Team Laal Rang – actors Randeep Hooda, Meenakshi Dixit, Rajniesh Duggall, Pia Bajpai, Akshay Oberoi, and director Syed Ahmad Afzal – relive the choicest moments from the shoot in Karnal, Haryana – with Team Box Office India.
Randeep Hooda (RH): Who is going to start with some humour? Maine suna, Afzal, (Syed Ahmad Afzal) aap interview kar rahe ho humara.
Syed Ahmad Afzal (SAA): Ji haan. I would like to start with the drunken scene from our film, which has a story behind it. I request Randeep bhai and Akshay (Oberoi) to tell us what preparations went into doing that scene.
RH: I told Akshay, ‘Dekh bhai, aisa hai ki main daaru waale scene daaru pee ke karta hoon. If you want to do the same, let me know.’ He agreed. And when you watch the film, you will realise how natural it is. Aisa bhi nahin lag raha hai ki daaru peene ki acting kar rahein hain aur aisa bhi nahin lag raha hai ki itni pee hui hai.
SAA: I totally agree with Randeep bhai. The bond between him and Akshay showed. Before the scene, I was worried about whether they would forget their lines. The scene lasts around six minutes.
RH: (Cuts in) We shot for nine minutes and three minutes were edited out.
SAA: (Laughs) Yes, it was to be a nine-minute scene and we shot the entire scene in a single take. Retakes only happened due to technical changes. Towards the end, Randeep bhai asked me, ‘Tu maze le raha hai kya?’
RH: Of course! He was very happy every time we shot. But there were many other interesting things that happened while shooting, one of them is a scene we can’t talk about.
SAA: Akshay and Pia (Bajpai) also had a similar scene in the film, and by ‘similar’, I mean a scene where they get drunk. So Akshay and Pia share your memories…
Akshay Oberoi (AO): I took some advice from Randeep sir and then delivered the scene. (Laughs)RH: Oh, that scene! That must have happened with so many of us, in small towns, big cities, in America, everywhere around the world, where people make a girl drink and take her home. (Laughs)
RH: Akshaye ne pee thi, isne (Pia Bajpai) sunghi thi. (Laughs)
Pia Bajpai (PB): No, let me tell you something. Akshay’s boy had made that drink and it was very strong. While we were rehearsing the scenes, the alcohol hadn’t taken effect. But when we arrived on the sets, we were both drunk and our director thought we might not be able to deliver the scene. Set pe tabaahi mach gayi thi, and they all were saying ‘control, control!’ I was totally out of control and not in my senses at all!
Meenakshi Dixit (MD): Also, talk about the shout…
SAA: Mummy! (Shouts)
PB: Yes, I shout ‘Mummy!’ I knew I had done something wrong, so I was crying. So once I say, ‘Mummy’ and even after the shot, I kept weeping, which our director has retained in the scene.
RH: It’s called ‘drinking too much and busting cherries’. Something like that… samajhne wale samajh gaye, jo naa samjhe woh anaari hain. (Sings)
SAA: Another interesting incident, which took place during one of our action sequences, was the one where Rajniesh Duggall was following someone. There were two characters – one was Dracula and the other was Atul, who is supposed to be from the police Crime Branch. The first shot was with Dracula who is very thin, aisa lagta hai ki chaabi bhara hai aur woh chal rahein hain.
RH: (Cuts in) Raam bharose chal rahein hain woh!
SAA: Haan, bilkul. So, he started running during the chase sequence… the camera was rolling and he was running, and suddenly Dracula was out of the frame. Then, suddenly, we all heard a loud noise and realised he had fallen down and he fractured his nose and knee. But Dracula bole ki main bhaagunga, still, he wanted to finish the scene but we sent him to a hospital instead.
Rajniesh too was supposed to shoot the same sequence and it was his first day as the SP saab, but before him Atul, who plays the guy from the Crime Branch, did the chase sequence and he too fell down! Everyone on the sets went quite mad. Some of them were laughing and some didn’t know how to react because both of them had been running and fell on the same track.
RH: Hamari film mein dhap se bahut log gire hain! Because our film is about a blood racket, which I believe is the worst type of crime in the world and is very prevalent in our social system. In India, people are reluctant to donate blood. Unko lagta hai ki kamjori aa jaegi. According to the law, you cannot buy blood, you have to replace the blood you take. But people are more than happy to pay for it and the people involved in this racket sell a single unit of blood for `5,000. All they need to do is catch hold of a rickshawallah or thelawallah, take his blood, give him `500 and a packet of biscuits and that’s it! The margin on a single unit of blood is therefore `4,500. We are talking about the year 2002, and in case dengue ho jaye, toh chaandi hai. The people involved in this racket treat blood as if they are selling onions and potatoes in the market. This film is based on them.
Usually, when you want to send out a social message, the film tends to look like a documentary. But Afzal has treated the story in a very different way, where he has used the racket as the backdrop and made the main story revolve around friendship, love, emotions and relationships. It also says that one can earn money by getting educated and doing the right thing, quite unlike what my character does in the film.
When they came to me for the first time, to brief me about the look of my character, Shankar along with the costume designer, they had the same old Khap kind of clothes, feete waale kurte and all that jazz. I was stunned and felt it discredited Haryanvi society, like the way Haryana was depicted in a few films made in the recent past, films which were hits. But that’s not Haryana! I felt that we had to change that perception, so we flipped my character around in two days. I think that added the required zing to the part only because we wanted to run away from clichés like wife beating, infanticide, Khap panchayats and all that.
I think the most endearing character in the recent past was that of Datto from Tanu Weds Manu Returns. Now Aamir Khan is doing Dangal,which is based in Haryana; Salman Khan is doing
Sultan and the song Ho gayi chull is Haryanvi-based. There are a lot of positive aspects about Haryana but there have been a lot of films which have presented Haryana in the wrong light.
SAA: (Cuts in) Black humour.
RH: So if we see a checked shirt, we say, ‘Badi chitkabri si shirt pehen ke aaya hai’ or ‘Lungi ke kapde se banayi thi kya shirt.’ You know, we are simply engaging them with humour but people here are so sensitive that they would say, ‘Hayee kya bol raha hai yaar ye.’ That is another aspect of this film which is very interesting and then we have also got these two beautiful ladies, yeh (Meenakshi Dixit) bade baap ki ladki hai ye (Pia) chhote ghar ka ladki hai toh ye sab bhi chal raha hai, Pia innocent hai aur Akshay badmaash sa hai. You just heard how he got her drunk…
SAA: (Cuts In) ‘Mummy’ bulvayaa.
RH: Haan, he taught her about the birds and the bees. I also think the music is a winner and I hope it gets enough air time. Many films that are hyped are not all that great and there are many films that are great but not hyped. It is difficult to find the right balance because we didn’t have a release date in mind. Also, there were problems with the title, you know, Yeh laal rang is a song and that title belongs to someone else. So we went back and forth while deciding what to call it and finally we decided on just Laal Rang.
This is a very small-budget film, I mean one-tenth the costume budget of FAN. So, from a business point of view, let us not compare ourselves with bigger films. But I think we will be a winner with word-of-mouth publicity, provided our distribution muscle is enough to hold our own with FAN and Baaghi which is releasing next week.
SAA: The most important aspect regarding the packaging of a film is its music – the background score and its tracks, basically, the OST. I was chatting with this guy, Mathias Duplessy, who did Peepli [Live] and he is doing Dangal’s background score and I told him the premise of the story, and he said he would love to work on this subject. The amazing part is that we sent the 90 per cent of the film without any brief as he told me he didn’t need one. He composed the background score by simply gauging the energy of all the actors in the frames; there is not a single bit that doesn’t match the situation. It was almost as if I was writing the script and he was simultaneously composing the background score!
RH: Hindustani stories with directors like Afzal are very attractive... The winner here is that it is not a Haryanvi film but it has all kinds of dialects within the film. All of us speak different dialects, and that rootedness and the music that comes into play, and the language… I think it is a very authentically made film, which could compete even on the world stage as it deals with a very important topic because no matter where you are, blood runs in your veins. The film is also based on true incidents – yes, Karnal mein they aise pisaach jo ki raat ko nikal te they khoon choosne.
BOI: What about the other dialects in the film?
RD: Yes, I speak in proper Rohtaki Haryanvi.
RH: But more educated.
SAA: With more finesse.
RH: And he (Akshay Oberoi) speaks in a dialect that is more of a Punjabi- Haryanvi mix. Pia speaks in a different dialect too.
RH: She speaks in a UP accent. Pia, I read that you are talking in a Haryanvi accent in the film, toh kaunsi film ki baat kar rahi hai tu? (Laughs)
PB: No, I am Poonam Sharma from Saharanpur.
SAA: Saharanpur, Western UP.
RH: Aur iska (Pia) ka bahut acha lisp bhi hai.
PB: Yes, I didn’t have to do much because I am already from UP. I just went back a few years.
BOI: Given all these dialects… Multani, Jaatu, Rohtaki… will it be difficult for the audience to understand what is being said?
SAA: I don’t think so because it is natural to adapt to a new dialect. So when you watch a film and come across a new dialect, you adapt within 10 minutes. Moreover, the dialects and accents are not very difficult to understand. There is also body language to help. Paan Singh Tomar was 10 times more difficult than what we are doing because that was mooda- moodi.