Ever been in a situation where a person walks into a room and lights the whole atmosphere up? That is exactly the kind of aura that actor Vidya Balan radiates on the sets of her upcoming slice-of-life film, Tumhari Sulu. Known to be an infectiously cheerful person, here’s a first-hand experience of shooting with this ‘mad’ and ‘insane’ actor from Tumhari Sulu’s producer Atul Kasbekar.
Atul says, “Vidya is completely insane on the sets. She walks into the venue and everybody is like boosted like there is this happy human being among us now. She is quite mad, she will constantly be playing the fool, constantly be joking or pulling a prank on somebody, and this is exactly who our lead character Sulochna is.”
Tumhari Sulu is a slice-of-life comedy about a Mumbai housewife who is a homemaker in the day and an RJ in the night. And not just any RJ, a fiesty, sweet talking with her callers kind of RJ. If Vidya’s booming “Good morniiiinngg Mumbaaii” rings in your ears on reading this, you are on the right track because that is exactly what happened with the makers. Atul adds, “Sulu’s character was written by Suresh Triveni (the director and writer) keeping Vidya in mind.”
And Atul also reveals that if Vidya had said ‘No’ to the film, there was no Plan B, that was the end of it. But there’s also a catch. Seeing Vidya in meaty roles like the ones in The Dirty Picture, Kahaani and Ishqiya in the past, we all know that she is a talent powerhouse but lately her choice of films has not been doing justice to her talent.
Atul justifies how Tumhari Sulu has more chances of receiving the love of the audience because Sulu’s character is ‘tailor-made’ for Vidya, “in the sense that Vidya is a very happy person, in general.” He adds, “The last three of her films (Begum Jaan, Kahaani 2, Humari Adhuri Kahaani) had a certain amount of seriousness attached to her roles. Whereas Tumhari Sulu is actually her genre. After Tumhari Sulu is released, this will definitely be looked as Vidya’s top two films so far, that is in terms of her performance, I promise you!”
Sharing a funny anecdote from the sets of Sulu, Atul shares how Vidya kept asking co-actor Manav Kaul about the state of his love life. Manav, on the other hand, was very reticent to let out any detail. He narrates, “Manav told Vidya “yaar, darwaza band kar chuka hun mein ab (I have closed that door now!”, so she asks him, ‘Khidki khuli hai ki nahi? (Is the window still open?)’ And when Manav said yes, she goes and orders a t-shirt for him which says ‘Khidki Khuli Hai’ and of course he went jumping up and down about it.”
Manav Kaul, who plays Vidya’s husband in the film, has previously done supporting roles in films such Kai Po Che, Jolly LLB 2 and Wazir. But this is his first lead role. Talking about which, Atul reveals how Vidya’s “generousity” as an actor let all her co-stars be really comfortable with their roles. He explains, “So, if Vidya is there for a 100 percent of the film, Manav is there for 70 percent of the time. And it was not easy for Manav to act in front of someone with that kind of reputation coming in. It is like performing in front of Meryl Streep or something. It is a big deal. But Vidya is just so generous in her scenes. She understands that if the movie doesn’t look good, she doesn’t look good. So, she makes it very easy for people to work with her. Even with Neha Dhupia, or anyone, she is standing there giving her lines with the same emotion that it is easier for a co-actor to seed off that.”
As a producer, Atul Kasbekar ventured into Bollywood with Sonam Kapoor’s Neerja. While both Neerja and Tumhari Sulu are both small-budget and content-driven films, Atul says that for him, it is more about looking at spaces that have not been covered. He quips, “When we read Neerja, for us, it was a hijack film at the start and nobody had done that. And with Sulu, it is very well-written, urban, slice-of-life comedy kind of story and it reminded me very much of one of my favourite directors, Hrishikesh Mukherjee. That kind of humour and the simplicity of just good writing and performances, I feel, had not been done in the comedy space for a long time. So, it’s revisiting an era gone by and is a modern-day version of it.”
Atul’s hijack drama Neerja had even went on to bag the National Award Best Hindi film for the year 2016. And considering it was his first film, that is a huge feat for him. Sharing his insight about the industry’s status currently, Atul says that for a movie to do well at the box office, there are two things that matter — it has to honest to its genre and it has to be fresh. He shares, “So, whether I am talking to my driver or an industry pundit, I have realised that these two things are, somehow, what people look for in a film. And you know, random strangers have walked up to me and said that Neerja was made so honestly. So, it’s like it is not a conscious choice, we just wanted to be respectful to the people who lost their lives and not over-dramatize it. Because the reality itself was so harsh and incredible that we didn’t need to do anything earth-shaking.”
Will Tumhari Sulu be able to live up to the same standards? It hits the theaters on November 17.