Producer Sangeeta Ahir, director Subhash Kapoor and leading actors Arshad Warsi and Amit Sadh of Guddu Rangeela, in conversation with team Box Office India
Box Office India (BOI): Subhash (Kapoor), just like last time, can you do the honours by interviewing your lead actors and producer?
Arshad Warsi (AW): Just like!
Subhash Kapoor (SK): Yes, just like I had interviewed Arshad (Warsi) for Box Office India last time. Well, I don’t know how to start but let me say it is a great honour to be here. I have seen Box Office India magazine grow and a lot of my friends come here for interviews. I remember Shoojit (Sircar) and Ronnie (Lahiri)’s interview. So it was a surprise when Sangeetaji (Ahir) told me about this interview. I thought it would be great to meet Nitin (Tej Ahuja) and Vajir (Singh) as we have known each other for a long time.
So we are here for our next film Guddu Rangeela, which I directed after Jolly LLB. This is a fun film but a film with substance. Guddu Rangeela is not a satire like Jolly LLB or Phas Gaye Re Obama was. It is slightly more commercial in tone and narrative. But the duo in a way does have an issue that they are dealing with. However, the story has been treated in a very commercial way with a lot of humour, drama, a little romance and action, which is a first for me. So here’s Guddu and Rangeela… Arshad plays Rangeela and Amit (Sadh) plays Guddu in the film. But Rangeela is not ‘rangeela’ in the film; he is very serious in the film and Guddu is very ‘rangeela’.
AW: (Cuts in) Ask him why he couldn’t change the names (Laughs).
SK: He has been asking me this since day one. I often take a lot of references from real life when I write. I have met someone who is like Rangeela and I knew this guy when I was a kid. I could never imagine him to be a young boy. I always imagined him to be a senior guy.
Amit Sadh (AS): (Cuts in) Arshad bhai, he just called you ‘senior’.
AW: Pehele bata do ye interview kiske liye hia? Mujhe beizzat karne ke liye? (Laughs)
SK: When you watch the film, you will understand that he was ‘rangeela’ at one point in his life but something happened that changed him as a person. But he has not given away his quirks or funny one-liners or the attitude that the character has. That is there throughout the film. It is just that, deep down, there is something burning, which we reveal in the second half of the film. Guddu is a very bechara Veeru-type in the film. Guddu is also a flirt in the film and is the one who sings and dances.
AW: (Cuts in) Basically, Amit is playing himself in the film.
SK: Yes, that is true.
AW: One moment you hear it is a serious role, and then you have someone like me playing it. Just one thought comes to mind… that hope it doesn’t get boring. And I was thinking this too. However, no matter how deep the character is, the entertainment quotient is right up there, and that is because of the way Subhash writes. So the entertainment value is present in my character; otherwise it would be achanak aadmi se Bharat Bhushan ho gaya. The funny one-liners and energy are there in the character and he is still entertaining and fun to watch in spite of the dark secret he harbours, which he is dealing with.
SK: All my friends know that when I am writing, I am also casting. I find it difficult to write if I don’t have an actor in mind. I had a rough draft of Guddu Rangeela ready before I made Jolly LLB but, while writing, I got stuck in the second half of the film. I wasn’t sure what to do with these two characters post-interval. So while writing, I realised that Arshad was known more for the Circuits and Dhamaals in the Golmaal series kind of space. So I thought I would do something different with Arshad. As a director, I know he can pull off a serious role or ambiguous part if not completely serious. He can pull off a character with shades of grey very well.
So when I was writing the film and had competed 40-odd scenes, I was sure I wanted to cast Arshad. I called him immediately as I had a shooting window in mind. I wanted to tell him set aside those three months for me and not to allot his dates to anyone else. He asked me what I was writing. I said, ‘I will let you know but just don’t give your dates to anyone else.’ So he was there from the very beginning. Amit and I have been meeting since Phas Gaye Re Obama.
AS: (Cuts in) He was the first director I met. Actually, he was the first director who agreed to meet me (Laughs).
SK: Most of us really appreciated what he had done in Kai Po Che. But when I met him, I personally saw a lot of contradictions. This was about five years ago. When Amit walks into the office, everyone knows he has arrived because he greets everyone in a lively manner and jokes with the staff. Everyone just lights up and I know from my office boy’s face that Amit is in the office. And I watched Kai Po Che and him in a serious role, I felt he would be like that in real life too. I thought there was a lot of Guddu already in his personality. So when I called him for the part, I told him I would narrate the story but he was already half the character I wanted him to play. Guddu is like him in many ways and he has a habit of cracking one-liners. I have not revealed these lines in the trailer and have saved them for the film. They are typical Haryanvi jokes. While sketching the character, I kept Amit in mind as I felt meri adhi mehenat bach jaegi. I don’t know if it is the right thing to say or not but a lot of people are going to be surprised to see what he has done in the film. First, as a director, I am very happy with his work and, second, you liked him in Kai Po Che but you are still to see the wild side of the actor that he is. And you get to see that in Guddu Rangeela.
AW: He has a rare quality. He can look like a young boy but can carry off a mature look as well. For instance, in Kai Po Che, you saw him as a mature guy but, as Guddu, he is a kid.
He is very lucky to have that quality.
BOI: The first time both of you heard the script, what was your instinctive reaction?
AW: Subhash is a fantastic writer and I have blind faith in him. I would do his film without even listening to a single line of the story. So when I heard Guddu Rangeela, I thought it was a very interesting story and there is a reason for you to make this film. It is very deep and solid. It is pretty much a taboo in our culture. Now dress that up with humour, action, performances and great lines with songs and dance, and this makes the whole package really nice. You have a film that sends out a message and also entertains. Then you also have a producer who is great. It looks grand, it has a great script, a great producer, the best writer and director and the best actor even (me) (Laughs)!
BOI: Amit, your reaction to the first narration?
AS: I couldn’t have asked for more. I have seen all of sir’s (Subhash Kapoor) films. He had called me for Phas Gaya Re Obama’s screening.
AW: (Cuts in) He wanted you for Neha’s (Dhupia) role (Laughs).
AS: When I met sir he told me the story. To be honest, I didn’t think twice as I knew Arshad sir was doing the film and I have been a big fan of his. I always wanted to work with Subhash sir. But what I loved about this role is that after Kai Po Che, people thought I was this crazy, serious kind of man, and people would look at me from the perspective of my Kai Po Che character. I had a meeting with a guy who was narrating a script to me, and ten minutes into the meeting, he tells me, ‘Aap toh mast ho yaar.’ I was, like, what do you mean? He said he thought I would be like one of those NSD actors. So my image was very different and no one thought I could be funny. So it’s the greatness of sir’s vision. Then, when I got into it, it was sir who helped me understand the character and potray it. It was a difficult character. So it was sir and Arshad bhai who helped me essay the part.
BOI: Sangeeta, what attracted you to the story?
Sangeeta Ahir (SA): Subhashji was developing another script which I was supposed to produce. So we had a narration, it was a fantastic subject and we were about to start it. But then he narrated a few lines from Guddu Rangeela to me, what the film was about, and I instantly said yes. I have come back after a long time with Guddu Rangeela, so this film was very important to me. Whenever Subhashji decides to do something, he gives it a 100 per cent and does justice to the script. So that one-line narration was enough for me to come on board as a producer. He is not a director who does his work and leaves the sets. He assumes complete responsibility for a film.
Also, this is not a film about two boys; it is an interesting subject. It’s about the common man and everyone will be able to connect with this story. It is for the masses and that’s the USP of the film. Filmmakers don’t usually tackle issues like these and make them entertaining at the same time. I couldn’t have found a better script than this.
SK: When I approached Sangeetaji, we were talking about another film. It was a grand film with a big cast and a big budget. But I wasn’t sure whether we would be able to put together that film in the time we had. We were hoping it would take a year or two after we got the actors’ dates. Many people said if I had cast stars in the film, it would have been a ` 100-crore film. People still say that. But as long as I get actors who I think will suit the part… I do not have the patience to work with big stars.
In any case, I had developed this script of Guddu Rangeela and while writing it, I realised this was Arshad. So you have Sangeetaji making a comeback, you’re talking a big film, you’re mentally gearing up to mounting a big film. And then I call up the producer and say, ‘Let’s hold that (big film) story and let’s do this (Guddu Rangeela).’ She listened to it for 10-15 minutes and she agreed after I narrated the first few scenes and one liner of the story.
So we decided to make the film with these actors. There was hardly any time because I immediately wanted to get into pre-production. And to be very honest, while working on my last film (Jolly LLB), I missed having a producer. People think directors are superheroes who can tackle any situation. Trust me, we are not, we are as confused, as under-confident as anybody else in the team. In my last film, there were times when I wished there was a producer, who would share these concerns with me and the thoughts I would not share with my actors because it may hamper their performance. So I missed having a producer. But with this film, that burden was taken care of. I remember we were shooting in Punjab, and I am very cost-conscious, I used to ask, ‘Aaj, kitne ka khana aaya, kisne mangaya’ (Laughs).
BOI: Arshad, what did you eat on the sets of Guddu Rangeela?
AW: I was on a diet during the shoot. I used to eat properly after I got back home, and he (Subhash Kapoor) would come and eat with me (Laughs).
SK: That’s how we managed to keep the film within its budget, only because of him. I realise that the director has the luxury to justify a lot of things with sensible logic. This is my dream and this is how I visualise it. I wouldn’t change it, I wouldn’t have one less person, if I visualise 5,000 people while writing the script, I wouldn’t change that to 4,000. But I am also very cost conscious and I don’t want my films to exceed their budgets. I want my films to make money. When someone trusts you with their money, you have a huge responsibility as the director. Luckily, I have been able to do it in all my previous films, whether Phaas Gaya Re Obama or Jolly LLB. But we had a four-month delay with Amit breaking his ankle in Shimla. Still, she was very supportive, and that’s the measure of a good producer.
AS: The way she took care of the whole thing, of everyone, was brilliant. Sangeetaji got me to Mumbai in 24 hours and made all the relevant calls. The way Subhash Sir had reacted and the way bhabhi (Sangeeta Ahir) took care of the situation. I underwent surgery in 24 hours and that’s the only reason I was able to be back so soon. Once, when I was shooting for a television serial, I had broken my shoulder and the director was enraged that I had spoilt his schedule. I had to complete the shoot with a broken shoulder. So the way everyone reacted this time, Arshad bhai reacted very well, he said ‘chal hum log party karte hai’.
AW: My pet name for him is Rambo.
BOI: Sangeeta, there is a saying in the industry that ‘films don’t fail, budgets do’.
SA: I absolutely agree. If you have crazy budgets for no reason… I mean, there has to be a reason for the budget. Your movie should speak to the audience and they should be able to see where that money has been spent. Today everything is so expensive that you need to justify the budget.
BOI: Arshad, you have been part of the industry for a long time. Do you think it’s the best time for actors like you to be working, with the kind of roles that are coming?
AW: Let me put it this way, the kind of movies that I like are being made. I like realistic films, that are also commercial, so those kinds of films are being made and I am enjoying them. I am enjoying films like Ishqiya, Jolly LLB being made. From that point of view; yes, I am enjoying the space I am in. In general, our industry is going through a good balance. Our films are becoming more sensible. Finally, we have rid ourselves of the term ‘cinematic liberty’. We are getting better; we have started making sensible films that we are proud of. We are in a good space, I think it’s a good time for everyone.
AW: I feel corporatisation of the industry has messed up things. Solo producers were better, there was trust, and people used to work with their heart. Films had soul. Somewhere down the line, we lost that.
SA: It’s like handmade versus machine-made… handmade hi achcha lagta hai.
AW: And I think they will take some time to finally figure out that this is what we have to do. These guys and solo producers make sensible films so that the world doesn’t laugh at us. And, let’s be honest, right now, the world laughs at us.
SA: Corporates are good for business, for distribution, but for producers…
AS: (Cuts in) Corporates should not operate, they should co-operate.
BOI: Considering your mass blockbusters like Golmaal and Munna Bhai, does your approach to acting change?
AW: Yes, of course. I act different in every film and that’s what a sensible actor should do. I have seen many actors who act in the same way in every film. If you are doing a comedy film, your body language changes; if you’re doing a film like Ishqiya, your body language has to change or a film like Jolly LLB or Sehar, your body language changes. That’s the job of an actor, just like every script is shot differently and treated differently. You have to mould yourself to be like your character and you have to change for every film. Also, as a person, I am completely different than the way I appear in a film. There is absolutely no connection.
BOI: Amit, you said this film was dramatically opposite what you had done in Kai Po Che was it a different experience for you too, in terms of acting?
AS: I feel I don’t have the ability to be a great actor but I have the ability to submit myself to the director. I approached this film in the same way. The story and the characters were so well written that I just submitted myself to the director. During the first three days of my reading, sir was very patient even though I thought I was disappointing him, as it was a different world, a different dialect. But I was at the workshop every single day.
AW: I was not there.
AS: After the third or fourth day, we took a three-day break and I imbibed every suggestion that was given to me by sir. After we came back, we were doing a scene and he said, ‘Aa raha hai.’ I immediately felt a little more confident ke chalo kuch ho raha hai. And I said, ‘Sir, aab toh Haryana pahunch ke dikhaunga.’ I read somewhere that bad actors copy, good actors steal. So there is a lot of Sir (Subhash Kapoor) in Guddu. I would simply observe him when he would explain a scene to me and do whatever he would do while narrating.
AW: He is a very conceited director.
AS: Every day, I would go to the sets and just watch him enact the scene, from body language to dialogue delivery. I picked a lot of things just watching him.
AW: Most actors are cheaters, they are liars. But most directors don’t realise when an actor has not given the shot 100 per cent and they still say ‘what a great shot!’ ‘Mind blowing!’ But you can’t lie to him or Raju (Hirani). They make you do a scene over and over again till they are absolutely satisfied.
SK: In my experience, when you work with an actor, you need to understand how he operates. Like in Jolly LLB too, I had Boman and Arshad, I had Boman who would ask me everything – walk, smile, car, pen, hanky, phone, laptop, everything. And that is my job, as a director, to answer all his questions and concerns that he has. Similarly, when Arshad and I started working, we realised there were two limitations that we had – the most important one was that he has to be aware of the meddling of the world I have set the film in. That way, I understand where the actor is stuck and how to work on that. We held workshops for days and that’s how we finally worked on it and got it right. This time with Arshad, I went to his place to narrate the script and ended up having two pegs of whisky instead!
AW: (Cuts in) Aise mat bolo warna sab narration dene aaenge aur whisky pite rahenge (Laughs).
BOI: Judging by the line-up of your films, you generally explore the India that exists beyond the metros. Was that a deliberate decision?
SK: No, it’s very simple. I am capable of making the films about the world that I know. Why, some producers have offered me films that were to be shot in Canada but I have never been to Canada.
AW: (Cuts in) Somebody please send him to Canada, at least for six months. He likes places that are hot and miserable.
SK: The words are ‘dirty and dingy’. Anyway, that is what I am capable of. It is not a deliberate choice.
AW: Are koi toh inhe chutti pe le jao (Laughs).
SK: That’s the world I understand. I have been to places like Bihar and Haryana all my life. So that’s the world I know. I know their characters, I know their humour, their dialect. I know what a shop looks like in Rohtak, or what a Karnal bus stand looks like. You will see that continuity in the other films I am working on.
AW: I think another damn good film. I will not hesitate to say that it is a very good film and that there’s no doubt about that. There is a lot of honesty in it. And the film has something to say.
SK: (Cuts in) One thing we have missed out on is Ronit (Roy) and I will let Arshad talk about him.
AW: I can assure you that this is one of the finest performances he has given so far. It is an author-backed role. But sometimes, I fear that a good film doesn’t do well because of the kind of films that do well these days. That scares me.
SA: (Cuts in) When we were working on Jolly LLB, I wondered what would happen if the film did not do well.
AW: I don’t know. I mean, if this doesn’t do well, then the next one will, and if that doesn’t work, then the next film will (Laughs).
AW: Every character in this film is written in a way that this film can have many sequels. I have a feeling that people will like the characters. And when you like a character, you look forward to a sequel. This is the kind of film where the characters will have a place in your heart.
BOI: For the next part of Guddu Rangeela, you should travel abroad.
AW: Aisa hona chahiye yaar. Good idea (Laughs).
SK: My production team says, ‘Aap kuch nahi toh aap recce ke liye toh kahi le jao.’ So this time I took them to Shimla (Laughs).