Meet The Girl Who Made Vicky Donor Happen
Did you know that Vicky Donor's Beeji, who has become one of the most popular characters from the film; was not a part of the film initially?
Juhi Chaturvedi, the film's writer and the brain behind its central theme, reveals that the character was added in the script's sixth draft. She and director Shoojit Sircar thought that a Punjabi household with just two members was too weak.
There are countless other stories about the film and her life that she narrates in the course of an animated conversation.
The film bug bit this advertising girl when she wrote dialogues for Shoojit Sircar's second and yet-unreleased film -- Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Shoebite (later renamed Johnny Mastana). So much so that ad guru Piyush Pandey, who was her boss a couple of years ago, would see her ad script and joke, "This is an ad, not a film. Cut it down."
Meanwhile, Shoojit Sircar was also looking for a new project to start work on. That's when she contacted him with the idea of an infertility specialist looking for a sperm donor. Sircar didn't respond immediately but took to the idea after thinking it through. The duo then sat down to write the script.
"The skeleton of the story was clear in our heads and we just took off from there. What really worked in our favour was the decision to only write about stuff we know. We were also very conscious of the fact that we were dealing with a very sensitive issue. So while we intended it to be light-hearted, we had to be extremely cautious that the humour didn't border on slapstick, we can't make fun of it because emotions are attached to it", she says.
"So we took a different path and tried to make it charming and light-hearted while also trying to remove the stigma attached to it," she continues, "And that's why Dr Chaddha (Annu Kapoor playing the infertility specialist) uses phrases like 'angry sperm', 'greedy sperm' etc to describe his star donor's various moods."
Image: Juhi Chaturvedi
'Some of the best projects in my advertising portfolio were with Shoojit'
By now it's easy to tell the writer is completely in sync with her director.
Juhi, who's been in the advertising industry for over 14 years and works with Bates Asia at present, reveals that she's been working with Shoojit since 2004. One of the projects they worked on together was the Titan ad featuring Aamir Khan while she worked for Ogilvy & Mather.
She goes on to add, "Some of the best projects in my advertising portfolio have been with him."
The discussion veers towards the film again and Juhi proceeds to explain how she and Sircar managed to cast actors who fit their characters like hands in gloves.
The film's lead, Ayushmann Khurrana who's currently basking in his magnificent debut, was earlier known as a veejay on MTV while Annu Kapoor, who plays the second most significant role in the film and does more than a fine job of it, hasn't exactly been the most visible face on screen in the recent past.
The film's other superstars -- Dolly Ahluwalia and Kamlesh Gill, who were a riot in the film -- don't have many known acting projects to their credit too.
Juhi gives all the credit to the film's casting director Jogi Malang. She says,"Shoojit was very clear about his lead actor. He wanted a fresh face, a face that no one had seen on the silver screen before. A star wouldn't meet that criterion. And it was malang who brought up Ayushmann's name.
It would be interesting to note here that Ayushmann, who first came to everybody's notice as a participant on popular MTV reality show Roadies, had donated sperm on the show as a task. He went on to win the show that paved way for more TV jobs for him.
He was the only person Shoojit and the team auditioned.
Image: Juhi Chaturvedi with Annu Kapoor and Shoojit Sircar
'Beeji has a killer comic timing'
Dolly Ahluwalia, who plays Vicky's hard working mother in the film, was the only actor mentioned beforehand in the script's drafts. She had designed costumes for Shoebite and Juhi says she couldn't imagine anyone else but her in the role. Few people know that Ahluwalia and Annu Kapoor were batch mates in their NSD (National School of Drama) days.
The uber cool Beeji in the film played by theatre actress Kamlesh Gill, in one of the most hilarious scenes in the film, is almost crestfallen when her doting grandson brings her a 16GB iPhone while she was expecting the latest 32GB one. Another stellar performer in the film, Kamlesh Gill is a known name in Delhi theatre circles. She's also worked in several ads directed by Shoojit.
Malang got her for the role too. "She has a killer comic timing," Juhi chuckles.
She is all praise for Annu Kapoor too; who she calls 'the second lead in the film'. She says, "We needed someone with a grip on performance. Chaddha's character could go wrong on so many levels but he internalised it very well and also brought in some wonderful improvisations.
"Shoojit was very clear about having an actor with a theatre background play the role and it had to be Kapoor for his maturity and understanding of the role."
She also mentions NK Sharma (known as Pundit ji in Delhi theatre circles), who runs a theatre group called Act One in the capital. "He read the script and made some wonderful suggestions to the film. Many Bollywood bigwigs like Imtiaz Ali, Shoojit himself, Tigmanshu Dhulia, even adman Piyush Mishra have been his associates," she informs.
"My writing became so much more authentic because of these great actors," she beams.
Image: Dolly Ahluwalia, Yami Gautam and Kamlesh Gill in Vicky Donor
'Salim Khan told us that we should never compromise as writers'
About a couple of days after the movie released, movie goers took to social networking sites to heap praises on the film. One of the more enthusiastic buffs even suggested that someone do an interview with the real star of the film -- the writer.
He wasn't the only one who was impressed with Juhi's talent. In a surprising turn of events, all of us woke up to a huge picture of Juhi and Shoojit published in an English tabloid receiving a trophy from Salim Khan, one half of Bollywood's legendary scriptwriting duo Salim-Javed and Salman Khan's father.
The celebrated writer was so impressed with the film that he decided to congratulate Juhi and Shoojit by giving them one of his Filmfare trophies.
Juhi seems particularly overwhelmed with this grand gesture. She recounts the moment when the call came, "I got a call from saying that they were calling on behalf of Salim Khan. I just laughed it off. But then one day I got a call from Salim Khan himself.
He said, "If someone had asked me to write about this subject, I'd have declined," It was a huge compliment. He was extremely happy with the film and told us that we should never compromise as writers."
Image: Ayushmann Khurrana, Shoojit Sircar, Juhi Chaturvedi and Annu Kapoor on the sets of Vicky Donor
'People from small towns have a lot of time to create stories'
Juhi's journey to filmdom has been just as sudden as her new-found fame.
Born and brought up in Lucknow, Utter Pradesh, she graduated from Lucknow College Of Arts and freelanced with Times Of India's Lucknow edition as an illustrator for a while. She shifted base to New Delhi in 1997 when a job offer from Ogilvy & Mather came calling.
She also worked with Lintas as an art director for a while before moving to Mumbai towards the end of 1999. It was in Mumbai where she started writing video spots.
She's done ads for Titan, Stayfree, Cadbury, Tang, Tata AIG, Huggies, Sprite among many others.
According to her, it was her small town upbringing that nurtured the art of storytelling in her and she's thankful for that. "People who grow up in small towns have a lot of time on their hands. I used that time for making up stories. I later came to realise that I was more of a writer than an artist," she says.
For her father, who's retired and settled in Pune, writing has been a hobby since years. Her husband, who's also in the advertising industry, works for Ogilvy and they have a four-year-old daughter.
Image: N K Sharma and Shoojit Sircar on the sets of Vicky Donor
'Our grandparents' generation is far more progressive than our parents'
To say that the three years she spent in New Delhi's Lajpatnagar locality came in handy while writing Vicky Donor would be a serious understatement.
Even though it's been more than a decade since she shifted to Mumbai, she remembers the smallest of details and eccentricities of the proverbial Delhiite.
She remembers instances like they happen to her every day. She breaks into a chuckle as she recounts how real estate agents would sit on their vespas and refer to you as a 'party' even if you have approached them alone, how Delhiites bicker with their family but will reach for your throat if you so much as say a word against them and how they won't listen to you and shove another 'paronthi' in your plate despite protests.
It was her own relatives too from whom she drew the inspiration for an astonishingly progressive Beeji in the film. "Our grandparents' generation is far more progressive than our parents'," she states.
Turns out, her brother, an only son, is married to a Bengali girl and it was her grandfather who was the most supportive of this alliance.
Image: Annu Kapoor and Ayushmann Khurrana in Vicky Donor
'The past week has been different from the rest of my life'
But this inspirational anecdote percolated way before Vicky Donor.
Remember the Titan ad where Aamir Khan insists that his grandmother (played by Zohra Sehgal) remarries?
Turns out, it was Juhi's brainchild.
With her first film raking in the big bucks and drawing huge crowds to theatres, there must be many more offers coming her way.
About her future projects, she says that there's a new film titled Jaffna with the Vicky Donor team -- Shoojit and John Abraham -- for which she'll be writing dialogues, another film titled Hamara Bajaj starring Ayushmann and a mature love story featuring Amitabh Bachchan in the lead.
She counts Neeraj Pandey and Tigmanshu Dhulia as her favourite contemporary writers in Bollywood.
"Of the recent lot of films, I liked Paan Singh Tomar and Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster the most. The writing in Saheb Biwi... is very witty. Even Neeraj Pandey's A Wednesday was a very tight script," she adds.
It's easy to sense that it still hasn't sunk in for this 37-year-old advertising girl and understandably so. "I didn't know how to write a screenplay but Shoojit put absolute trust in me. It was amazing. The past week has been different from the rest of my life. It's too overwhelming. It's wonderful," she says with disarming honesty.