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Director Sharat Katariya on the unusual subject of ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’

Writer-director Sharat Katariya on the unusual subject of Dum Laga Ke Haisha and collaborating with Kanu Behl for Titli.

Written by Sankhayan Ghosh |
Updated: March 2, 2015 9:57:31 am
Dum Laga Ke Haisha; Sharat Katariya, A still from Dum Laga Ke Haisha; Katariya started his journey in films as an assistant director to Rajat Kapoor. (Source: Still/Facebook)

At the time when he was ‘struggling’ to become a screenwriter, Sharat Katariya would begin his day like anyone with a regular job. He would finish the domestic chores, get dressed, dab himself with a spot of perfume, wear his shoes and pack his bag. Only, instead of leaving for office, he would walk to the other room of the house to write. (Read Review: ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’)

This was Sharat Katariya’s way of conditioning his mind lest he get tired of the monotony of sitting at home, the only place he could write in peace. It would take several years, a number of rejections and a failed directorial debut, 10 Ml Love (2012), before this discipline would pay off for Sharat Katariya, whose next, ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha‘ (DLKH), opened to favourable reviews on Friday. “Irrespective of whether my film works or not, I have to keep writing, spend hours at my desk every day and try to make magic happen,” says Sharat Katariya, seated at the Andheri office of Yash Raj Films, producers of the film.

This year will also see the theatrical release of ‘Titli’, which he has co-written with the film’s director Kanu Behl. The film received rave reviews when it premiered at the prestigious Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival last year. Also up for release in 2015 is the highly-anticipated ‘Fan’. Sharat Katariya has co-written the dialogues for the film, which has Shah Rukh Khan playing the lead.

How Sharat Katariya, who started as an assistant director to Rajat Kapoor in 2002, came to work in the three films is interlinked. ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’s script was selected at the NFDC Screenwriter’s lab. His mentor there, Urmi Juvekar suggested Katariya’s name to Kanu Behl who was looking to collaborate with a writer for Titli. It was through Behl then that ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha‘s script reached Yash Raj Films, who decided to produce ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha‘, and also Maneesh Sharma, the director of ‘Fan’.

Sharat Katariya’s second directorial feature has generated a buzz owing to its unusual subject — the story is of an overweight girl (debutante Bhumi Pednekar) married to a lean boy (essayed by Ayushmann Khurrana). The hook makes for an interesting premise. Katariya got the idea when he saw a calendar of unusual sports at a friend’s place — besides tomatino and beerfest, it featured a wife-carrying championship. But the writer-director is too clever to know that the idea would end up being a stunt unless backed by a coherent story.

“The one-line brief was quirky and funny, but the film had to offer more than that. As I started writing, the competition became incidental and the film instead became about accepting who you are,”  he says. For the girl, it’s her appearance whereas for the boy, it’s his failure and the fact that he doesn’t get to have a say in his marriage. “The film tells the story of two mismatched people coming together,” explains Katariya, a Delhi boy, who did his post-graduation in mass communication from Jamia Millia Islamia before he moved to Mumbai to pursue a career in films.

A fan of American romantic comedies from the ’50s, especially those of Billy Wilder, Katariya says that he is inspired by their writing, the solid female characters and the ability to break stereotypes. What he has internalised into his craft is the dramatic irony of Wilder’s movies. “ ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’, for example, revolves around a dysfunctional family. I had first thought of setting it in Mumbai but I switched to Haridwar, a place where people come from all over the world in search of peace,” he says.

Talking about his writing process, Sharat Katariya says he is better with individual scenes and moments, sometimes even deviating from the main trajectory of the story. This quality made him the perfect foil for Behl — who has a different approach to writing — while working on Titli, a triptych of stories set in the underbelly of Delhi .

“Kanu is a deeper person than me. He would attack the core of the story with clarity about the overall structure. Whereas I would work on the situations, the characters and their headspace. Often, I wouldn’t be sure where I was going but would go searching for it. It was a perfect marriage,”  says Katariya.

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