Team Mirza Juuliet – actors Darshan Kumaar, Chandan Roy Sanyal and
Pia Bajpai, along with director Rajesh Ram Singh – in conversation with Team Box Office India
Box Office India (BOI): The first question is for the captain of the ship. Rajesh, how did the project come about?
Rajesh Ram Singh (RS): I was directing another script for some producer but there I had an argument regarding the treatment of the film, so decided not to do that. Also after spending one year on the project, the moment I came out of that producer’s office, I thought what next then I realised I have an idea which can really turn into an interesting script. So I called one writer friend of mine but he was busy to take up another project.So I called Shanti Bhushan who was writing good show on Tv to write Mirza juuliet.We started working on the script and it took us two years to complete. Shanti was busy with TV and that slowed the process.
Eventually, I started narrating the script to producers and I got a positive response. Then, Neeraj Kumar Burman, Shanti Bhushan, Amit Singh and Chokkas Bhardwaj and I discussed the script together. And the question uppermost in each of our minds was, actor kaun hai?
I had watched Darshan Kumaar in NH10 and someone had been talking about Darshan. So I was, like, ‘Who Darshan? He said ‘the one from Mary Kom’, and I said, ‘Yeah, he is a good actor.’ Three to four days later, NH10 released. After I watched it, I decided he was the guy I wanted for Mirza Juuliet. I did not want a conventional hero, a hero who could fight all the odds and come out a winner. I didn’t want someone like that. So I sent the script to Darshan and I waited for two to three days. The next step was ladki kaun hai?
Now, we did not want a modern kind of girl. We wanted a typical North Indian, girl-next-door. We wanted someone who was desirable and good looking, and someone one could relate to. That’s how Pia came on board. Casting director Jogi showed us some of her music videos, and we liked them. Then and there, we felt that Rajan Pandey’s character should be given to Chandan and that’s how we met Chandan. He didn’t express his feeling about the film initially but got into it slowly.
Pia Bajpai (PB): He wants to say ki humein ek baar me pasand nai kiya gaya. (Laughs)
RS: No, it’s not that. It takes time.
PB: It always happens by chance.
RS: It wasn’t by chance. They gave really good auditions and the moment I saw the auditions, I was. like, okay. I had a good set of actors… like Chandan, Pia, Darshan and Priyanshu Chatterjee. Priyanshu was a surprise and he is doing a negative role in the film. Everything fell in place perfectly.
BOI: This question is for each one of you. When were you approached and what was it about the character that appealed to you?
PB: My shoot for Laal Rang was on. When Jogi sir approached me with this film, he gave me a full narration. I loved that it was a role of a small-town girl and woh apne aap me ek dhaamal role tha. There are very few roles like these today.
RS: Everyone who had heard the script asked me which girl would be playing this role. She is fab and the girl had to be someone who could carry off the language. The dialogue could not sound obscene.
PB: Yes, there was a very thin line between sounding right and sounding vulgar or under-acting or over-acting. I found the set-up very interesting. Jogi sir told me that Darshan had been finalised for the film. I had also seen his film NH10and I was, like, ‘Waah, it would be great fun to work with a good actor like him.’
I gave an audition and I think they failed to understand me. I had no script and the character sketch they gave me was different. In the first audition, they told me I had to use abusive language and that was a first for me. So there was a little gadbad in the beginning. Then I did another audition with these guys, but this time I had a proper script. I still tell people that they didn’t like me in the first go.
Darshan Kumaar (DK): When I met him for the first time, he started narrating the story to me almost immediately. I barely had time to pick up my coffee cup!. At the interval point, I said, ‘So many things have already happened, what could possibly happen next?’ And he said, ‘Just see…’
I loved this film; I loved Mirza’s character. His life is very complicated and how he overcomes each issue and also falls in love with Julie… that’s the crux of the film. It’s a different type of movie yet a modern love story. That’s what I loved most about it.
Chandan Roy Sanyal (CRS): Shantiji messaged me saying that they had written a film and asked me to listen to it. I was reconnecting with him after a very long time. He said he would come along with his friend Rajesh and narrate it to me, and I said okay. Shanti and Rajesh walked in like school students with a bag and a laptop. Then they started narrating the film and I kept thinking, when will my character make an appearance? Then the character of Rajan Pandey appeared and they started telling me about him.
As soon as I heard the character, I was like ‘Acha, yeh toh Banarsi hai.’ He does not get a girl but he is in his own zone.
RS: Shanti had given him a nice description of his character. He said ‘ki aapa character aisa hai ki jo kahi pe bhi uga sakte hai’
PB: Woh ghaas jo kahi bhi phel jati hai. Junglee ghaas.
CRS: Weed, which grows anywhere.
DK: When I was in college in Delhi, there were many guys who used to look at a girl and say, ‘Yeh meri hai’ and then if another guy walked in, they would beat him up.
RS: Teri bhabhi hai woh.
DK: Yes, teri bhabhi hai kaise ja raha hai tu uske aas pass. The beauty of this film is everybody can relate to it because people must have fallen in love or must have been in a situation like this. That’s the beauty of the film.
BOI: You just mentioned that a character had the following reference… ghaas kahi pe bhi ugti hai. What reference did you get for your characters?
PB: I was told that my character was a tad crazy. She is bold or rather pagal and mufat. She is innocent and has grown up with her brothers. For me, Pia, it was abusive, but for the character, abusing was like saying ‘hello’ and ‘hi’.
RS: In the film, the atmosphere at her home is like that. She is very innocent and bold and she has no clue whether or not she was making any sense when she spoke.
PB: Yes, she had no idea whether or not she had to say something; she is a mufat character but in a good way.
DK: The best thing about Mirza is that before he makes an appearance in the film, there are many incidences that have taken place in his life. This had to be reflected in his expression and that was tough. I wondered how someone who had faced so much in life could be sincere and fall in love. I had to work on this and I asked a friend who is a psychologist for some help. I asked her whether someone who could have endured so many hardships could still have a conservative mindset and believe in marriage and having kids. She said there is always a corner of one’s mind, where you are still sensitive about a few things.
So I worked hard on this character but was excited about the work that went in to playing a character like ‘yeh aisa karega, iske life me yeh beet chukka hai phir bhi yeh aisa kar raha hai.’ I think I had to work on that.
BOI: Chandan, was there ever a question mark about your character?
CRS: No. I always approach my roles in a way that… I like to imagine. I like to imagine myself. I create my own world. First, I follow the script, then I wonder what the character would do if he were doing this for the first time. How would he do it? The character has to be unique. Rajeshji and Amitji are from Banaras, so they told me about the characteristics of a Banarasi… how they speak. Rajeshji, Amitji and Shantiji told me how to deliver my lines and advised me on the body language I had to use.
RS: He is a flamboyant character. His clothes are also colourful.
CRS: During the costume trials, Rajeshji was saying ‘no’ to everything. Costumes are supposed to make you look smart, right? Instead, my clothes had a sunflower on them, my shoes were shinny and the tips had a snake on them. I was, like, what are they doing to me? After I wore my costume, I stepped into my character very tentatively; the second level came about when I went on the sets; the third level when the lights came on; and the fourth level came automatically.
BOI: Rajesh, were you ever disheartened because it took two years to get the film ready?
RS: No, I was very busy with my television work and I took my own sweet time to complete my story. And I was okay with that. The whole idea was to make a good film.
BOI: Was it difficult to get producers for your film?
RS: I am always lucky that way. I have always got producers for films whenever I have needed them.
DK: He is very talented and everyone knows that.
RS: I guess I have someone’s blessing.
BOI: Is it easy to get into a character or out of it?
DK: I am the kind who goes into details. So if you want me to stand for a single shot, I do a lot of research work for even that.
RS: Pia and Chandan are both very spontaneous and Darshan tries to get into his character. He tries to feel the location too. On the first day of the shoot, I remember shooting and the lighting was done, and he was out. So I asked him to take some rest but he said, ‘I’m trying to feel the location.’ I said ‘Kaisa actor hai.’
We have an actor, Sumanji, who hails from Banaras and she wasn’t getting the slap right. She slapped Darshan very hard and I had to instruct her how to get it right but she still couldn’t. Darshan looked at me accusingly, as if I had asked her to slap him! But Darshan was into his character and the rest was spontaneous. (Laughs)
PB: Excuse me… a spontaneous actor has a different style of working.
RS: One moment they are laughing and the very next, they are serious.
PB: That’s talent. (Laughs)
DK: I can’t do it.
BOI: Is it easy to snap out of your character after being into it so deeply?
DK: It’s not easy to suddenly slip into your character and suddenly snap out of it. But that’s what I like because that’s what I have learnt. I belong to Naseer sir’s (Naseeruddin Shah) theatre group. I want to be real, not fake, on screen. If I think my performance is bordering on the fake, I immediately stop and change. Every actor has their own style and this is mine.
CRS: When I started my career, I used to act with the local people of Chhattisgarh. And our director Habib sahib had a different style of working; he would suddenly switch from being a local-ite, to a director who was directing a Shakespearean drama. That was my first exposure and it was magical for me to watch that. I am very different off screen and that’s what our preparation is all about.
PB: Yes, even my preparation is kind of like that. People think it’s just switching on and switching off. But it takes a long time to learn how to do that. After doing a particular scene, we may seem to have switched off our character but that doesn’t mean we don’t think about our performance. I keep thinking about it and analysing it. For the emotional scene, I had to prepare and use the memory method to act and take time to leave the scene.
BOI: Name one surprising element your actors possess.
RS: Whatever we had planned reflected on the monitor. That was really surprising. I never forced my actors to work in a particular way. Still, they were so bang on that it took me by surprise.
CRS: We also got a great director who gave the actors a lot of freedom. I mean he use to stop us when we strayed outside our characters but he gave us plenty of space within the boundaries of our roles. Some people don’t use the space they are given.
RS: I believe that when you sign good actors, you have to do that much less as a director. Hand over responsibility to the actors and tell them they will not look good on screen if they don’t perform well.
DK: When I was not part of a scene, I would sit out and watch Pia’s performance or Priyanshu’s performance. So I was constantly surrounded by people and I could see their reactions and listen to their comments, like ‘Yaar ye toh isi role keliye banna hai’ or ‘Isse better koi nahi kar sakta’. So to know that you have chosen actors who are perfectly suited to their respective roles…
BOI: For each one of you, what was Rajesh like as captain of the ship?
PB: When I met him for the first time, I told Darshan that our director does not talk much. How are we going to shoot this film? I was coming from the Laal Rang sets, where the director talks a lot. Here, the director seemed like an introvert.
RS: No, I’m not. If the scene has been discussed and the actors are doing well, why do you have to tell them what you have do?
BOI: It is said that films don’t fail, budgets do. What precautions did you take to rein in the budget?
RS: The basic thing was to complete the film on time and we managed to achieve that.
BOI: The reason for advancing the release of the film?
DK: Seven is a lucky number for me, so I forced him to release it on that day. (Laughs)
RS: We decided to do that because Fast & Furious 8 (The Fate Of The Furious) is releasing on March, 14 as well as Begum Jaan. I think they have cornered a lot of screens. So we were advised by distributors to advance our release date. They were very excited after watching the trailer of our film and felt it was perfectly fine if we released along with Sarkar 3 but not as third choice along with the other two movies. Now I guess Sakar 3 is also not coming in.
BOI: What kind of release will the film get?
RS: We haven’t thought of that yet. The production team and the distributors are working on a plan.
BOI: What is the USP of the film?
PB: The film is actually based on love, and the strong emotions in the film are something everyone can relate to.
DK: It’s a today love story. I think the youth are confused… they are in love and they are also practical. They don’t know where to go. The youth will be able to relate to this very easily.
CRS: There is so much happening in our lives that we tend to forget the small things. This film has small-town bonding, which people don’t otherwise get to see.
RS: For me, I think it’s entertainment.
DK: Entertainment! Entertainment! Entertainment!!