'Stars don't guarantee the success of any film'
After the critically acclaimed Aamir and No One Killed Jessica, director Rajkumar Gupta is back with Ghanchakkar, a quirky comedy starring Vidya Balan and Emraan Hashmi.
Gupta seems calm and composed as he waits to see how the film will be received by audiences and critics when it releases on June 28.
In this interview with Sonil Dedhia, Gupta tells us why he thinks only Vidya Balan could have pulled out this film, and reveals that he's rarely seen Emraan Hashmi laugh.
After making two serious films, what prompted you to make a comedy?
I like to make films and as a filmmaker I don't judge my subject. I always look to make films on different subjects.
Aamir and No One Killed Jessica were very different films. The story for Ghanchakkar came to me through a new writer called Parvez Sheikh. When I read it, I found it very quirky and funny and felt this space could be explored.
We started writing together and the script turned out as I had imagined. That is when I decided I wanted to direct the film.
It has a lot of dark and situational humour. At the same time, there is no slapstick or below the belt humour.
Is it more difficult stepping out of your comfort zone and making a different kind of film and co-writing it?
Yes, it was difficult. When you are writing your own film, the flow is easier as there is no discussion or suggestions. Luckily, our thought process matched, but at the same time I had to approach the film very differently.Till the script is written, you don't know where it is going. I have seen many examples of films that had a great story but the screenplay doesn't turn out properly or the director loses interest.
Image: Vidya Balan in Ghanchakkar
'It is a rare sight to see Emraan laugh'
Since you had worked with Vidya Balan in No One Killed Jessica, had you already decided to cast her in Ghanchakkar?
I never have an actor in mind when I write a script. I don't decide on directing a film or my cast until I've finished writing the script.
No One Killed Jessica released in 2011 and after that Pervez and I finished the first draft of Ghanchakkar. Emraan and Vidya agreed to do the film in October 2011.
I had worked with Vidya before, so I know how she worked and what she could offer as an actress. I had never worked with Emraan before but I had seen a couple of his films and he came across as a mysterious, enigmatic character.
In fact, when shooting one sequence there was this joke on the sets, "Kya aapne Emraan ko haste hue dekha hai?" because no one had actually seen him laughing in real life. It is a rare sight to see Emraan laugh (smiles).
How do you think has Vidya evolved as an actor?
Vidya is a very natural actor. When I finished writing the script, I realised Vidya would be the only one who could pull it off.
I remember after we had finalised her, she started preparing for her character. Even while shooting she would add her own ideas to blend with the character.
Vidya is one of the finest actresses we have today.
Image: Emraan Hashmi and Vidya Balan in Ghanchakkar. Inset: Rajkumar Gupta
'The only pressure I have is to make a good film'
Vidya's costumes in the film have received a lot of flak. A lot of people think her character is over the top.
Her character requires her to do it. She plays a Punjabi middle class housewife and her reference to dressing is what she sees in fashion magazines. This is what 99 per cent of Indian women do.
Her character is very real. When the reality is shown on the big screen, some people do tend to feel uncomfortable.
Vidya and Emraan are both on top of their game. As a director, is there pressure to get everything right and deliver something that the audience haven't seen before?
Thankfully, it has never happened to me. The only pressure I have is to make a good film.
I didn't think that because Emraan and Vidya are in my film, I have to make it outstanding. Instead, my mind-set is how I get the best performance from them.
How important would A-list actors be for you?
A-listers are important but as I said earlier, I don't write the script keeping someone in mind.
Stars don't guarantee the success of any film. I won't deny that stars assure a good box office run, but the casting has to do justice to the film.
Vidya and Emraan were on the same page with me from day one. Apart from Emraan and Vidya, we even had Rajesh Sharma and Namit Das audition for the characters in the film and I felt they were the best options for these roles.
Image: Namit Das, Rajesh Sharma and Emraan Hashmi in Ghanchakkar
'I would make a film which has over-the-top comedy'
How do you think Ghanchakkar takes you forward as a director?
I've always wanted to direct something like this. My inspiration comes from the surroundings we live in and the people and I thought this film related to our daily lives.
The script inspired me to make a dark and humorous film. I think this is my best film to date. I have matured as a filmmaker and as a storyteller.
A lot of comedies made today are over-the-top or slapstick. Would you ever direct a film like that?
I am happy that everybody is getting to make the films that they want to make. Every director makes a choice of the kind of film he wants to make.
I wanted to make a film like Ghanchakkar and now that it is done, I want to know people's reaction to it. At this point, I don't think I would make a film which has over-the-top comedy.
Image: Vidya Balan in Ghanchakkar
'I wanted to become a banker at one point of time'
How did you get interested in filmmaking?
I grew up in Hazaribagh in Jharkhand and did my schooling there. I graduated in commerce from a college in Delhi. My father was a banker with SBI and I also wanted to be a banker at one point.
While in college I was inclined towards theatre and I used to write for myself. I realised I had to come to Mumbai, but I didn't really know what to do. I applied for a diploma course in filmmaking from Xavier's Institute of Communication. There I developed the inclination to make films.
How did you start assisting Anurag Kashyap?
I had not told my parents that I was in Mumbai. When I got admission, I realised that the fees were too much to pay. When I contacted my family they were a little upset; they didn't have anything good to say about the city as they had only seen Mumbai through television.
Still, they agreed to pay the fees. After almost a year, I started doing freelance work in advertising and through that I met Anurag Kashyap. I assisted him on two films -- Black Friday and No Smoking. Simultaneously I was writing.
Are you still in touch with Anurag?
Yes, but we don't talk very often. He is busy with his work and I am busy with mine.
Image: Emraan Hashmi and Vidya Balan in Ghanchakkar