Ganging Up!

Ganging Up!
Lead actor Sunil Grover, director Vishal Mishra and producer Vinod Ramani of Coffee With D, talks about their film which has released recently.

Box Office India (BOI): How did the film begin?

Sunil Grover (SG): With the opening credits. (Laughs)

Vishal Mishra (VM): The idea was to make a film on an underworld don, which had not been attempted in India. We have always glorified them in a very typical manner with item songs etc. But when we went through the material – there was a lot of material available online about different gangsters – we found out that they lead a very different kind of life, which is very realistic. What we also found was that they face the same problems we do, especially at retirement age. In real life, we joke about what would happen to a don after retirement, and those one-line jokes became a story. We asked ourselves whether it was good enough to become a film. Then we worked on the story and wrote the screenplay.

I am close to Shabinaa Khan and Sanjay (Leela Bhansali) sir and they were the ones I first narrated my idea to. They felt it was a good enough topic and that I should cast an actor who is not associated with any particular type of role or image. Sunil (Grover) had done Gabbar with them. I don’t really watch television but am aware of his popularity and stardom, which I witnessed first-hand when we were shooting and now that we are doing interviews.

SG: (Cuts in) Arey, abhi tak aap mere saath airport nahi gaye ho.

VM: Then Sunil came into the picture. We got actors like Zakir Hussain, Dipannita Sharma, Anjana Sukhani, Rajesh Sharma and Pankaj Tripathi… Everyone is a powerhouse of acting. It is a controversial subject and very sensitive, so I wanted actors who would do justice to the film.

BOI: What was your first reaction when he approached you with the script?

SG: As Vishalji said, it was Shabinaa who referred me to him. As soon as he narrated the story to me, we decided that we would be doing the film. He was very clear about what he wanted to make, in how many days, the schedule, editor, camera person. Also, he had a very clear vision about how he wanted to tell a story about a gangster which had not been told before, in such a manner. We seemed to share the same vision, like how I should approach the role.

BOI: Did he share the one-line concept or the entire script with you?

SG: Initially, he shared the story line with me, which I liked. Then, he shared the script but then he narrated the story, which I liked most. And after saying ‘yes’, he shared the bound script with me but it was the idea that I liked and then his narration. When a director narrates a story to you, you get to know his vision and that’s why I agreed to be part of the film.

BOI: Now the don is obviously Dawood Ibrahim. Did you, at any point, think it would be better to make a fictional character to avoid problems?

VM: Everybody has seen the promo and once you watch it, you know what the film is about. Like many say, it’s like The Interview. I don’t know how many noticed that Sunil’s house has a big poster of Frost/ Nixon. I believe The Interview is a comic version of Frost/Nixon, and I love that film.

Luckily or unluckily, it is not popular in India and I am happy we are competing with The Interview and not with the Coen brothers. 

In Tere Bin Laden, in the first 10 minutes, you know this guy is not Bin Laden but somebody pretending to be Bin Laden. Here, that’s not the case as both people are real. Arnab is going to interview D but what’s happening is very real. In the promo, everyone is serious yeh media wala mujhe pasand nahin hai, iss wale se meri patti hai. 

BOI: What about Arnab?

VM: Since he was playing a journalist, there were two challenges. First, Sunil should not be recognised by those names through which he is so popular. So people should not be able to say jaise woh ‘Dishoom’ mein tha, they put Viraj for Virat and our film has Arnab Ghosh. We deliberately used Arnab so that people would say, ‘Oh, he is playing Arnab Goswami.’

BOI: Obviously, in a comedy, getting the right chemistry between the actors was crucial. Was it something that happened on the sets or was it rehearsed?

SG: I had to work with Zakir Hussain, who is a good actor, Pankaj Tripati and Rajesh Sharmaji. I am a fan of Rajeshji, even Zakir bhai is a very mature actor. So unlog ke saath I had to be just one with them. You have been given your lines and you have to simply act it out. That’s it.

BOI: You are identified with a popular character on television. How tough was it to slip out of it for this film?

SG: It was very difficult for me. Sometimes, I had to check if I was wearing lipstick. As an actor, I have to play various characters. I live with one script for that moment, for that day, and at that time I play just that character and am that character. I think, for actors like me, TV is a tougher medium, for working hours. For the TV show I do, I go on stage and do it all in one go. Here, you have the advantage of retakes. The director is clear about what he wants to make and it’s much easier for you.

BOI: You have worked in the industry for a long time and you have gained recognition too. Do you think it is a good time for actors to be in the industry, for the type of content being made?

SG: I don’t know about other actors but it’s a good time for me. Of course, budgets are different. I feel that if you have a good story to tell, good actors and good technicians, it will work.

BOI: People have been watching you for free on television for a while now. Do you think they will pay to watch you in a film?

SG: They will see me as I am, without make-up, a disguise or a wig. But I have been lucky with the kind of work I have got. I have always been in disguise. When I meet people I don’t know, they say, ‘I have seen you somewhere?’ That’s where the lucky part comes in. Here, I will be my regular self but, more than me it’s the story, the kind of film, the subject and the way it has been shot that will hold the audience’s attention.

BOI: What were your calculations of Sunil coming on board as the main lead?

Vinod Ramani (VR): I was excited for this film because of Sunilji. Initially, I was in talks only with Vishal. When Sunil Grover’s name cropped up during casting, I said, ‘You can start tomorrow.’ I have always been a huge fan of Sunil Grover. I did not do any calculations when Sunil came on board. 

SG: There has been a glow on Vinod’s face ever since the first promo released. Before that, he was very tense. He was in Nagpur and we were chatting online and it was then that I realised how happy he looked. The promo has received 30-35 lakh views and he is on cloud nine. I wonder how he will react if the promo hits 50 lakh views.

BOI: The trailer has received a fabulous response. People were not aware of the film and suddenly the trailer released. What is the audience response to the trailer?

SG: I have been travelling a lot and hearing different points of view. People are really thrilled to watch the trailer.

BOI: In the last few months, there have been many big films that haven’t done well. In addition, there is an obvious cash crunch due to demonetisation. Are you afraid that this might affect your film?

SG: Swipe your card and watch the film. The tagline should not be ‘Bomb ka badlaa beizzatti se’, it should be ‘Swipe your card and watch the film’. People who want to watch the film, will watch it. And it is the first release of this year. So if you don’t watch this film, your whole year will go like that!

VM: The concept is good. Dangal has proved everyone wrong, especially since everybody thought it was all over, even Dear Zindagi did well.

SG: No one can watch this film with ‘Black Money’. 

BOI: You have done a regional film in the past. Are you planning to do any more regional films?

SG: I have not been offered many films, just two to three, but I didn’t have the time as I was committed to the preparation for this project.  But I would love to do one, if I come across a good script, good director, good producer.

BOI: What are your expectations from this film?

SG: I hope it brings a smile to people’s faces.

VM: I have said everywhere, that people love Sunil. This film is like a show reel for Sunil’s acting talent. 

And he doesn’t have a single comic scene, except for one bit which is only half-a-second long. Even the trailer doesn’t have any comedy; he is just being himself. box office india


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