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The Accidental Filmmaker

The world of Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar, with its nuances and quirks, has seeped into Vikas Bahl’s Queen


January 19, 2014 12:12:37 am

EyeWith the movie Queen’s trailer going viral, it’s no secret that Kangana Ranaut’s character Rani travels to Europe on her honeymoon alone. This one-line plot struck Vikas Bahl three years ago. Yet, more than 10 drafts later, when he set out to shoot Rani’s story, suggestions and inputs often came in from different quarters on the sets. The script was constantly improvised.

To tell Rani’s story, Bahl had to depend primarily on his experience of a lower middle-class world in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar, where he grew up. “I have lived in the world Rani comes from. I am lucky that it has stayed on with me. So, it was not an effort to take it to the screen,” says the director, whose family, like most of Lajpat Nagar’s residents, migrated from Pakistan during Partition. Life in Lajpat Nagar exposed him to two different worlds. Bahl is confident of knowing how people in Indian small towns think. “If I like a film, chances are that they are going to like it too,” he says.

Humour is expected to play a key role in holding the audience’s attention. By his own admission, Bahl loves to crack jokes. “I even tend to cross the line at times,” he confesses. Ranaut too is known for her sense of humour, while Anvita Dutt — who has co-written the story as well as the dialogues (the latter with the actor) — is pretty “whacked out”. “The combination of the three of us, who have the ability to make a serious situation fun, helped the movie find its flavour,” says Bahl, the former CEO of UTV Spotboy, who co-founded Phantom Films with Anurag Kashyap and Madhu Montena.

Ranaut also brought in the much-needed understanding of their lives in a small town. “As a man, I could not be sure if I had travelled the whole mile and got the nuances correct as Queen is a girl’s story. I knew Kangana would understand her better. She comes from that world and knows how girls are overprotected and not very ambitious,” he says. The fact that the actor, who is from Dehradun, too has had an amazing journey in the industry, added layers to Rani’s character.

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Today, a prominent name in off-beat Hindi movies credited for producing Udaan, Dev. D and No One Killed Jessica, Bahl’s entry into the industry was unpremeditated. This MBA-graduate’s first taste of showbiz came when the Sony channel hired him. When the channel acquired SAB TV, he became its creative and business head. Later, he took charge of UTV Spotboy, which was set up to support low-budget movies. It is during this stint that he started writing the story of Chillar Party, which captures the efforts of a group of Mumbai children to save a dog. Soon, he grew attached to the story and roped in Nitesh Tiwari to co-write it. Even though they took the script to a few directors, they did not like the changes suggested to them. It took a nudge from Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi to direct it themselves. “Majidi was supposed to make a film for UTV. One day, I narrated the story to him and he told me that only we can tell this story well. The doubts I had about direction was put to rest by Anurag when he said, ‘It’s not tough. Just put up a camera and shoot’,” he says.

Despite the experience of making Chillar Party, Bahl was at a loss for the first few days of shooting Queen. After completing the film, which was shot in nearly 150 locations over 45 days, Bahl is confident of taking on more directorial work. Though he has been toying with a couple of ideas, including one about a mad destination wedding, his next is likely to be The Return Gift. This was written by his friend Saurabh Narang, director of Vaastu Shastra, who passed away in 2010 from cancer. “I have promised his wife that I will make the film. It’s a difficult film to direct. But I am confident of handling it,” says Bahl, who has rewritten the screenplay to suit his style.

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