With his latest offering, filmmaker Umesh Shukla brings together two of the biggest legends of the Hindi film industry – Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor. The actors are going to share screen space after a long hiatus of 27 years and one would assume that working with such mavericks would have been a daunting task for the Oh My God director. But director Umesh Shukla has a completely different story to share. In a conversation with indianexpress.com, he revealed, “There was absolutely no pressure. It was a pleasure working with them. They come with so much experience yet they behave like students on the sets. They are truly a delight to work with, completely the director’s actors.”
Adapted from a Gujarati play of the same name by Saumya Joshi, 102 Not Out is said to be an unusual father-son story where a 102-year-old man is determined to break the record of being the oldest living man. There’s just one problem — he must find a way to change the grumpy demeanor of his 75-year-old son.
“We did a few workshops at Bachchan Sir’s office before the film. All my fear vanished after that. We actually fleshed out everything in the beginning, so that we were clear on the sets. We did so many readings that all of us were very comfortable by the end of it,” added the director.
It wouldn’t have been easy convincing a 75-year-old Amitabh Bachchan to play a character who is 102 years old. But Big B was the only option for Shukla. He had always imagined him essaying the character. Sharing his side of the story, Shukla told us, “Even at the time I was working on the play, I knew that only Bachchan Sir could essay the 102-year-old character. If you see him in real life as well, his personality is so similar to the character. He is so active on social media. He is still working almost 14-16 hours a day. He just has so much of energy that I always knew at the back of my mind that it had to be him.” He added, “I share a close bond with Abhishek, so I asked him to arrange a meeting with Bachchan Sir. When I actually narrated the script to him, in a matter of only 10 minutes, he said ‘yes’ to the role. He didn’t even let me complete the entire narration, he said it’s a brilliant hook and got ready for the film.”
But in all their previous outings, Amitabh and Rishi have played friends or brothers. But it was the father-son relationship that impressed Kapoor the most. “I had previously worked with him in All is Well, so it was easier approaching him. But I didn’t know whether he will be interested in this idea or not. But when I went to him with my writer, I told him that Bachchan Sir has agreed to this and he was very surprised. He was really excited about the chemistry they are going to share and said, ‘bahut mazza aaega karne me.’ It was actually like a dream come true for me,” said Umesh Shukla.
There is a stark difference in the kind of temperament of the two characters Rishi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan portray. While Rishi’s Babulal Vakharia looks like a very grumpy, stickler for rules kind of guy, Amitabh’s Dattu is a more happy-go-lucky, jovial person. Is there a notable distinction in the approach Amitabh and Rishi had towards their characters as well? Shukla answered, “Both the actors are very different in their approach. Bachchan Sir believes in homework and reading well about his character. On the other hand, Chintuji is a very spontaneous actor, he is all about how earlier they used to get the scripts on the sets itself.”
The director also told us how Amitabh and Rishi are completely different people once they wear their makeup and clothes, “They actually become their characters. So whenever they come to the sets, all these things that we associate with stars, like he gets angry very quickly. He is an introvert. He is an extrovert. All these things completely vanish.”
“If the mood is very funny and happening, they will joke around, have fun with the spot boys and light boys as well. But there have also been days when the mood on the set is, you know, a little poised, then they will quietly sit on a chair in a corner. They will do their thing and leave,” Shukla said before signing off.