No Kids’ Stuff This

Amole, why do you make films with only children as protagonists?
Amole Gupte: That’s because Partho is a kid. Once he grows up, I won’t be able to make these films, na! No, I am just joking. I am using cinema as a medium because I am a student of cinema. But the whole point is that issues that affect children are never or anybody’s agenda because kids have no voting rights. I am raising consciousness about children in this wonderful nation which does not know how to treat kids.

After Stanley Ka Dabba, this is your next with Partho. How much has he grown as an actor over the course of these two films?
Amole: All of us are evolving and I find it extremely preposterous when people say that, haan, he can become a good actor. I say, ‘Donkey, he is already a good actor! Or do I have to show more of the 11 awards he has won?’ He got a Best Actor award in Germany at one of the most important children’s film festivals, among 140 protagonists. This is the problem with this country. We do not recognise that something has already happened. You have to underline it in red and say, dekho na idhar zara. It’s such a shame.

Partho, according to you, how much has your dad grown as a director?
Partho Gupte: Dad was also my director in the film but mainly he was my dad. So we had such a blast during the shoot. I don’t know to say this but I could see everything so clearly. It was like since dad told me to do something, it wasn’t a task; I could picture everything he was telling me to do. The way someone can make the actor visualise a scene is great and I would say, hats off to dad.

Is he the same at home as he is on the sets?
Partho: Definietly! Same fun dad. He can make me laugh any time. At home, we watch movies and have a blast. Over here, it was the same, only we were making a film.

And what made you cast Saqib?
Amole: He is the next Delhi boy that I have seen since I was on Kundan’s writing team for Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, and I was in the Circus team also with Aziz and Syed (Mirza). So he is the next boy after what that boy had done here after Fauji. You know who I am talking about.

Shah Rukh Khan?
Amole: Yes, and because I was witness at that time ki what is charm. Having seen that, having worked in proximity of at least two of the three Khans, I thought Saqib was quite charming.

How was the film Hawaa Hawaai conceived?
Amole: It’s an ideology that had to be tamed. The question was, how to tame it? I had this four-year-old son who I was taking to skating class, tying his shoelaces, and there was this group of moms with their kids. I would take him skating, which is a metaphor for speed and that’s how the idea came into being.

Amole, you are Chairman of the CFSI and a champion of children’s rights. Is that the reason you’re making a special effort to make sure child actors are at ease when you shoot?
Amole: Yes. They have no lawyers or anyone else to look after their issues. In India, children sometimes work 24×7 and parents tend to support that. Like say on reality shows, the channel supports that, producers support that and parents too. No one raises an argument. If this happened in another country, everyone including the parents would be behind bars. If you take a child actor to a European country to shoot, you have to follow the rules for children’s rights there? We even have an animal welfare board here, but none for children. As CFSI chief, I have tried to write to the Child and Women’s Welfare Ministry, and several other government organisations for child rights but I have got no response. If the CFSI Chairperson does not get a response, what will common citizens do? Time lagegabut then it took so many years for Dashrath Maanjhi to make that tunnel. You have to keep at it.

Saqib, what was your reaction when you were offered the role?
Saqib Saleem: Maine poocha kahan sign karna hai,sir? I have been a big fan of Amole sir’s work, whether as a director or a writer or an actor. I have been very selective about my roles because I want to work with people who I think I can learn from and improve my craft. My first film chose me and from my second film onwards, I have tried to be very selective about the people I want to work with. I worked with Karan (Johar) specifically because I wanted to know how I would work in a different kind of environment and with a different kind of director, and now I am working with Amole sir. I think I have become better as an actor because I have started understanding things a little better.
Amole: (Cuts in) He was superb in Bombay Talkies. I saw that and I reached out. I mean, to play easy is not easy at all. It takes a different kind of DNA to do that. And that’s the same ease he brought onto our sets. His body speaks and that works!
Saqib: When I read the script and realised I had to play a coach, I knew I had great material. I knew I could do justice to the role only if I bonded with the kids. So I didn’t bond with them as Saqib, the actor, who has worked with YRF and Karan and is now going to work with them. Kids are so pure that if they don’t like you, they say it to your face. And I didn’t want to be in a situation where the kids tell me, ‘Sir, hume aap pasand nahi aaye.’ They accepted me and gave me so much love.

Were there any workshops before the film?
Amole: Not really, yeh sab workshop ke hi bacchhe hain. My kids have been with me for seven years now.
Saqib: Main naya bachcha hoon. (Laughs)
Amole: These kids are so good ki Chaplin ko phod denge. They are extremely challenged financially, they are from a municipal school, but they have been with my son also.The idea is to raise consciousness in such a way that everyone enjoys the film. Cinema is not an exclusive art form. It should be accessible to everyone.

After Stanley…, Partho must have received many offers?
Amole: Yes, hundreds.

Was it your decision to allow him to do only Hawaa Hawaai?
Amole: That is a very responsible question and I will give you a very reasonable answer. Are you the flavour of the month? Television is the worst enemy because it has no memory card. People are not really studying the effect of TV shows on children, but they should. So when you have endorsements coming your way, cinema coming your way, the question to be asked is, should you work on Saturday? That’s how we work, we do it as a workshop on weekends. We do these workshops in schools.

This is the second time you’re working with Fox Star Studios. As a producer, what kind of inputs do they offer and what has the equation been like?
Amole: I think Vijay Singh is a darling and again this film was something I wanted to do after Taare Zameen Par but Stanley Ka Dabba happened in between. The time was not right as Partho was not mature enough then. I think every film has its time. We started on our own, got it to the prep level, and we started the first schedule in April. That’s when Deepa (Bhatia) reached out to Vijay. He asked for a meeting and I think I gave him a 20-minute narration. We were already at the shooting stage. He agreed instantly to come on board. It took 22 drafts to lock the script. I don’t think anyone else would have understood my vision to make this film other than he.

Also, they took Stanley Ka Dabba to many new markets. What plans do you have for this film?
Amole: I believe they are planning something this year as well. The idea is to discover markets where it stands on its own, unlike like diaspora NRI segment, which waits for that one Bollywood film that is larger than life. They wait to watch a film where they feel good about India. Toh humko toh cinema lovers chahiye, as cinema has no boundaries. We are trying to attract those circuits. We did Korea, where we had 168 shows and in Japan, they are re-running the film. Then in Shibuya, the film district of Tokyo, it had six shows a day during its first run, and all six shows were house full. I think this is the first Indian film that did so much business at their box office. Humare yaha chalta nahi hai. But I have grown up in the era of re-runs. on special arrangement with box office india

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