With an unusual story about a protagonist suffering from Tourette syndrome, Siddharth P Malhotra approached a lot of producers for Hichki only to get rejected, but the director is now beaming with a smile and enjoying the success of the film. The Rani Mukerji-starrer, which released last week, has been lauded by both the critics as well as the audience, and Malhotra is “still numb” that the movie he “breathed, lived, consumed” for five years is getting overwhelming response at the box-office.
“I pitched it to every person in the world and everyone told me ‘don’t make a film about a teacher, what is Tourette syndrome, are you mad and this isn’t a commercial film’. Some heard me, some said I’ve lost the plot,” Malhotra told PTI.
“Then even I questioned myself – do I have it in me, have I really lost it? I went through this many times. I’ve been really fortunate that I got Yash Raj Films to back my story,” he adds. Malhotra says he holds no grudges towards anyone for rejecting the story. “I thank them for teaching me more humility and that one shouldn’t lose faith.” Rani, who plays the lead character in Hichki, however, was not the first choice for the role.
“There was someone else but due to dates and other things it didn’t fall into place. At that point of time, Rani had just delivered her baby so we didn’t even know if she’d considering coming back. When we met Aditya Chopra, he said she may say no to you but let’s give her a narration,” he says.
Malhotra says Rani liked the story after the first narration, but was initially unsure about how to approach the part. “Earlier she had said ‘don’t take me because my priority is Adira today’. We had to figure out how to shoot with her for five hours in a day. As I knew the film inside out, there was clarity and it helped us in shooting the film,” he adds.
Hichki is an adaptation of US-based motivational speaker Brad Cohen’s autobiography, Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had. After his nephew saw the film, Front of the Class, the 2008 film which was based on the book, he asked Malhotra if he could direct it for Indian audience as he is good with handling emotions and drama.
Then, the rights were bought and writers of hit Marathi film Balak Palak — Ganesh Pandit and Amber Hadap — along with Malhotra and Raj Mehta wrote the first draft of the film in 2013. But producers were still no where in sight. The script back then had a male central character.
Later, the turning of the lead role from male to female — on producer Maneesh Sharma’s suggestion — happened but it didn’t alter the screenplay much. For the film, in which Rani’s character is assigned to teach a new class ‘9F’, the We are a Family director says he drew that from one of his one unreleased television shows.
‘9F’ came from his first ever TV show called Class 9, which never got released. Malhotra, then aged 15, had shot the pilot of the show, which then trickled down in the story of Hichki decades later.”That way I had the story of two underdogs. One, the teacher and second, the students that nobody wants to teach,” he says.
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