play an anti-hero or grey characters. Of course, I like to watch comedy films and I love to work in them but I would love to do more thrillers in the future. I feel I will be better at it than at comedy. I think main hasane se zyada rulane mein achha kaam karunga.
DV: Whom have you driven to tears?
KA: (Laughs) I have never made anyone cry. I mean, making someone cry cinematically, not in reality.
BOI: But you would have to take inspiration from personal life…
KA: Of course. I have seen and observed my friends and other people around me.
DV: Next time, you will hear a story that this had happened to a friend…
DV: On a serious note, if I had to do another film with him, I would do a thriller on the lines of Gone Girl.
KS: I would want to be the Gone Girl.
BOI: Kriti, do you also like to do films in this genre?
KS: I love thrillers.
KA: Didn’t I say she copies my answers?
DV: Yes, she does (Laughs).
KS: Dinu, I have said this to you before too, don’t lie! (Laughs) Anyway, I want to do a character full of angst, who is complicated and weird.
KA: Like you?
KS: In fact, not like me. I don’t get angry easily, touch wood (Laughs). So, yes, I want to play an intense and complicated character. I feel it is going to be very interesting as that is not who I am at all.
BOI: Laxman, we can see an amazing dynamic over here. Was it the same on the set?
LU: Do you want the truth?
LU: It was a lot of fun on the set. Kartik is very naughty. It is very difficult to understand whether he is pulling your leg or praising you. On the set, when I used to ask him whether something was good or not, he would always reply confidently ki haan accha hai but in a way that would confuse you. (Everyone Laughs).
But the best part about him is that he doesn’t follow only his character. He is there for the film. He was on the set even if he didn’t have a scene to shoot. If ever he felt something was not going right, he wouldn’t say ‘this is not right’; instead, he would ask, ‘is this okay?’ A question like that can be confusing. We would have to understand what he meant and do the scene again. (Laughs)
DV: No matter how complicated he is as a person, when it comes to performing in a film, he doesn’t let all that come in. On the set, his energy is very positive and when it comes to his work ethic too, he is very good.
LU: Yes, he is very professional. And, as I said, he is just there for the film. He will be there even when not needed.
KS: He was there because his vanity van was not ready (Laughs).
LU: About Kriti, for each and every shot, we can see her finger raised. Before we say action, Kriti has many questions. But that is very good because before performing she wants to be clear about what she is doing.
KS: I think he is being sarcastic.
KA: ‘Why is this mobile kept here like this? What company’s mobile is it? The wire beside this mobile is black or white?’
DV: ‘Will it have any impact on my character?’
KS: Guys, I am serious. Don’t ruin my image.
DV: She is that prashnachar.
KA: The question mark.
LU: These questions of Rashmi and the habits of Guddu are also because they are very intelligent performers. These characters have a very thin line of performance. Thoda bhi idhar udhar jaaye to yeh taaliyaan gaali ho sakti hain. But they have maintained it so well that you can see only Guddu from the first scene to the last and not Kartik. Similarly, you will see Rashmi from the first scene to the last, not Kriti. That consistency reflects the talent of any actor.
BOI: Dinesh, you also said it is very important for a producer to be creatively involved in the project. How involved were you in this film?
DV: There is a difference between being involved and interfering. I was involved in the sense that my job is to back the director to help him deliver his best. If music is something he needs us to do, we assist him with that. For example, film-wise, after he is done with the script, we have a discussion on it. Also, he should be in sync with everything we want to change, otherwise there will be no conviction in the shoot. That’s the first part.
Then, obviously, there is the making of the film, where we have to back him up, where he just has to direct his actors and not worry about anything else. For this, credit goes to my team who does that for him. And if he has any questions, I am available. Then the main work comes in once he is done with his edit. This is where I can add value, by offering my point of view.
To get along with my director, I need to have a trusting equation with him, and I think I have that with most of my directors. That is where you can help improve the film. The first film I did in 2003 was Being Cyrus. We had a one-hour and 43-minute cut. We were young at the time and wanted to include it all. Then we called this guy, Jon Harris, who had edited Snatch. We collected all the money we could muster to get him, we flew him down here and he saw the film and he pared it down to one hour and 33 minutes. He cut 16 minutes and asked me whether the film was clearer or clear? ‘Clearer’ means you are improving it, and ‘clear’ means it’s just there.
That gave me so much perspective, that you can change a film even at the end. You can improve it and that’s what I have to offer. That is my creative involvement. But if he gives me a cut that is working, then I will not ruin it just to do my keeda to make it clearer (Laughs). That would be interfering, which is bad for the film.
The audience today is interested in the film and not any one person in it. The old-school thinking has changed and I am happy with the way the younger lot thinks. I am also working a lot more with the younger lot who are actually on the same page as you are. So I think involvement is there but it is more like assistance.
KS: I really like the fact that he (DV) can set himself aside, detach from the project, look at it from the audience’s perspective, and be very blunt about what is working and what is not working. We all get very involved like, aree woh scene kyon kata, ye wala achha tha, and all of that. As a producer, that’s exactly what is needed because you need to be a little pragmatic.
KA: I love Snatch, it’s crazy.
DV: He is such a cool guy. It was so much fun and easy to work with him because the film was in English too.
KA: I didn’t know, yaar.
DV: He came down and spent like two weeks here.
KA: You never mentioned this before…
KS: We are getting to know new things about everything.
KA: Yes, we are learning about it at Box Office India!
BOI: You said you wanted the audience to take back something from the film. What is it that all four of you want the audience to take back?
DV: I want the boys to take Kriti home and the girls to take Guddu home (Laughs).
LU: Actually, I want the audience to take the reality hastey hastey.
KS: Same here, and I think we are all on the same page. We have shown a few things in the film in a humorous way. So besides being entertained, I also want them to think about these things.
DV: The younger generation will understand their family’s perspective and the family might also understand the new generation’s perspective. Then there might be some balance.
KA: I hope that the audience takes the family home.
DV: Yes, I agree with him. We all want them to take the family home.
KA: People should come with their families; they will thoroughly enjoy themselves with our family. This is the family where every member interferes in each other’s life. People will definitely relate to this family after they watch Luka Chuppi on March 1.