Updated: July 29, 2019 10:11:31 am
From fearing his stories might never make it to the big screen to now awaiting the release of his debut film, Jabariya Jodi writer Sanjeev K Jha has come a long, “adventurous” way, as he likes to put it.
A former journalist, Jha tells indianexpress.com he fell in love with the movies while he studied Hindi literature at Jamia Milia University. “I never thought of joining cinema. I always wanted to become a journalist. I came to Delhi but didn’t get through any big institute, and I got admission in Jamia Milia. That’s where I became friends with students from mass comm section. Watching films with them and having long discussions about those movies brought me closer to cinema,” he says.
While literature was a huge part of his growing up years as his grandfather Ramesh Chandra Jha was a renowned poet and novelist of his times, it was Sanjeev K Jha’s journalistic background that shaped him into the screenwriter that he is today. “My area of interest are real stories. Any story that has nothing to do with reality, I don’t even touch. So hypothetical scenarios I don’t like. Because of my earlier profession, I always sat with senior journalists. So, I was intrigued by real things.”
The birth of Jabariya Jodi is hence not surprising and like many other writers, Jha found his maiden story from within his personal space. “While growing up in Bihar, I used to interact with the people, whose job was to kidnap grooms. So, I thought I should start with this one. It was easy for me to create that world,” he says.
Sanjeev K Jha, after living with the story for two years, took his director Prashant Singh and one of his assistant directors to Bihar to make them meet such grooms and people, who are involved in these kidnappings. The writer says, “All the keys scenes that you would see in the film came from real people. But I was also very clear that we were not trying to make a documentary film or something too harsh. That’s how the comic parts came in.”‘
Jha mentions he took the route of the 2012 comedy Vicky Donor as he is a huge admirer of its writer, Juhi Chaturvedi. At the same time, Jha says he was aware moulding a subject like this into a comedy would require extreme caution because it can easily misfire.
“It is risky because there’s a thin line when you’re converting harshness into dark comedy. So, if it’s not created nicely or done without a conscious mind, you will miserably fail. There are many such examples.
“There are, however, good examples too like Life is Beautiful. The 1997 Italian film is inspired by an incident from Holocaust. But they have created a beautiful, light-hearted story. Still, it is risky because once you have written the story, you give it to the producer, the director and the actors and they can either reduce your aesthetics and craft or they might beautify it. So, it is definitely risky in terms of who is making, who is going to take care of your material,” Jha says.
Because he was present on the set while the romantic-comedy was shot, Sanjeev K Jha was satisfied with how it was being made, but he adds he hasn’t seen the final cut so cannot say how the film has eventually turned out. He says, “When I see it, I will talk about it because one thing I am very clear about is that your baby is now somebody else’s responsibility. If they don’t take care of it, then I can do two things. One I will comment about it and two I won’t give my work to such people again.”‘
Ask him about the interesting choices for the lead cast – Sidharth Malhotra and Parineeti Chopra – both of whom have mostly done films with an urban set-up, Jha is all praise for the actors. He also believes casting the “obvious actors” for these roles would have been boring.
“I am 100 per cent satisfied with the way these two have conceived the characters and the way they have blended in. People will be surprised. Sidharth Malhotra’s amazing in the film. Going for the obvious choice is boring. The attempt might work or fail, but one should keep experimenting. Like, I did not like how Saif Ali Khan played the role of a Dalit student in Aarakshan but he was fabulous in Omkara, and both these roles were really different from what he has generally done.”
As he eagerly awaits for his debut feature to hit the screen, Jha can’t help but think about the numerous rejections he faced on his way to Jabariya Jodi. The writer reveals five years ago he wanted to write a script on the life and achievements of mathematician Anand Kumar, whose biopic Super 30 is currently running in theaters. However, he was discouraged by people around him, who told him no one wanted to see a film about a teacher.
“Although writers are still fighting for either credit or pay, at least producers are taking our stories to the big screen. Today, all the so-called mega films are falling and the rooted stories are rising. So, we are in the time of fall and rise. Had this not happened, I would have been screwed up here. Five years ago, when I wanted to tell Anand Kumar’s story, no one was interested. I was told, ‘Teacher ki kahani kaun dekhega? It will be preachy.’ I was looking to adapt literature for a thriller and this one actor kept telling me that why was I going for a book adaptation. He would say, ‘Who reads literature? Who cares about it?’ And now everyone is adapting,” he says.
It needs incredible amount of patience and an unbelievable conviction about one’s own talent to survive in the movies, Jha says. “A writer can look at all of this in a way that he or she has to stick to their guns. I never lost hope, although for some time I was looking for an AD job because films weren’t happening. But even that didn’t work out. So, I started writing again and that’s when I realised that I wouldn’t listen to these people.”
Jabraiya Jodi arrives in theaters on August 9.
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