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Team Purani Jeans – director Tanushri Chattrji Bassu and lead actors Tanuj Virwani, Aditya Seal and Izabelle Liete in conversation with Box Office India

Box Office India (BOI): Tell us how the project fell into place.

Tanushri Chattrji Bassu (TCB): I come from an advertising background and, like every ad filmmaker, at some point you want to tell a longer story. Little did I know what an excruciating journey that would be. Making a film is an entirely different ball game. So eventually, after six to seven years, I finally made the film.

BOI: Why did it take so long to make?

Aditya Seal (AS): (Cuts in) Because I wasn’t old enough for the role all that time. She had seen me as a child artiste in Ek Choti Si Love Story and I was so good that she thought to herself, ‘Jab yeh bada hoga tab main isse cast karoongi.’ (Laughs)

TCB: Back then, I didn’t know anything about writing a script. Eventually, I met with people like Anjum Rajabali and Sridhar Raghavan, friends of mine, and they told me that all I had was a story, not a script. So then I sort of took a look around and, after quite a bit of dragging my feet, finished the script, and found a very good company to back it. That was another key factor; I had always wanted a good producer on board. Initially, I didn’t have a producer on board, which is part of the reason I waited so long.

BOI: How tough was it to get a producer on board?

TCB: Quite tough. The thing is, it’s a two-hero film. When you watch it, you’ll see that both actors have been given equal prominence. For this reason, it took almost a year to find the right people. It’s very difficult to convince established actors to trust a new director about something so critical.

BOI: This is the second film for all three of you. Can you tell us how you became involved in the project?

Tanuj Virwani (TV): My association with the film was probably the longest among all three of us. Earlier, this film was to be made by someone else and I was signed on to play Aditya’s role. And then for better or worse, I think it was actually for the better, a few years later, Tanushri called me up and said she was now working with Eros and they were planning to make Purani Jeans. I was very happy to hear that because I really liked the script. She asked me if I would play Siddharth’s character, which was the other guy. Honestly, I loved both characters. So I met them and did the screen test. Soon, they told me I had been signed on. At the time, I also had a three-film deal with Eros, so it was bumper news!

BOI: Was this right after your first film Luv U Soniyo?

TV: No, I actually signed the film in March last year, before Luv U Soniyo. So I was super happy and excited.

BOI: Izabelle, how did you come into the picture?

Izabelle Liete (IL): Actually, I came to India from my country, Brazil, for this film. The first I heard of this project was when I got a call to do an audition. They asked me to remain calm, handed me two pages of lines in Hindi and then coolly said, ‘Just memorise these lines and come tomorrow’! I gave the audition and left for Thailand on another assignment and that’s where I got the call saying I had landed the part.

Aditya Seal (AS): Like any newcomer, I wanted to be directed by someone like Aditya Chopra or a Karan Johar. You want to be launched by either them or by a big banner like Yash Raj Films. When I was called in for the auditions, I was told that she was a new director. They hadn’t told me that Eros was backing the film. So I wasn’t too excited. I was like, it’s no big deal, I’ll just go there and do my thing. I didn’t go there to impress anyone. I gave the auditions, and then a couple of days later I was called in for a second round, and that’s when I was told that it was being produced by Eros. So I was like, oh no, what have I done. I gave a really shoddy first audition. (Laughs)

TCB: (Cuts in) Let me add something about Aditya here. Among all the candidates who auditioned, and mind you there were quite a few big names there, people who have since landed very big projects, our man here had the most attitude. He walks in and says, ‘I have only 15 minutes to spare. I have to go somewhere important after this.’

IL: But I did the same thing during my audition.

TCB: But with you, your agent had informed me that you had some other work and I knew about it. With him, he came in with loads of attitude. I wanted to see him audition in a different outfit, so my assistant went with him and the clothes and he threw a tantrum, saying, ‘Mere paas time nahi hai change karne ko.’ But he was quite good in his auditions, and by the second and third round all these guys became serious.

BOI: Apparently, you went on a road trip to break the ice?

TV: The entire movie has been like a road trip! We travelled throughout the film.

TCB: In all modes of transport, from buses to cars, SUVs, jeeps and mopeds.

TV: We shot extensively in places like Chandigarh, Manali, Shimla, Raisingh, and in Mumbai, Panchgani, Wai, Buntar, and eventually came home in a plane. By that time we had graduated to a plane. (Laughs)

TCB: To Chandigarh also we travelled by air, haan! We were very democratic when we were shooting, so everyone on set was treated equally. We would travel together and we didn’t stay at any trendy hotels.

BOI: Was that to keep the budget in check or so that everyone on the sets would bond?

TCB: The story doing the rounds is that we wanted everyone to bond, but it was to keep the costs down.

AS: See, whatever we spent, we wanted that to show on screen, rather than having it blown up off-screen.

TCB: To tell you the truth, these guys are also quite gareeb in the film. (Laughs)

TV: They wanted us to follow method acting. So since Aditya and I were playing best friends, we also had to share a room.

BOI: Are there any similarities between you and the characters you play?

AS: Sam is the kind of guy who lives on the edge. He acts first and thinks later. His friends are his life and there is never a

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dull moment in his life. For me, my friends are my life but I am more calculating when it comes to my career, which Sam is not. So there were some similarities, but to get into character I also had to switch off everything I knew. The best part was that we were not shooting in Mumbai, so it was not like we were going home after pack-up every day. Because of that, because I was physically in a different place, my mindset stayed different. I would do things I wouldn’t otherwise have done, and that helped me play Sam. Tanushri also gave me amazing independence and space. If I needed to find justifications for Sam’s reactions in a particular scene, for instance, she would always help me.

TV: I have gotten to know Aditya over the past year and I think the only thing Sam and Aditya have in common are those six-pack abs. (Laughs)

TCB: (Cuts in) It’s the real deal. No make-up and no Photoshop. His abs are real. These are low-budget abs, real abs. But their personalities are exact opposites and I think they played off each other very well.

BOI: Tanuj, you played a very different role in your first film.

TV: Yeah. I think I was destined to do this film. The film chose me, not the other way around. As far as my character is concerned, you guys have met me before and you know I am hyper-active in real life, so that was something I had to consciously work on, since my character is very quiet, very much like Aditya is in real life. When he enters a room, he would rather look at the furniture with that intense, strong, silent look, and that’s what my character’s like in the film. My director and co-stars helped me a lot in toning down my appearance. Actually it wasn’t very easy; obviously there will be some Tanuj in Siddharth, but I had to keep as little of myself in it as possible.

TCB: As the director, I feel Tanuj has done a great job. He performs much better when his energy is contained. While he normally takes things very casually, when you tell him there’s work to be done, come in character, he gives it 100 per cent and performs the best in that sense. You see a completely different Tanuj and he emerges as a far superior actor because he consciously made that effort to work hard to be something he is not.

Aditya is absolutely brilliant too. He was born to be an actor. Tanuj has a bit of director or filmmaker in him; we discussed cinema on the sets. But with Aditya, he’s all-actor. I know for sure that if this film works, I won’t get him for my next film. For Tanuj, I keep telling him that he can be the next Ajay Devgn if he works on it. I love Ajay Devgn. Tanuj can play this serious, intense guy very well and that slot that Devgn occupies is a very good slot to belong to because that’s an ageless slot.

BOI: Izabelle, did you face any challenges while shooting, given that the film is in a language completely foreign to you?

IL: No, I didn’t have any problems at all because I did some intense workshops before the film went on the floor. Tanushri helped me a lot when I was getting zoned out of the character. Whenever I used to go wrong, she used to guide me back on track. It was hard, but that’s what I have been working hard for.

TCB: (Cuts in) She is very hard-working; she used to write down every line and then practice dialogue delivery so that she got the emotions right.

IL: First I used to write down everything in Portuguese, not only my own lines even the co-stars’ lines, so that I would know how I was supposed to react to their lines. I worked very hard.

TV: (Cuts in) When you see the film, she is reacting to everything perfectly. It’s not easy to do that. She used to understand and rehearse our parts as well because at the end of the day acting is about reacting.

BOI: Tanuj, what was it like working with your mother?

TCB: (Cuts in) That too for the first time.

TV: Yeah, I don’t know what those new articles were in the papers, claiming that she was part of my last film. There was just a picture of her in my last film. Anyway, it was really wonderful working with her. I started the shoot for this film with her; she gave the mahurat shot. We all actually missed her a lot later on because she used to cook amazing food for us and she was like a mother to all of us on the sets.

TCB: She used to cook barbecued chicken on the sets and tell me ‘Tanushri, tere liye paneer banaya hai’.

AS: Those were fun days. She was like a mother to all of us.

TV: I come from this old school of thought that believes in the blessings of elders. Because she was with me from the beginning, her blessings have been with me and the film went smoothly.

BOI: As an actor, does it help when you act with your mother?

TV: Initially it was difficult. I was a little nervous because at the end of the day she is my mother. But then I had to accept the fact that it is all part of working in this profession. It worked out well, eventually. I dubbed for the film recently and it felt really great.

BOI: Tanushri, the trailer looks like a nostalgia trip. Did this film come from a personal space for you?

TCB: I don’t know whether I am talking for all directors, but I believe that for most directors, their first story tends to be autobiographical. I grew up in the north. I have lived in small towns where there is no entertainment, so friends become a very important part of your life. I grew up in the ’90s and I love that era. Everything was very real. Everything was very compact. There was one church, one club, one hangout place. Life was very different. And I think the sense of nostalgia you got is because parts of that phase stay with you forever. At the time, you don’t realise it. You graduate, you grow up, you begin the struggle to make something of yourself. But whether you become an architect like she does or a software engineer like he does in the film, those days stay with you for the rest of your life. That’s why the nostalgia.

BOI: Aditya, you mentioned that you were hoping to start your career with a big production house and an established director. How satisfied were with you with the way the film shaped up?

AS: Actually, after I found out it was an Eros production I really wanted to be part of the film. And when I got to know Tanushri, met her and saw the twinkle in her eye, I signed the film without even a narration of the screenplay. She only told me about Sam’s character. When I heard the details of the role, I was sure that this was the character I wanted to be launched with and I said yes. After the first narration, I had tears in my eyes and I said, thank God I signed on. I was completely blown away.

IL: (Cuts in) Everyone was!

AS: Yes; the story is such that I wouldn’t trade it for any Yash Raj or Karan Johar film.

BOI: What kind of response have you received to the trailers?

TV: We are really excited because I think we got over 1 million hits in the first week of the trailer coming out. That puts things in prospective, especially for a new filmmaker with a new cast. Most importantly, the kind of feedback we are getting is good to very good on the social media platforms. I am very active on Twitter, which I feel gives you an honest response and a true idea of the kind of buzz around the film. I think the song Dil aaj kal has got a really good response, in part because it’s a diehard romantic song.

TCB: We are in that small-film zone and I think in it we have done quite well. A lot of newcomers are doing exceptionally well and that is also motivating.

TV: Personally, I don’t believe in the concept of small film or big film. It completely depends on whether your film has heart or doesn’t. Purani Jeans has a lot of heart and soul and honestly that’s why the audience will probably warm to it.

TCB: The core of the film is friendship, and each character speaks volumes in the film. It’s not just a love story about two guys and a girl; friendship is definitely the core.

TV: Yes; I think the moment people see two guys and a girl in a film, they instinctively think it’s a love triangle.

AS: (Cuts in) And yes, it is, but there is so much more to the film as well.

TV: Yes. And no matter how fancy a film is or how much money you spend on it, at the end of the day your film has to be about relationships. It has to be about people. And it has to be about emotions. Take a film like Avatar. If you take away all the technology, at its core, it is a love story. It was a very Bollywood film, if you ask me. So at the end of the day, it really just BOI ls down to that, so let’s see.

TCB: Fingers crossed!

AS: You know, what I firmly believe in, and it’s something that the character Sam also believes in, is that it’s not about where you go, it’s about the company you have. I might go to a five-star hotel and not be comfortable with the people around, but I can have fun with my friends even at a small tea stall. That is what the film is all about, the friendships that we have.

TCB: Every director has a first film and once the film is complete there is no control over its fate. At the end of the day, Purani Jeans is a film I am proud of.

TV: A film is like a baby. You cannot abandon it if it is not accepted. At the end of the day, we all signed on. Something in our gut made us choose this film. So we stand by it, no matter what.

 


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