Ankur Pathak in Mumbai
Shoojit Sircar is an ecstatic man.
His 2012 film, Vicky Donor collected three National Awards (Best Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment, Best Supporting Actors for Annu Kapoor and Dolly Ahluwalia), something he didn't think was possible.
The director didn't even think the film would gather the mainstream acceptance that it eventually did.
From sperm being the word frowned upon, it went on to become one of the coolest things in town. Disposing myths and stigma attached to it, the film's success also revealed a progressive shift in the attitudes of Indian audiences.
In this interview with Ankur Pathak, Sircar talks about Vicky Donor's unprecedented success, the road ahead and why he will always be grateful to the advertising industry.
We read that after you saw the news of Vicky Donor bagging three National Awards, you broke into a sperm dance. Well, what exactly is a sperm dance?
(Laughs) I was extremely ecstatic. I did not know how to react so I broke into a dance.
Sperm-dance is what Dr Chadda (Annu Kapoor) does in the film when he is happy beyond measure. It is that one step that kind of conveys happiness which words fail to express.
'It was a very important moment for all of us'
Who was the first person you called after receiving the news?
First, I called up my wife. I told her about the awards and she felt very proud. Then, I spoke at length with my entire crew, and of course, Mr Annu Kapoor and my producer John Abraham. It was a very important moment for all of us.
While writing the film did it ever occur to you that it may get recognised at the National Awards?
No. I didn't think of it at all. I vaguely felt that Anu Kapoor might get the award but never did I think that it would win in the Best Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment category.
We were anyway dealing with something that is considered as taboo in Indian society. So the encouraging reaction by the audience and now at the National Awards in itself came as huge surprise.
'Vicky Donor is now seen as a case study'
So what do you think this kind of mainstream acceptance for a film like Vicky Donor says about us as a society?
It is remarkably progressive. We have surely grown as an audience and are more liberal in our thinking now. What it also says is that one should never underestimate the potential of the audience.
Has there been any radical change that you have seen post the film's release?
Yes. Vicky Donor is now seen as a case study and the intelligentsias are looking at it from a strong academic point of view.
I keep getting calls from medical practitioners who constantly thank me for making this film. They say it has disposed off a huge taboo and guys are more willing to become sperm donors than ever.
Even couples are more open to the idea of artificial insemination. I think if the film has bought about this kind of a change and awareness, I would consider it quite radical.
'I wouldn't change anything about the film at all'
But did you make the film with the intention of breaking the taboo attached with sperm-donation or is it only now that it has become much bigger and important than what it originally set out to be?
No, I never intended to make a social commentary. My idea was to just make a film on a doctor who is on a hunt of the perfect sperm-donor and how their equation develops.
Those were the only two characters in my head and we wanted to tell their story. A lot of the credit should deservingly go to Juhi Chaturvedi as the concept and ideas were entirely her own. We later went on to develop other scenes together.
Was it a very conscious decision to cast only fresh faces, Ayushmann Khuranna and Yami Gautam?
No. I approached a few established names but things didn't work out with them. Honestly, I knew that the big stars would have a problem playing this particular part, so I thought forget it, let's go only with new faces.
Everybody in the cast is a fresher other than of course, the great, great Annu Kapoor.
If there is one thing that you could change about Vicky Donor, that would be?
A lot of people have told me that I could have done better with the ending. But trust me, that was the most fitting closure I could think of while we were working on the script.
And I still stand by it. I don't think I could have ended it in a better way. So I wouldn't change anything about the film at all.
'After Vicky Donor, producers have realised the importance of unconventional themes'
How has John Abraham been as a producer? Will you continue your association with his production house?
The marriage with John Abraham's production house has been very fruitful. We are enjoying each other's working sensibilities and we hope to continue this association.
John is a very interesting producer and has a lot of ideas and better, is open to many ideas. He is very clear in his head as far as the business aspect is concerned and encourages bold themes.
Which films inspire you?
Pather Panchali and Apu Sansar by the legendary Satyajit Ray. There is so much to learn from the master. At some point, I may like to remake these films.
Despite the roaring success of Vicky Donor, your other film Shoebite -- starring Amitabh Bachchan -- is still left in the cold.
Yes, and that is very unfortunate. It has been ready since a while now. Wherever I go, I make appeals for its release. I don't even understand why a film that has Amitabh Bachchan in it should be stuck.
But after Vicky Donor, producers have realised the importance of unconventional themes and that is the only way ahead.
Enough of the formulaic stuff. I am not saying pot-boilers are going to stop coming, but there should be other quality-centric films to off-set them, to maintain a steady balance.