Team Kaashi In Search Of Ganga – director Dhiraj Kumar, writer Manish Kishore and actors Sharman Joshi and debutante Aishwarya Devan – talk to Team Box Office India about their experience of working in the film
Box Office India (BOI): Suspense thrillers are gaining momentum in Bollywood. What was the thought behind the idea of Kaashi In Search Of Ganga?
Manish Kishore (MK): We did not plan to call our film a ‘suspense thriller’. The character of Kaashi is someone we have seen in real life. The story is also inspired by a real character that I have witnessed at close quarters. We have plotted the story by keeping that character in the centre. So, we had not planned on making a suspense thriller; we simply wanted to tell a good story.
Dhiraj Kumar (DK): The suspense will be revealed on October 26. You will come to know whether or not there is an element of suspense at all. (Laughs).
BOI: Sharman and Aishwarya, how did you come on board?
Sharman Joshi (SJ): Dhirajji and Manishji sent me the script. I really liked it and that was it (Smiles).
Aishwarya Devan (AD): This is my first film in Hindi. I met the three of them at Sharman sir’s place. We went through the script. I instantly said ‘yes’ because it had Sharman Joshi in it and there was such a great team to work with. I had to give an audition or a screen test. I cleared it and that is how I got into the film.
BOI: Can you tell us a little about your respective characters?
SJ: The film is set in Benaras. Dhirajji and Manishji wanted Kaashi’s dialect to be Benarasi. That was a bit of a challenge and it required some preparation. I got our chief AD to record all my lines and I used to keep listening to them. That is how I prepared to get the dialect right. I requested them to allow me to go there for four to five days before the shoot began, so that I could grasp the lingo of the locals.
The character of Kaashi belongs to a community that performs the last rites. I was not aware of their world. I wanted to get an understanding of their personal lives and how they conduct themselves professionally. I wanted first-hand experience, which really helped because when we started shooting, I could understand the bearings of my character.
AD: I did not have to follow any lingo for my character. I only speak Hindi in the film. I play the character of a journalist called Devina. She meets Kaashi in the film and they become friends. Actually, there are a lot of facets to my character. In one of them, you will see me helping Kaashi to search for his sister. We have shown that in the trailer. There are a lot of other elements which we have not yet revealed. You will get to them once the film releases. (Smiles).
BOI: The names ‘Kaashi’ and ‘Ganga’ have powerful symbolism. How did you come up with this concept?
MK: We couldn’t have used any other character or name instead of ‘Kaashi’. First, we selected the geography in which we wanted to set our film. Basically, we wanted a hero and our character was a Dom. Across the nation, Doms do not get enough respect because they cremate the dead. In the social structure, they have no respect or entitlements. Since our protagonist was a Dom, we asked ourselves where we could place our character so that he enjoyed a certain social stature.
In Benaras, Doms are rich. They live in good houses and enjoy a good social standing. Since they enjoy a better status in Benaras than anywhere else, we figured that our character should belong to that city. Kaashi is not a repressed character; we wanted to create a hero with Kaashi.
Since we had chosen Kaashi, we had to choose Ganga too. We cannot dissociate Ganga from Kaashi. We thought of naming Kaashi’s sister ‘Ganga’ because they are incomplete without each other. If we had tried to separate the two, it would have resulted in taandav. There is a line in the film which goes, ‘Agar Ganga ka baal bhi baaka hua naa, toh Mahadev ki kasam, aisa taandav machaayenge poore Kaashi ko masaan bana denge’. Kaashi is the abode of Lord Shiva. What will happen if you separate Ganga from Kaashi? This was the basic idea behind the concept.
BOI: What is the biggest challenge while writing or a directing a thriller?
DK: There were definitely some challenges but the script was very good, the background was really nice and the actors were amazing. So my challenge was anyway reduced. Basically, to incorporate the element of thrill in the film was challenging but the outcome was exactly what the script demanded.
BOI: You spoke about shooting at some locations. Were there any challenges regarding permissions?
DK: Sometimes you want to shoot in places that are perfect for your script but you don’t get the permission to do that. So, yes there were some problems relating to permission to shoot in some places, but the Uttar Pradesh government helped us. Besides that the biggest challenge was managing the crowd. This always happens in small cities. If an actor like Sharman Joshi goes there, managing the crowd is a challenge. We overcame all these challenges and completed our shoot.
MK: All of us were very careful when it came to locations. We visualised all the locations while narrating the script. We actually wanted the same feel, the same locations as described in the script. It was not like we approved a location just because it was less expensive to shoot there or because it was a substitute for another location where we had been denied permission to shoot. We made sure we got what we wanted.
BOI: Aishwarya, did you ever aspire to debut in a larger-than-life film, the way many other actresses think about?
AD: I always wanted a good character where I could just perform and which would show people that I can act. I had barely any screen presence down South. So I was really happy when I came on board for Kaashi because my character had a lot to do. The screen presence was almost equal to Sharman sir’s. Performing with such a versatile actor is something every actress dreams of. I got the perfect debut film.
BOI: Sharman, you have worked in the industry for almost two decades. How have you seen the industry changing over time?
SJ: I don’t know. I don’t observe such things. I always aspired to become a part of good stories. Acche anokhe kirdaar nibhaate rahe. I have consistently done that and will continue to do so. Beside this, I don’t analyse the changes that have taken place in the industry.
BOI: The film releases in 10 days. What are your expectations from the film? How nervous or excited are you all?
DK: I am excited and nervous at the same time. God knows what will happen!
MK: More than butterflies, I have palpitations. My blood pressure is fluctuating. We have done our job to the best of our ability.
AD: After watching the trailer, people expect even more from our film. We just hope that we get the same kind of response to the film as we have received to the trailer.
SJ: I am very excited and nervous, at the same time.
BOI: What projects are you working on after this film?
SJ: I have done a film called Babloo Bachelor, which is expected to release early next year. It’s a romantic comedy.
AD: For now, I am waiting for Kaashi to release.
DK: I am also working on a script. However, there’s a lot riding on how Kaashi performs.
MK: Dhiraj and I are working together. I write and he directs, and now they (Sharman and Aishwarya) will act (Laughs).