Director Aanand L Rai, producer Krishika Lulla, writer Himanshu Sharma and actor Jimmy Sheirgill in conversation with team Box Office India
Aanand L Rai (ALR): Talking about this relationship and my relationship while shooting for Tanu Weds Manu Returns is very odd. Our association is beyond that so I cannot talk about it in front of him.
BOI: Jimmy, why don’t you talk about you association?
Jimmy Sheirgill (JS): What can I say…
ALR: (Cuts in) Yeh toh mujhse bhi kum bol payenge (Laughs).
JS: We worked together in a film called Strangers then in Tanu Weds Manu and now in Tanu Weds Manu Returns. He made a film after Tanu Weds Manu. I was not in that film and he said ‘iss film mein humne aapke naam se kaam chala liya (Laughs).’
ALR: Yes Abhay’s character name in Raanjhanaa was Jasjeet Singh which is Jimmy’s real name.
BOI: Jimmy you have known Aanand for a very long time. How has he changed over the years and has success affected him?
JS: He is still the same. He never answered his phone then and he does the same now (Laughs).
Krishika Lulla (KL): Even I agree to that.
ALR: You know, while working in television I used to work with those small cameras. When I worked with a big camera for my first film, my first shot was with Jimmy. So there is a great deal of emotional attachment that I have with him. At the end of the day we are emotionally connected.
KL: (Cuts in) He is actually a very emotional person. He connects emotionally with everyone he works with. He enjoys working with people with whom he is emotionally connected. That’s why his characters seem so true on screen. That is why I like Aanand.
ALR: Don’t say things that you have been saying on our way to their office. Praise me here (Laughs).
Himanshu Sharma (HS): It has been 10 years I have known him and...
ALR: (Cuts in) See, the thing is that we have known each other for so long that we know each other in and out. So we don’t need words to express what we feel. Hence talking about each other is useless. If you ask me about them or them about me, there won’t be a reply as we have gone beyond explaining our relationship.
BOI: Not the relationship but the journey.
ALR: It has been so consistent and together that we won’t find anything new.
HS: Yes, none of us can talk objectively about one another. It is a tricky thing. Actually we have never spoken amongst ourselves too that ‘oh kitna achcha rishta hai humar (Laughs).’
BOI: Krishika you tell us about these three gentlemen.
KL: I feel Aanand ji is a filmmaker in the truest sense. I have worked with many filmmakers but he is the only one I have always learned something from. The way he connects with each film is unbelievable. He cannot jump from one film to the other. The way he connects and lives with the film, it is very difficult for him to pass from one film to the other. It takes a long time for him to make that transition. You can imagine how hard it was for him to exit from Raanjhanaa as he still wanted to be in that zone. I have never seen any director who works like that. Directors finish a film and immediately they start with the next one but Aanand takes his time with each film even after the journey of the film is over. It takes a lot of convincing to get him started for the next. We really had to put in a lot of effort to get him started on Tanu Weds Manu Returns.
JS: And the food.
KL: Oh yes, of course the food! There is one sure thing. Nobody can stay hungry on the sets of his films. He is very particular about the kind of food that would be served at the shoots and everything is so delectable. He knows all the right restaurants and what to order from where.
ALR: If you describe me like this they will think I am a halwai (Laughs).
KL: Actually there is a beauty in the way he works. He works in a way that doesn’t feel like you are working. You feel you are enjoying yourself and having a great time and everyone is eating and having fun. Even while taking a shot, the actors are stress free and the whole crew works in such a jovial setup.
ALR: After Tanu Weds Manu we went to Banaras to write. Himanshu said that he wanted to write a tragedy and I said, ‘Okay let’s go.’ Actually Banaras was the place where he had conceived Tanu Weds Manu, we had gone to write a tragedy and we came back with Tanu Weds Manu. But we made Raanjhanaa also.
HS: Yes but the idea was there from before that.
ALR: Yes the idea was already there but it’s the story that pushes you to nurture that seed into a film.
HS: It was impossible for us to write Tanu Weds Manu Returns. Somehow it was a very emotional decision. I was quite drawn to Raanjhanaa. I didn’t think that I was ready to write anything after that emotionally. But by that time the idea of Tanu Weds Manu Returns had been conceived and we worked on it after Raanjhanaa.
BOI: Was it tough to get all the characters back from Tanu Weds Manu for the sequel?
HS: It was difficult. However, it was a bit tricky if you consider how we had mounted Tanu Weds Manu. The other day I was telling Jimmy sir that his character was the most difficult part. His character Raja in part one was a dignified man and the whole persona was strong. To take that character into a lighter zone while keeping his nature intact was a bit tricky. That apart, all the other characters came naturally while we did add a couple of new characters too. There is hardly any character which is not there in the sequel though there are a few additions. We took care so that nothing looks forced. We made the story as organic as possible.
ALR: It was not tough but exciting because it offered an exciting opportunity to create, keeping in mind the scenes from the prequel.
HS: The first scene of this film is actually the last scene of Tanu Weds Manu. So it starts with an ending. It was all good and we never felt like we had to put in any extra effort and battle our wits to fit in any character. I think till the time you enjoy what you are doing, you give it your best shot and do your best.
ALR: Actually when people talk about a sequel or a theme, they think that they are cashing in on the brand name. It is very easy to get to that though. But I can only say that after you watch our film you realise that it is not the case. It was like making a new film but it was more difficult than making a new film.
HS: In fact Tanu Weds Manu’s sequel was never a plan. It was only that I had thought of a story and I discussed it with Aanand. I remember calling you at 2 am. I was drinking and you were eating.
JS: Aur zyada mat bata (laughs).
HS: I gave him a brief idea of the basic plot for Tanu Weds Manu Returns which he heard and said tomorrow will discuss it in office.
ALR: Yes, I remember.
HS: So there was no such plan that we were planning to make a sequel. One fine day an idea popped up in my mind which I shared with him and we decided to make the next part. At that time I was already writing Raanjhanaa. Though we got the story that night, we felt that we should work on it later.
ALR: To tell you the truth, so far we’ve not felt any kind of pressure. We were taking it as another film. But now the pressure is mounting especially after the trailer came out. And I told him, Himanshu they are taking us very seriously (laughs).’
HS: (Cuts in) That’s why I keep telling him sir film banana, cinema math banana.
ALR: That pressure is now building but still I am avoiding it. The peg line between us for the film is ‘yaar mazaa aana chahiye.’ When he is writing or I am directing or for my actors also when they are acting in it, the audience should enjoy the film.
KL: You see, our film is not a film where if somebody has not seen the first part you will not be able to connect with the second part. The second part is independent on its own. If you have watched the first one, that’s good. If you have not watched it, you will not miss anything.
ALR: Yes, you will have a complete film by itself in Tanu Weds Manu Returns. Also, if you have not seen part one, after you watch part two, you can go back and watch the first part and you will still enjoy it for sure.
BOI: Jimmy what was your reaction when you heard the script? Or Aanand didn’t narrate the script to you. You just signed it because of him?
HS: No, in fact he is the first one who heard the story.
ALR: He is always the first one to hear our story. We always bounce off anything we write first to him though it is not necessary he will feature in it. This time also he was the first one to hear the entire narration.
JS: It’s true he always narrates stories to me. Whatever is there in their mind, they come and tell me about it. But this time, they narrated only half the story, though I was the first one to listen to the script.
HS: Because we had only drafted the first half till then.
JS: (Laughs) The rest, they narrated to me much later.
JS: Yes, I believe I was the first one to hear that story as well.
ALR: Amongst us, it is difficult to separate the actor, director or writer. Discussing scripts amongst us is not like a director narrating a script to an actor. He also doesn’t listen to it like that. Whatever I am making is more important to him then what I will make with him. In fact three more ideas have already been narrated to him.
BOI: What was it about Tanu Weds Manu Returns which made you say yes to it?
JS: He had told me about the basic idea. He narrated the basic to me in such a way that it had a beginning and an interval point. It had a feel on which a climax could be built. I loved it and the film has shaped up really well. If you compare it with the first part which everybody will, you will find it has more entertainment. Somehow every character in this film gets matured. Also the entertainment quotient in the film is 500 times more.
ALR: Somewhere you enjoy the theme.
HS: If those four years are not reflected i the script or in the film, then what’s the point of making a sequel.
BOI: Do you keep Jimmy in mind and write the role or he just happens to become your choice for the role?
ALR: I have never thought about it that way. May be it happens subconsciously.
HM: Perhaps that happens during the writing of the dialogues.
ALR: Yes, while writing the dialogues it might happen. We know him and we think ‘Yaar yeh Jimmy sir kamaal ka bol lenge.’ You know it will be delivered properly and it will reach out to the audiences the way we wanted. On that level, you can say that for the dialogues but not for the role. Casting is something we decide once we finish the script.
BOI: The adrak dialogue has become very famous. In fact couple of writers called to ask ‘how we thought of adrak ke tarah phail rahe ho.’
ALR: (Laughs) I can’t even laugh on this dialogue because it has backfired on me. So I guess there is an emotional connect to the dialogue which is making everyone laugh.
BOI: You know part one ended with a happy ending. What happens to the happily-ever-after couple in the sequel?
ALR: Don’t ask me about it. Wait and watch the film.
KL: Everybody has problems after marriage with whatever happens. There are a few things which we showed in the film which are very interesting which I am sure the audience will also connect with.
ALR: Like I always say, even Raanjhanaa had a happy ending. Tanu Weds Manu had a happy ending. Even this film will have a happy ending.
BOI: What kind of response are you guys receiving for the trailer?
KL: We have got very a good response. So far we have crossed 5 million hits. It’s just hardly few days that the trailer came out.
ALR: I think it’s reaching the right audience. They are enjoying the space. You can feel it. More than anything else you can feel it in the air that people like the characters, they are enjoying the freshness.
BOI: Was it difficult for Kangana to deliver those Haryanvi dialogues?
ALR: She went through an exercise; she had a language tutor on the set and really worked hard to get into the character. She worked tirelessly on a daily basis. That tutor is with her even now when she is dubbing.
KL: A lot of people remember each and every dialogue of the film from start to the end. It’s amazing how they remember each and every dialogue of the first film which released almost five years years ago.
HS: She has worked really hard. She learnt long jump as well. In fact, when we visited Delhi University, there were a few correspondent students from Haryana. They helped us in understanding the language. Then we send our own people to Haryana, where they shot some videos of some local people.
HS: What inspired me to write the story were the two strikingly different characters. It’s only in India that we have such two diverse kind of women. Perhaps we are the only country where women wear Dolce & Gabbana and in another part of the same country women are not allowed to work. Women in our country keep Karwa Chauth vrat some for their husbands and some just for fashion because they want to see the moon through chhanni. I don’t think it is happening anywhere else apart from India. And here there are two sections where one is fighting for their liberation and the other is eyeing all high-end brands. Just to sketch these two characters was very interesting.
BOI: Was it easy shooting with the same star cast?
ALR: Yes, but for me comfort is what matters. Here we have the same cast. Maddy (Madhavan) and I know each other’s space. We were comfortable. If I don’t feel comfortable with the actor then we can’t work together.
BOI: And what about EROS?
ALR: That’s the comfort zone. They are very good people. I always maintain that for me there is nothing called studio. You work for people, people work for people. I won’t say I met Eros today. I would say I met Krishika today. I make films with people and not with a brand. For me, it’s more of a family and personal relationship. It is what makes me comfortable
BOI: Like a freehand?
ALR: More than a freehand, it’s mutual trust which is very important in the creative process.
BOI: Krishika, what would you like to say about Aanand as a producer?
ALR :(Cuts in) Again she won’t be able to describe it and go into the demarcations. Actor, director, producer and writer – they all have their respective jobs but at one point everybody is making a film when those divisions are not there. Take for example our habit of sharing a script with Jimmy Shergill. In this film, even if my name was not included as a producer, my involvement would be the same. She can’t describe how was it to work with me as a producer, she can describe how was it work with me as person, beyond that it actually vanishes.
KL: Very true. When I met him, I had a feeling of discovering diamond from coal. It was good. I was very happy, that’s why we started working in the first place.
KL: The film was complete, the mixing was also done. So we thought why not come early and we had a very good team, so we decided to prepone it. The only thing I guess is Aanandji had to work a little harder.
ALR: (Laughs) Little more!!! Our editor Hemal Kothari must have lost eight kgs in last 15 days.
BOI: Is it emotionally taxing when one film ends. Everyone is saying you are emotionally attached to a film. Does it affect you?
ALR: I don’t know, I feel like I’m a lazy director. But, the best part is that phase. I enjoy, making a film, finishing it and then coming out of it, going for the next. And the best part is we all feel very happy. It feels, ‘Yeah, finally done it.’ Now I don’t think I can direct another film. I am not worried about it. I am happy that the film has been completed. But it doesn’t happen.
KL: We don’t make it happen.
ALR: True. But one day it will happen, not just with me but with everybody. Because, you will be emotionally done with so many things that one completion will come. Now there is an urge to narrate the story. When one story ends, the other comes but there will come a moment and I feel it will be a good moment when you will be satisfied of what you have done till now and you will say I quit. It is a very healthy time and happily you will say I quit. But right now what is happening is one story ends then another seed starts. Basically you are enjoying that moment. There are lot of seeds in the head right now.
BOI: So which seed is next?
HS: There are so many seeds that we don’t know which to sow.
ALR: Sometime, it has also happened that there are there three to four seeds lying around and then the new one comes.
BOI: You never told us why you didn’t you cast Jimmy in the lead role in the film?
JS: I don’t think I will ever ask him that.
BOI: Was the character Raja written keeping Jimmy in mind?
ALR: Like I said, it happens subconsciously. I think he is the only actor who will never be insecure of anything. He will hardly ask me about other actors or their role is. If he likes it, he likes it, if he doesn’t, he will tell me that no I am not okay with it. Fortunately, it didn’t happen with us because we love him so much, we will never take advantage of him. In our team we will never misuse an actor and especially him. Not at all! I think he said it. He would never ask anybody, we work like a team. And when Himanshu is writing it, there is so much love for the character and for him that it happens subconsciously. And, we finally feel that this character will only be played by Jimmy and no one else. That feeling is very nice.
KL: Very happy, we are all very confident. We hope now that audience loves it when it is released in theatres. We have received good response on the trailer.
BOI: Even the music of the film is unconventional. Like Banno tera swagger…
ALR : (Cuts in) It just happened. We did not plan it and the lyrics just flowed. Yes, people are liking the song and its flavour.
KL: Our songs are already climbing the charts but there is also one more song Move on which is a break-up song and I can’t stop listening to it. And people sing the other song as Banno tera sweater instead of swagger
ALR: And the best part is we are not even correcting it. Sing the way you want to sing it.