When Veena Bakshi tired of making ads veered towards feature films,the concept of a dialogue with Death fascinated her. And who better to hold this dialogue with than a coffin maker. The movie The Coffin Maker,which premiered at the 44th International Film Festival of India (IFFI),Goa,and also took part in NFDC Film Bazaar,has generated a lot of curiosity among the audience as well as buyers. The debutante director talks about making her first feature,finding the right cast and choosing Goa as its location.
You have used Goan English in the film. Will it work for a larger audience?
No,it wont and I dont mind that. In my initial script,I could not make my characters speak in proper Hindi as Goans are not Hindi-speaking people. I had given them tapori Hindi. And a friend of mine,who read the first draft,said that it sounded like Munnabhai. Then I took a conscious decision to use Goan English with a smattering of Konkani.
Besides direction,what made you write the story?
Even though I am not a writer,I started penning it since I loved the concept. I wrote it because no one else will know my characters other than me. It was an extremely difficult script to write because of its simplicity. Every time it sounded complicated,I rewrote those parts.
My friends loved the script. However,one friend told me its beautiful,but no one will back it. So I put it aside and started writing a commercial film. But then,I met Bharat Vijan.
Getting Ratna Pathak Shah and Naseeruddin Shah together is quite a coup. How did you manage that?
From the beginning,I wanted Naseeruddin as Anton Gomes,the coffin maker. Fortunately,he loved the script. Though Ratna liked it too,she was not sure if she would be able to pull off a Goan character who speaks Konkani. Once she was convinced,she had her own inputs.
What made you cast Randeep Hooda as Death?
I wanted a certain mischief in Death. I see death as young compared to life which is old. But for a long time,I could not get the right actor. I was at a party when I heard someone laugh out loud. It was a mocking laughter and I loved that sound. I turned to find Randeep and some of his friends pulling someones leg. Though he had some apprehensions initially,he held himself very well. He had to be convinced that no one is greater than death and he is all powerful.
How come most of your cast is from theatre?
I like the discipline of theatre actors. As a director,I want to work with actors who understand their characters and dialogues. I wanted actors who become the characters.
How would you describe the experience of writing and directing your first film?
It is difficult for a woman director to make films. Technical fields in our industry are still considered to be a male domain. Its tough for a woman director to come out there and say that I know my job. It takes time. But do I regret it? Not at all. Now,I have also discovered the writer in me who loves to tell stories.
Why did you stop making ads?
I learnt my craft from ads. But after a point,it became all about the next ad and budget. I wanted to explore something more. It so happened that I started getting less work. So I thought maybe its a sign from above. I shut my production house in 2003 and moved on. I had to teach myself how to write a script for a feature film and how to direct one.
Will you make a commercial film next?
I have two more scripts and I should start working on one of them. For me,every movie is commercial and it should make money. You either make a good or a bad film. I must confess I dont know how to write big-budget Bollywood films.