When I said cut, Bachchan saab was still sleeping: Umesh Shukla

Filmmaker Umesh Shukla, who is ready with his film “102 Not Out” shares his story of casting Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor for the lead roles, and how the song ‘Badumbaa’ came to be, in an exclusive interview with me.

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“I was producing the Gujarati play ‘102 Not Out’ written and directed by Saumya Joshi, and during the rehearsal I figured out that this is a universal subject just like it was in case of ‘Oh My God!’ where God, the central character is present everywhere in everybody’s home. Similarly, I assumed the story of this father-son duo will appeal to a universal audience. The subject is very funny and entertaining, and comes with a feel good factor. That’s when I decided that this is the kind of film I should make,” said the director talking about how the idea of making ‘102 Not Out’ came to him.

When asked how the thought of casting Big B and Rishi Kapoor come to mind, he said, “I wanted Bachchan sir for the role. I thought of him as the only actor who could do justice to this character of a 102-year-old lively and active man. When I narrated the story to him, he agreed to do the film immediately. The idea of a father trying to send his son to an old age home itself got him interested, and he said, ‘I don’t want to listen to the entire narration, I’m doing it.’ When I suggested him that I would cast Chintu ji (Rishi Kapoor) as the son, he was thrilled. Since they had worked together in the past, he loved the idea, and gave me a go-ahead. Chintuji also agreed immediately, even though he will be performing a very different kind of character, and both were onboard.”

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Many might wonder, having co-written the script for ‘Oh My God!’ why was Umesh Shukla not a part of the scripting process of ‘102 Not Out’? He says, “It’s not that I never suggested the idea… but the play was so brilliantly written, I was sure that Saumya will deliver the script perfectly for the film.

“He took almost a year to develop the script, because it takes quite some time to develop a scrip for a film. In a play you have to finish it within 7-8 scenes, but a film requires a lot of details,” added the director who helmed the critically and commercially acclaimed film ‘Oh My God!’ in 2012.

When asked how much time they took to shoot the film, Shukla’s promptly reply was, “We shot the entire film in 42 days. But before that we had workshops and we and invested a lot of time in detailing. This is the first time the two leads are playing Gujarati characters, so we focused on the costumes, the way Gujaratis wear shirts and t-shirts over pyjamas… Since I’m a Gujarati I know that they don’t wear chappals in the house… Everything was so detailed from the beginning that we managed to finish the shoot in 42 days.”

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A still from the promotional song ‘Badumbaa’

What’s the story behind ‘Badumbaa’? “Once when we were shooting on the terrace, and when it started raining we all rushed into a shade waiting for the rain to subside. That’s when Bachchan saab came up with the idea and mentioned how Chintuji and he had always had songs in their films like ‘Lambuji lambuji’ from ‘Coolie’, and ‘Chal mere bhai’ from ‘Naseeb’. So why not in this film? He questioned, but I said that there is no requirement of it in the movie. But then he said, ‘let me compose it.’ I got thrilled and I said ‘sure why not?’ Once we listened to the song everyone started dancing to the tune.

“He (Big B) is very passionate about music, and he suggested Rishi Kapoor to sing the song as well. Chintuji didn’t agree initially, but one day during our rehearsal he realised that he could sing! And that’s how ‘Badumbaa’ happened.”

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Umesh Shukla also shared an interesting behind-the-scene moment, “We were shooting a scene where Bachchan saab was sleeping on the bed and Chintuji walks into the room and then leaves. When I said cut, Bachchan saab was still sleeping,” laughed the director. “Nobody else had the courage to wake him up, so I went towards him and said, ‘Sir the shot is over’ but he was still not moving! I repeated again a little loudly, and then got up said something very beautiful, ‘After a long time I actually fell asleep, the set of the house made me feel at home.’ It was only our 20th or 22nd day of shoot, and this moment made me very happy. Mansi Dhruv was the art director for the sets,” he added.

The story of ‘102 Not Out’ is about a very elderly man who aims to break the record for the oldest man on earth. The film starring Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor and Jimit Trivedi is set to release worldwide on May 4.

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Audience is like children, should be given right education: Majid Majidi

Acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi’s Hindi debut ‘Beyond the Clouds’ is about to hit the theatres today. During a press meet in the national capital, the director and lead actor Ishaan Khatter, shared their individual experiences of shooting the film.

Talking about his experience shooting in India, Majidi said, “All of my films are shot in rare locations that has been really a challenge here. I always take stories from people’s lives, the same happened here. I have travelled in India for a long time. Specifically for this film I researched in Mumbai for three months seeing every location in the city.”

“The biggest challenges were the locations, because we shot 80% of the film outdoors, on real locations. It was difficult to take the camera in those crowded places and to be able to capture the proper emotions. One of my locations was Dhobi Ghat, and we needed a lot of local people to be in the shots. Controlling and organising such a huge crowd, making sure that they are not looking at the camera was challenging,” confirmed Majidi.

The director also urged the common public in India, other than critics and film enthusiasts to watch ‘Beyond the Clouds’ in order to outgrow the standard formula of Bollywood films.

 

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Majid Majidi

In a powerful message to the people through the media, he said, “Audience is like children, and they should be given the right education. If you feed a child a particular type of food, he/she will not be ready to try anything else, similarly if the audience is used to a certain kind of cinema they will initially not be open to receiving a different form.

“Having spoken to some of the high profile Bollywood directors I got to know that they are themselves not very happy with the kind of films they are making, but since they know that the audience is used a certain kind of film, they don’t break away from the usual format due to the fear of failure,” said Majidi, discussing the lack of more quality films in Bollywood.

He also shared an anecdote about how some of his friends suggested him a different ending of the film to fit the Indian audience’s taste.

Majidi also pointed out that very few Indian films make it to the international film fests because they have dissociated from their traditional values. “Even the contemporary Indian dance and music in the films are westernised and are much different from the local culture. If the local culture can be projected in the films, can be viewed by the entire world, only then can Indian cinema reach out to everyone,” said the director.

Majidi Talking about his upcoming films, said that if everything goes well then his next film will be in Bengali.

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Ishaan Khatter in a scene from the film

Newbie Ishaan Khatter, portraying the lead character Aamir in the film, talked about his research for the character, “I spent a lot of time in Dharavi, roaming around, exploring the place, talking to the locals. I was fortunate to have some cast members, playing my friends in the film, who were born and brought up in Dharavi. We became good pals. Getting to know about their ways of life and experiences there helped me in understanding my character better.”

‘Beyond the Clouds’ is an extended story of Majidi’s Iranian film ‘Children of Heaven’ (1997). The story set in Mumbai is about a pair of siblings, and celebrates love and family.

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I was always taught to be myself: Akasa Singh

Gifting the nation with its selfie anthem last year ‘Tu kheench meri photo’ singer Akasa Singh, shares her story of doing a duet with pop sensation Ricky Martin recently.C4JlbNqUYAAs8Gi

Tell us about your childhood, growing up in a family with musical background…

As my father is a singer, there was always something or the other going on in my family. Growing up with that, before I knew what a career is, I already knew that I wanted to be a singer. I got my dad’s voice, and I pursued singing under his guidance, eventually, I started my career with Mika Singh. He would often come to our home and he used to make me sing and asked me to join the band with him and perform live.

Please share your experience working with Mika

Working with Mika was great. I was in a band at a very young age, I was the only girl in the band which had about 10 male members over the age of 40! Very early on I got to experience a lot. I got a chance to travel the whole world to perform for different audiences. Basically, working with him sort of moulded me, because he is one of the best performers of the country, and I learned a lot from him . Whatever I do on stage today is because of how Mika ji groomed me. I learned the best thing from the best person.

Your performance is quite versatile. How did you work on your charming onstage persona?

I was born and brought up in a Sardar family, I grew up with only brothers. While growing up, I never hesitated for anything,  thinking whether it would be inappropriate to behave in a way since I’m a girl. I did what I saw my brothers do. So, with that confidence, I never hesitate onstage about how I’d look while rapping, or whether I have to behave/perform in a particular way since I’m dressed in a lovely ghagra choli. I was always encouraged by my parents to be myself, I was never taught to behave in any particular way just because I am a girl. Growing up that way I explored many opportunities – if I wanted to rap I could, if I wanted to jump onstage or crack jokes I could – it sometimes does not go with the way I look or with people’s expectation, but it’s because I was always taught to be who I am. People do get a little shocked sometimes when I crack little jokes in the middle of my performance or jump…

Did you ever have stage fright?

I used to have that sort of fright before my exams! (laughs) When I used to study for exams, I would think Yaar Geometry chhodo, main stage mein 5000 logon ke samne gana ga dungi. I never experienced stage fright on the stage, because I felt at home on stage. I always wanted to go on stage hold a mic and interact with the people when my dad used to perform. But I was really young, and I could not sing properly. When my dad asked, what would you sing if you go on stage, I’d say ‘I don’t know, just get me on the stage, give me a mic and let people watch me and I’ll interact with them. Since the time I saw my dad perform on stage in front of a huge audience, I guess that stage fright was wiped off even before I had it.  In fact, I feel more at home on the stage even if there are 50,000 people in the audience rather than meeting new people. All thanks to my dad jinki performance dekh dekh ke woh dar nikal gaya.

How did you get your first Bollywood break?

Himesh Reshamiya was the mentor of a show I did – ‘India’s Raw Star’. When he heard me sing for the first time he promised me that he’d give me a break in Bollywood. After the show, a lot of people asked me whether I got a chance in Bollywood. An acquaintance gave me Himesh’s contact number and pushed me to talk to him. I messaged him ‘Hi Himesh ji, Akasa here. Hope you are well’ and in reply, he texted, ‘Hi Akasa hope you are well, come to the studio tomorrow, we’ll dub a song’. It was as if I reminded him about his promise. When I went to the studio the next day, he told me, Tum apne tarike me gao. That was the best part, and I sang the song, ‘Tu kheench meri photo’ from Sanam Teri Kasam in that ‘masti wala’ tone. He liked my tone and that’s  how I got my break in Bollywood. Kafi filmy kahaani hai meri! (laughs)

How did your collaboration with Ricky Martin for ‘Vente Pa Ca’ happen?

Another break that happened before this break was me signing up with Sony Music. Sony is his label. They told me that there’s a Spanish single of Ricky Martin, and that he was making an English version of it and whether I would like to lend my Hindi voice to it.  I got so excited that I agreed at once. My vocals were recorded and sent. Ricky really liked it and that’s how I collaborated with him on the duet, ‘Vente Pa Ca’.

What have you learned from this experience?

Unfortunately, I have not met him in person yet. When we were discussing the song, we exchanged e-mails where he explained me the feel of the song, how to sing it and a little praise. But the fact that I have a duet with him is a big deal for me. I hope that I get to meet him in future and work more with him.

Any Bollywood heroine you’d like to lend your voice to? Aaj

Aaj kal actually itna talent aa gaya Bollywood mein, that some of them are singing themselves. I cannot decide on any one particular person. I love Alia Bhatt, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra… In fact, I would like to sing for any of the heroines! They all are absolutely beautiful, I can sing for any heroine. Sometimes I think it’s better to be the heroin and sing my own songs! (laughs)

Would you like to share any memorable moment?

Recently, I did a show called ‘MTV Angles of Rock’ with three other Bollywood singers – Jasmine Sandlas, Shalmali Kholgade, and Anusha Mani. It was a women empowerment oriented show for which I wrote and composed two songs for the first time in my life. I also performed them for the people I had written for. That feeling of them appreciating, getting emotional and loving my songs is something that I’ll never forget in my life, which is why I don’t just want to sing but also want to compose and write so that I can touch people’s lives in more ways.

What are your hobbies?

Well, other than singing, I love to dance and read. I have a passion for bullet motorbike, so I’m trying to convince my mother to buy me a bullet. I’m also obsessed with animals – a pet lover.