Creating Magic With Cinema
Box Office India (BOI) : Sanjeev, how did you come up with the concept of the film?
Sanjeev Sharma (SS): I used to stay close to a haveli in Delhi where royal families used to reside. The language spoken in my house was very respectful. Ek alag hi tehzeeb thi ghar pe but we were surrounded by people who spoke a totally different language. That is the language you will hear in my film. So the inspiration came from there. In Old Delhi there are many such havelis. There is a haveli in Chandni Chowk called Chunnamal Haveli. This haveli is Chandni Mahal in our film. With the end of the Mughal dynasty, some of such havelis were taken over by the firangis. When a King loses his crown, it’s not just the raja leaving his throne. The entire trading system and therefore the entire social order gets affected. Now, nobody from the royal family wanted to work as they had royal blood. You might be in loss, without a job but because you belong to a Royal family, you just can’t do any odd jobs.
With the passage of time, there were 12 families residing at the same time in a haveli. With each passing generation, their needs increased and everyone had to take up petty work. I have used those characters in my film. They all belong to blue blooded families. They are surviving the changed social-economic scenario. Everyone is trying to better their economic structure. I have based the premise on these characters.
After the last emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar got arrested, what happened to his descendants? One of them resides in Mira Road (Mumbai), while one is in Kolkata. The family which resides in Kolkata works as a ragpickers. The Mira Road family gets Rs 200 per month allowance from the government.
BOI: Manoj, what was your attraction towards your character?
Manoj Bajpayee (MB): It’s actually very funny because my character Pappi is basically the local goon of that area. He has been there with a lot of attitude and brashness in his time. What I liked about him was that now he has fallen in love and is smitten, anybody and everybody is taking him for granted. Anyone and everyone is coming and fooling him. The desperation to acquire the object of his love has made him weak. That transition is what I loved the most. The fact that he has become so vulnerable because of the fact that he is in love, he is now ready to listen to anybody. He is willing to take any path to try everything.
BOI: What was it like in your case Vijay?
Vijay Raaz (VR): Actually, I want to know from Sanjeev, what was his thought process while writing my character.
SS: Well Jaggi Tircha, the character Vijay is playing in the film, is one character who is never straight to the point. Like in chess, the horse’s move is never straight; his move is unusual among chess pieces. When it moves, it can move to a square that is two squares horizontally and one square vertically, or two squares vertically and one square horizontally. Jaggi is just like that.
VR: He is the only one who manipulates Pappi and knows his way through things, he is the only one who is curious to know things whereas everyone else is just a yes man to Pappi.
BOI: The film has been shot extensively in Old Delhi. Can each one of you share your experience of shooting there, how difficult and extensive that was?
Kay Kay Menon (KKM): I found it draining. Firstly I was like a tourist. I saw those streets and it was so overwhelming. And then the people over there, I think they are blessed souls. We shot so many night schedules there and post-midnight a film set can be disturbing for a neighbourhood. I felt people would get agitated and would interrupt the shooting because we were disturbing them in middle of the night. It was amazing our work never got interrupted, they would stand in the corner and watch us shoot, clicked pictures with us and went back to their homes. They were that good, that kind of thing can never happen in Mumbai. This was something I found very unique. People there are large hearted.
BOI: Manoj you have been to Old Delhi before. Was this still a revelation for you?
MB: Of course, it was! Living there for around 40 days and night you have a different experience altogether. You are not just shooting there but also soaking in the local culture around you. I have been there; gone there to have food, seen it from a very superficial level. This time I was fully there. Their conversation is also very different and weird.I remember one instance, we were shooting and I was standing at the entry point near the crowd. They were blocking the street for our shoot. In the crowd about seven people were talking to each other. One guy said, ‘chalo na mil le’. And one said, ‘nahi bhai abhi mood mein hai mood mein’. The first one said, ‘are kya mood, milne mein kya jaata hai’. So their entire conversation was going on and I was standing right next to them.
VR: So Manoj has edited the entire curse words in this conversation. (Laughs)MB: After a point it got claustrophobic for me. You are surrounded by houses and the narrow lanes and so many people all the time. Hardly a five feet lane and barely any distance between those houses. Most of them work there only and some go out to work, come back, live there and spend their entire lives in those lanes. Their culture is completely different than the rest of Delhi and that is what the film will show you. It is a culture you might have never seen anywhere.
SS: One thing that worked in our favour was that because I have lived in old Delhi, I knew a lot of people there and was aware of the streets and culture there. If two people are walking there have to keep a space between them, one will walk ahead the other will walk behind. Then you will reach a lane where only one man can walk. You will get to see all these lane in Saat Uchakkey.
BOI: The film is ready to release on October 14. What do you think will attract the audience to this film?
KM: We are actors and we follow the religion of acting. We work whole-heartedly.
The audience may not always give a positive response. Good cinema is very good for health. If a good film is out and you don’t encourage it, then one day, cinema will die. The future generation will think baahein phaila ke khade rehna is acting, they will think putting your hand on the belt and dancing is acting. So the request is to start encouraging good films and help it reach its goal.
We have no problem with other films. Let them make money and fulfill their wishes. But good cinema must exist for the next generation and we all work with the intent that our work will outlive us. If there is a good life, good education, good clothes and good nutrition then why not good cinema? It’s very good for your health and moral stability. Munni toh badnam ho gayi na ab apne bacho ko badnam mat kijiye. I request people, not just people but the entire film fraternity to work with the intent of promoting the business of good cinema.
MB: He has said everything. There is nothing I disagree with. There has to be a co-existence. Only one kind of cinema is not good for the industry and not very good for viewers too. Viewers have to understand this more than the industry. Wherever I go people ask me why don’t we make films like in the US or Europe and I retort back saying, we do makes films like those but it’s you who is not interested in finding out the date of release of such films. You only go to watch a film which is hyped a lot. For you taking your kids for cinema is like taking them for a fair. Our cinema is different from just a fair. Our cinema is about stories and about characters. It’s the audience’s turn to encourage it, mentor us and patronize us and without their support, as Kay Kay said, it will one day eventually die.
We are already in the second or third leg of our career but the generation which is coming after us who are getting into acting and believe in pure cinema will have a tough time if the audience won’t take the initiative to give support to good cinema. Sath Uchakkey is a film I am proud of. We all are proud of. This film has the kind of comedy that I wanted to do. This is the humor I wanted to create through my character. This is a film which is close to me.
The entire experience has been very rewarding. I learnt a lot while doing this film. It’s my first film with Sanjeev Sharma and I really hope that the audience comes out and encourages this kind of a film.
SS: This film is definitely worth watching for its humour. Apart from being artistic and adventurous, the film’s entertainment quotient is very strong. We have done our part and now we want to see how the audience reacts to it. The things done in this film have been done truthfully.
One day I was sitting in the studio and I told my mixing engineer to close down the image and to just listen to the sounds. We won’t watch the video today and we will only listen. While listening, we realised that the audiography of this film is very powerful. Once upon a time, people used to gather to listen to the dialogues in Sholay. This film’s audiography is as powerful. Just by listening to its dialogue you can enjoy the moment.
MB: I always hesitate to say it’s an entertaining film and people should watch it. I feel I am selling a fake thing. This film is an experience in itself. Cinema should be like this, where there is a lot of variety and it satisfies all our senses; it should be an experience in itself. I am confident that people will love it and encourage it.
VR: This is the USP of the film. This film is close to me. I have never been to so many places to promote any film. This is the first time I am doing it because I loved the film. If you want to watch the magic of cinema, then please go and watch Saat Uchakkey.