Box Office India (BOI): Whose idea was it to make this film?
Divya Khosla Kumar (DKK): Bhushanji gave it the title Yaariyan.
BOI: That was his only contribution?
DKK: (Laughs) And the music, of course. Since, I had directed many music videos, I was groomed as a director and also to handle the production of a film. My ultimate dream was to put my creativity and vision into a film. Then I started working on the story and screenplay and with my writer Sanjeev Dutta, who did Life In A… Metro and Page 3.
It took me quite a while to develop it although the casting took one and a half years. It is easier if the story has two or three characters but my story had so many characters and we had to look really hard. I didn’t miss out on a single acting or dance school, film institute or college, and I held auditions everywhere. I had to train the cast as they were all newcomers and the budget was quite modest so I couldn’t take them on the sets untrained, otherwise it would just be a waste of time. The workshop took almost six to eight months and then I shot the film in my workshop twice. After that, I edited it on a laptop and re-edited it before going on the actual shoot. I shot it in a very Hollywood style. Everything was on paper.
Since there were so many characters, things could easily have gone haywire. But we had organised it down to the very last detail, like what each character would be wearing in a scene and then photographed it.
BOI: How did you convince Bhushan Kumar, the producer?
DKK: I think my work convinced him. I had done a lot of music vidoes which I had shot for Adnan Sami, Jeremy Jackson (Michael Jackson’s brother), Pankaj Udhas, Sonu Nigam’s father Agham Nigam, Mithun’s debut album, Tulsi Kumar’s album, Sukhbir’s album and many more. I had also done a course in cinematography and editing and had worked on a few ad films, one of them for Bhushan’s company.
BOI: You said the film was made on a modest budget. But, visually, it looks rich.
DKK: That credit goes to the director! (Laughs)
Bhushan Kumar (BK): Yes. When the film was conceived, we were not as much into the filmmaking business as we were into the music business. When she was narrating the idea, I didn’t really react to it. So I discussed it with my colleagues Ajay (Kapoor) and Vinod (Bhanushali). But when she came up with the script, we liked it a lot and decided to announce the film.
At that time, there were other youth films like Kai Po Che which were clicking well. So we okayed the film, and she took five to six months to do her homework. All I said to her was that I would give her the songs and we would adapt them to the movie. The lyrics and music need to complement the situations in the film.
Often, what happens is, a song is wonderful to listen to but if you don’t shoot it correctly, it falls flat. We work with music day in and day out so we know that kahan connectivity aa rahi hai, kahan nahi aa rahi hai. Take our earlier film Aashiqui 2…, all the songs are connected to the story and the music is connected to the lyrics and tune. Similarly, when she shot the dance numbers or the slower numbers like Baarish or Alla waariyan, all the moments and visuals complemented the music, lyrics and the tune. That helps people understand the song better.
This is what I was apprehensive about initially. But when I saw the songs, I was totally convinced about her work, and they looked very good visually and they complemented the story too. When I saw the film, I was very relieved.
DKK: (Laughs) I too was very nervous when I had to show him the film. Thankfully, he was very happy with the film.
BOI: Why did you cast newcomers?
DKK: My story is based in college and it demands characters who are around 20- 21 years old.
BOI: What were you looking for in the actors you cast?
DKK: It took me one and a half years just to zero in on the cast, because each character is different and because they were all newcomers and were not trained. They had so many negatives, and it was my job to erase all those negatives and bring out the positives for the audience. The audience shouldn’t feel like they are watching newcomers but seasoned actors. That’s what they’re paying for, aren’t they?
Since they were newcomers, I had to brainwash them and give them a fresh mind, so to speak. Just two weeks into the workshops, they told my assistant to ask me for a day off because they wanted to go to Water Kingdom! I mean, you can’t expect that level of maturity and professionalism from a 20-year-old. I told them that if they made such unreasonable demands during the workshop, I would go completely insane during the shoot!
DKK: The shoot was very tough because we were shooting in difficult terrain and at temperatures as low as minus 8 degrees. I have shown some of the most virgin locations like Lachen, north of Sikkim, close to the China border. Yaariyan is the first-ever Hindi film to be shot there. The frames are looking pretty because I have worked hard on the locations. Also we have shot quite a bit at Cape Town. On the whole, the experience was definitely nerve-wracking because my son was just a year old and I took him with me on location. So, I was handling the film and my son at the same time.
BOI: Bhushan, how happy are you with the final product?
BK: I was very nervous before I watched the film. I was, like, if a few places were not good toh kuch corrections kar lenge but if the whole film is not up to the mark, then what were we going we do? Agar achchi nahi hai toh main usko achcha nahi bol sakta hoon. That was one concern I had. A film needs a good beginning and ending and the first and second halves should connect.
It was a simple love story, nothing out-of-the-box. The emotions worked and the music was bang-on. Similarly, in Yaariyan, we wanted to show college life, the emotions, the bonding… Everything worked in the film’s favour.
BOI: As a husband, are you proud of your wife?
BK: Yeah, very much. (Smiles)
DKK: Yaariyan is basically about college life. I believe youth is the best time of one’s life. When you ask anyone if they could go back in time, to what time of their life would they return, they always say college life. Yaariyan pays tribute to this. It has everything that relates to youth. It speaks about their emotions, immaturity, ambitions, everything.
BOI: The songs of the film are creating a buzz, obviously. But, apart from the music, why should the audience go and watch the film? What is the film’s USP?
DKK: I don’t believe music is the USP of a film. I think it’s the story and the screenplay. It is entertaining and funny. The first half is really entertaining but I think the crux of the story is the emotions the film has brought out. The emotions will hold the audience hooked till the end and suddenly take them to another level. Yeh picture aapko hasate-hasate rula jayegi. I am so proud that I could bring out those emotions on screen. That is the core of the story.
BOI: Apart from friendship, there is also a mother-son angle in the film. Can you elaborate?
DKK: The story is essentially based on this guy called Lakshya played by Himansh Kohli. It is the story of this guy and his friends, his mother and teachers. So it’s about his life and his connections with his mother.
BOI: Whose idea was it to make a rock song on Maa?
DKK: It was my idea. And all the songs take the story forward. We haven’t inserted any song forcefully into the film.
BOI: What kind of response are you getting to the trailer?
DKK: I have received a fabulous response. I am sure you guys will know more than I do but I am happy with the response.
BK: It was not deliberately done. But a similar thing happened with Aashiqui 2, which we wanted to release on May 10 but Go Goa Gone, another youth film, was releasing on that date as well. We didn’t want these films to clash. So we took a tough call and advanced the date to April 26. The Bhatts asked us if we would be able to release the film so early (we released the music on April 8 and were to release the film on April 26). They were concerned how we could promote it and how the music would catch on. But my team made it possible. We promoted the film in 18 days flat and the rest is history.
But with Yaariyan, I didn’t want to release the film just one week after Salman Khan’s Jai Ho. That film would probably still be running and we might not be assigned adequate screens. So we decided to release on January 10. After we announced the date, suddenly, everyone else also announced their dates. So there was Dedh Ishqiya, Gulaab Gang, Ragini MMS 2 and so many other films on that date.
We then pushed the release to January 31. I soon learnt that a few films that were to release on January 10 were postponed. The only big release was Dedh Ishqiya but that film is of a different genre and would not pose any competition. And we have very strong music and a good storyline. That’s why we went back to January 10.
BOI: You are the best judge of music. Tell us about Yaariyan’s music.
BK: The music is doing fantastically well and better than we expected. We are bang on 90 per cent of the time. I listened to Yaariyan’s music for a year to see if I got fed up of it or not. Also, to see if there were any flaws. But it kept on growing. The response we are getting to the music is excellent. It’s hard to name a single film where all six songs were hits. If we use that as a barometre, we are doing very well. All the radio stations started playing our songs on the very day I launched them on television. Usually, they start playing them after a few weeks after judging whether they are picking up. On television, we are getting the highest rotations ever and that is not because of T-Series but because of the content.
Two days ago, we did a concert in a college and we got such a positive response that we are now getting calls from other colleges. And it’s not only Yo Yo Honey Singh… they are asking us to send our artistes and perform on the Baarish song, which is a slow number but they want us to perform on that one.
We recently got a call from Thakur College, where 100 colleges have come together so now they want us to perform there. Usually, Comedy Nights With Kapil features a big star but they happily agreed to have us. Bigg Boss Season 7 is tough for newcomers but we went there too. We are also going on Nach Baliye.
Due to the buzz around the film, everyone is allowing us to do promotions. Today, Rakesh Roshan sir called me to say all the songs are fabulous. Then Varun Dhawan called me to say he loved the Baarish song. Earlier, when Baarish released, Varun loved it and now he is saying Allah waariyan is also fabulous. Then somebody else has said that Meri maa is superb.
When Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani released, the Kabira song was appreciated the most even more than Badtameez Dil. Similarly, ABCD and Sunny sunny, are club songs but the rest of the songs are superb too. We are receiving so many text messages from everyone, which didn’t happen even during Aashiqui 2. Honestly, during Aashiqui 2, I received just one message and that was from you (Vajir Singh) on complimenting on music and also predicting that it will be a huge success for sure. Hamare yahan koi saamne se nahin bolta, unko shayad achcha nahin lagta. This time, everyone is complementing the music.
BK: When casting for Aashiqui 2, people said I had cast a negative lead. They said flop logon ko kyun le rahe ho, naye ko lo.
BOI: Do you think that since you have proved yourself to the audience with Aashiqui 2, expectations are even higher with Yaariyan?
BK: I read somewhere that people are saying that I have lived up to expectations in terms of music. That they had no expectations from Aashiqui 2 but with Yaariyan, they have. I am very confident about the film. It is not a romantic film but I am sure we will live up to expectations. We are music critics too. If you had asked me this question during Ready, I would have said that out of the four songs, two songs were good. But in this situation, even Divya didn’t want fill the film with songs like many other people do. The songs in the film are very situational.
Usually, it is very difficult to make a song which gels with the situation. So every time I wanted to make a song, I would ask her about the situation. She would tell me that she wanted a day party beach song. I tried everything to achieve perfection. I even roped in Pritam to compose that number. But ultimately it was Yo Yo Honey Singh’s song Paani paani which came to our rescue. That song just turned out superb. Also to make songs like Maa and Allah waariyan with the right situation was quite a task... I think she was very lucky as every song fell in place. I cracked up Maa with Anupam Amod and Irshad (Kamil) in four hours.
BOI: When you look back, how do you view your last three years?
DKK: (Smiles). My son is two years old and even while pregnant, I was constantly working on the pre-production of the film. After my son was born, I was constantly calling my assistant from the hospital and following up on work. He was six months old when I began work on the recce in Sikkim and eight months old when I was in Cape Town. By the time I began shooting, he turned one!
BOI: So the film has two directors? You and your son?
DKK: (Laughs) Yes, you could say that. His first words were ‘action’ and ‘cut’ rather than ‘Mamma’ and ‘Papa’ because that’s all he heard his mom say through out the day.
BOI: After watching the trailer, cinematographer Sameer Arya told us what the entire team went through because it was not easy to shoot the film.
DKK: (Cuts in) Because I was shooting at very tough locations. You know it snows in Sikkim, the way it pours in Mumbai. So the entire unit got hassled in such situations. I had to be very protective of everyone because I didn’t want people to quit. Walking from the hotel to the locations was tough as cars were jammed. We were in Sikkim and Darjeeling last December-January and it is not easy living in a hill station in December, especially for Mumbaiites. I had to keep up the morale and make sure that the work got done on time, also keeping the budget in mind. Add to that working with newcomers. I also had my baby son with me. It was very tough for me as a woman.
BOI: Divya, In terms of marketing, what kind of inputs did you offer?
DKK: (Cuts in) I think marketing is completely his thing and I don’t need to give him any inputs. So many producers and directors in the industry take inputs from him (Laughs).
BOI: Whose idea was it to have a concert to release the music of the film?
BK: It was my team’s idea. It was our next release after Aashiqui 2 and we did a concert with that film too. It’s a brilliant way to connect with the youth.
DKK: Right now, I am extremely busy with the post-production and promotions of the film. When the film releases, I will start brainstorming again. Some people just tell me I get the youth-connect bang on and I should stick to making films on this theme.
BK: (Cuts in) I think the romantic genre is her forte. When you watch the Baarish and Allah waariyan songs, you will be blown away by the emotions in them.
DKK: (Cuts in) I have also choreographed the Baarish song. My writer tells me that jitni baariki se tum romance pakad leti ho that is not easy. Women are more emotional than men are, so they can bring out that sensitivity. And I agree. But I feel I should challenge myself and not stick to this genre.