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Yeh Dosti

Friends and colleagues, director Kabir Sadanand and actor Jimmy Sheirgill, in conversation with team Box Office India on their upcoming film Fugly

Box Office India (BOI): Tell us about your journey as friends and eventually how you made the film?

Kabir Sadanand (KS): I will tell you about my first encounter with Jimmy. It was when we were both auditioning for Maachis way back when and I hated him because he landed the part and I didn’t! After that, we did three or four back-to-back films together.

I think we actually became friends when we did Charas and we had to travel together for that film. Then we did Khafa and then Chodon Na Yaar, and also worked on Khafa, which was later titled Marega Sala. Then I learnt that he had started directing. He was also planning to make a film where we were thinking of working together. Then there was Tum Milo Toh Sahi.

KS: I used to bounce off all my scripts with him.

JS: After all that, he finally got me this script and asked me for my opinion. I read it and was immediately intrigued by the cop’s character. I asked him who he had in mind for the role.

BOI: So you didn’t read the script knowing you would be offered the role?

JS: No. Kabir is a friend and usually discusses his ideas with me. I had assumed this was one of those ideas. He gave me a bound script and I read it. I found it amazing and told him it was a great role. I asked him who was doing the cop’s role because it was a bawaal role. That’s when he said he wanted to cast me in that role.

I told him an out-and-out negative role wouldn’t suit me. But he was adamant and said as long as I didn’t have a specific problem with it, he wanted me to play the part. We decided the look and how the language of the character would be. Then we met the rest of the cast including Vijender (Singh). That’s how Fugly’s journey began.

BOI: Kabir, why did you want Jimmy to play the role?

KS: I have always been very clear about one thing – and I am not saying this because Jimmy is my friend… I have always been very jealous of Jimmy, and that’s not because I lost out on that role in Maachis. I knew there was so much in him that was unexplored as an actor. If I had my way, I would have done all my films with him. So, when I offered him this role, I felt I should be able to offer him something which he too should be excited about. As an actor, he is way ahead of most of the talent we have and he can pull off roles that most other actors can’t.

BOI: But what was so special about the role that you wanted to cast him and only him in this role?

KS: He plays this cop from Delhi called Chautala. He is an out-and-out rogue but there is also a side to him which is raw and untamed. We have watched Jimmy play these underplayed characters before. It was so much fun to work with an actor who is not only my friend but also malleable and to get something completely different out of him. Also, it is comfortable to do roles like these only with people you are in tune with. We debated and discussed the role but there were no ego hassles. No one could imagine Jimmy in a role like this. Numbers aap likhoge baad mein. (Laughs)

BOI: What about you, Jimmy? What responses are you getting to the trailer?

JS: It’s been good. When people like Neeraj (Pandey), Anand (Rai) or Tigmanshu (Dhulia) send in good wishes, that speaks volumes about my role and the faith they have in me.

BOI: When you spoke about friendship and how it helps while making films, is there a flipside to it too?

KS: I don’t know about Jimmy’s but it gave me a lot of comfort. I took advantage of our friendship in terms of the long hours we worked. For instance, I would call him up and say, ‘Jimmy, aaj aa ja.’ Of course, I didn’t take things for granted on the sets; only, after working hours. I respect him as an actor and wasn’t unprofessional with him. Since there is a great comfort level between us, we were able to speak our mind. When I had my doubts for a few scenes, I would say, ‘Jimmy, yeh kar toh diya hai humne.’ But there was this scene I was very stressed about and Jimmy told me to relax and not worry about it. He said it would look good during the edit and it did. That’s where our friendship counted.

JS: I think sabse zyada important hota hai to be able to argue. There are scenes you think are not good or could be shot differently. During these times, it is important to have your team right behind you, to speak their mind and offer their opinions. This can happen only when you know that person, when you’re open with that person. That’s where friendship helps. He often said to me that he wanted to do the scene in a particular way and I would be, like, ‘Mind-blowing, yaar.’

BOI: Is Kabir a better actor or a better director?

JS: I think that being an actor works in his favour when he is directing the film. The performances from the new lot are brilliant and that’s because Kabir is a good actor who enacts the scenes to them. I was telling them, ‘You guys are very lucky to have such a brilliant director who also shows you what he wants and all you have to do is follow his footsteps.’ Joote mein usko khujli ho rahi hai woh baat kar raha hai par khujli usko ho rahi hai and in the very next scene, he is soaking his legs in a bucket full of lukewarm water. So there is connectivity to the khujli. It takes a special ability to conceive details like that. When I was watching the film during the dubbing, the scenes look so good and so many things register so quickly. Like when I work with Tishu (Tigmanshu Dhulia), it’s always fun because he is a great actor and enacts the entire scene for you. It’s the same with Kabir. Aur ek baar aapne sur pakad li fir aap chalte jaate ho.

BOI: Kabir, how much does the actor in you help the director?

KS: My producers don’t give money to launch me! But jokes apart, it does helps. No one understands that character better than you because he is living it, yaar. You have written it, you’re giving it direction but he is enacting it and living that character. I would like to listen to my actor and what their body is telling them to do in a particular scene. I used to see whether Jimmy was in the right frame of mind to do it or not. I would ask him if he wanted it a certain way. But because I am also an actor, I try and see, for myself, if it’s sounding correct and looking correct. Sometimes, we have some things in mind but we cannot implement them because it doesn’t translate on to the screen. As an actor, I understand how I can tackle it or whether I can tackle it. I try to simplify it so that it becomes easy for the actor. I have worked with so many directors who had so many things going on in their heads but they failed to make us understand what they wanted.

BOI: Also, your producer is an actor.

KS: There are so many actors on the sets! (Laughs)

BOI: What is producer Akshay Kumar’s role in the entire film?

KS: Akshay is the greatest support for me and Ashvini Yardi has been a pillar. Akshay ka ek hi instruction tha – jo bhi script tune sunayi hai wahi bana. He understood the magic of Old Delhi; he found the script and situations in it very relatable. And he made me understand how to make a film that is enjoyable. He said I have four stars on board but my milkman doesn’t know what those four stars mean. The point of making a film is to reach out to the maximum number of people. So he made me understand the commercial angle.

The support from both of them was phenomenal. Like when we were shooting in Leh in bad weather conditions, Ashvini was on the sets, running here and there. Her energy translated on to everyone else on the sets and motivated us to work even harder. Also, I have always looked up to Akshay and, now, I have a deeper respect for him.

BOI: We have seen a lot of clichéd cop roles in our films. How different is your role?

KS: Main aapko abhi bata doon toh aapko dekhne ke baad maza nahi aayega. I think it is better if Jimmy answers that.

JS: Clichéd cop roles… I myself have done some interesting cop roles, whether it’s in the forces or cops in A Wednesday. Every time, you wonder how much better and different you can make the character you are playing. What makes this character different is he is a bad guy but he is a very smart bad guy. He is a cunning bad guy, he is a sharp bad guy. Woh plan karke nahi aata hai ki yaha gandh machayega. Woh yaha baitha hai kuch gandh hua aur woh situation se deal kar leta hai. Soch ke nahi karta woh kuch.

KS: He is very witty and not someone who laughs and mouths his lines.

JS: If I say the role is not clichéd it will sound even more clichéd, so I am not getting into that. He is bad, he is cunning, he is also an opportunist. But he is also very cool and only his eyes reveal what is running through his mind.

KS: You have bad cops who break the law, but he never breaks the law. He follows the rules and cleverly finds loopholes. He knows everything in the rule book.

JS: They know every section of the rule book. And my character too knows exactly what the fines are for every rule you break. Dafa so and so for rash driving and so on.

BOI: Jimmy, the script excited you when Kabir narrated it to you and now you have watched the film while dubbing for it. How close is it to the script you heard?

JS: The script was like a novel. It was too detailed. If we had made the film exactly like that, it would have had too much detail. So we shot it like that and edited it keeping run time and the commercial angle in mind. If we had made that film with all the detailing, it would have been a four-hour film and would have had to be released in two parts. So we had to condense the film, which worked to our advantage. We had to keep in mind the entertainment factor and the drama inherent in the script. The story is about these three friends and their emotions. What matters is how you tell the story without altering the screenplay.

KS: Even when I was editing the film, I used to call Jimmy, ke yaar main is scene mein phass raha hoon and he would come up with a suggestion. He was like a sounding board.

BOI: How happy were you with the script-to-screen transition?

KS: Ab main jhooth nahi bolunga…

JS: (Cuts in) Bohot achhi shoot ki hai isne film. I think when you see the trailers… and when I am at his office and I see all these different industry people coming and praising him on how he has shot the film...

KS: There is another friend who I must mention, Milind (Jog), my DoP. He was an assistant camera man in my earlier films and we had worked together on a couple of advertisements. I called him up and said that tu ye film karega aur tu hi karega. I think that gave him confidence. He is very talented and deserved to do the film.

BOI: Is he making his debut with the film?

KS: Yes, this is his first independent feature. I have told him that for every subsequent film he signs, I am going to charge him Rs 5,000 per film. Dost hai na toh saste mein chhod diya.

BOI: Is there something you want to share?

JS: I was telling Kabir how much fun it was while shooting the film. The weather was nice and the crew was good. When you have a positive vibe while working, that leads to something good. We were shooting in Delhi and had a month-long schedule and we completed it without a fuss. There was an air of excitement while shooting. This is the first time I am doing an out-and-out negative character. So mere liye toh aisa tha ke pura juice nikal lo iss mein phir pata nahi kab mauka milega ya nahi milega.

We used to discuss what we would do on the sets but I think he had everything already planned in his mind. He used to arrive on the sets and in a minute or two, everything used to be sorted. One day, I arrived on the sets and he said that in this scene, I had to scratch my leg. I didn’t question him. After that scene, we moved to the lawn for the follow-up scene and he told me I was to soak my legs in a bucket of water. So there were these small things.

KS: (Cuts in) Yes, I remember this scene we did… safety pin wala...

JS: Yes!

KS: The scene was canned and I have this bad habit of just letting the camera roll after a scene is done and I captured something I had not planned for. There were many scenes like that. It’s magical. Like he said that the team is very important and haste khelte we worked and everyone had their opinion to share on the sets. Even a spot boy could say what he felt. We had many first-timers in our team and, like I said, everyone is a filmmaker. I believe one should always voice one’s opinion.

JS: While dubbing for the film, we laughed so much. It should be entertaining for the audience too.

KS: I would like to say one thing to sum it all up… The actor needs to be comfortable on the sets because the most important aspect of the film is its actors. The audience sees the actor, not the people behind the camera. What an actor delivers is the combined effort of the entire team. So, it is very important that an actor and his director become friends.

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