Bewakoofiyaan did a business of around 14 crores in two weeks. What were your expectations from the film and what was the response it got?
I was honestly hoping and expecting more people to watch Bewakoofiyaan. Many felt the film should’ve just been about the couple and how they deal with job issues/lack of money. There could have been a strong, in-depth look at their relationship under those pressures. Also the music didn’t catch on as much as it should have. In hindsight one can see all the mistakes. Of course, as the director, I obviously take responsibility for the film.
The film was breezy and cool with all the right ingredients for a romantic comedy- young likeable lovers, a happy ending and engaging performances by the three principal actors being engaging. So what, according to you, went wrong; the low key promotions or was there not enough drama in the film?
Well, whoever saw the film liked it. The critics’ reviews were mixed and there was already a very strong wonderful film like Queen in the theatres; so I think when it came to making a choice as to which film to watch, Queen clearly won hands down.
Yes, the promotions were low-key but if the film had to connect with the audiences, it would have, despite everything. The overall feeling amongst viewers appears to be that though it was a well-made film, the storyline was not new.
In your first film Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge (MFK), you worked with a lot of newcomers. This time round, it was established names. Describe your experience, especially with Rishi Kapoor?
I love working with newcomers as much as I do working with established names. I had a lot more time on MFK prep, whether it was workshops with the youngsters, script or music. Rishi Sir is a legend and it was quite a high to work with him. It was also challenging in a good way. I had to be on top of my game because he knows pretty much everything about film-making. He is not only a spontaneous actor who knows exactly how to finely chisel his performance, he also has a director’s mind so I was constantly on my toes. I didn’t want to be caught out! He’s also a team player and to have someone like that on set is really wonderful.
I think this is one of Sonam’s finest performances. She is very hard working. She really became Mayera, the character who is a cosmopolitan, independent girl yet she wants her father and boyfriend to get along. She doesn’t believe in rebelling and leaving her only parent to go and get married. She wants it all to happen happily. Sonam played her part with an understated ease that didn’t reveal the effort that went into making it look like that. She has also been an assistant director before she became an actress so she understands the process of film-making quite intricately. It was a joy to have her on the sets.
As for Ayushmann, he is an outstanding actor who is very enthusiastic about his craft. He loves doing takes and will try something new each time. It’s very nice to be given choices in interpretation by an actor. Essentially a subtle actor, he has a lot of range. He’s one of the best in his age group today and will go very far.
What is the most challenging part of making a romantic comedy and will your next one also be a romcom?
I think you have to work really hard on a romantic comedy. You have to be saying much more than just a superficial love story. That’s what we tried with, setting it in the shiny hard corporate world of Gurgaon; the layer of recession and the hero getting fired from his job; and the couple that initially thought it was cool to have the girl earning more than the guy suddenly finds themselves breaking up over lack of money when egos and insecurities get in the way. Even the father who initially thought that money was more important in keeping a relationship/marriage going than love, realises that with love you can battle the world. No, my next one will not be a romcom. I’m working on a few ideas right now. Let’s see which one takes shape.
Is it hard to find that right tone between funny and real and could you talk about any one scene which was the most challenging?
For me, the beginning of the film and the climax were quite a challenge. The setup was a long extended montage with ‘scenelets’ that spelt out the relationship between the three protagonists and I had to figure out ways to keep it all engaging till the first story beat kicked in.
The climax was long. There was a lot of dialogue and there was an extended ending over which we had a background song. To sustain the tempo investment in my characters I had to keep it funny yet real. And I wanted the audience to feel like they were biting into a gooey cheesecake and savoring it. I think somewhere that worked because most viewers walked away feeling happy and warm about the film.