Vipul Mehta, a known name on the television and theatre circuits, is all set with his Gujarati directorial debut, Carry On Kesar. Here’s Mehta in a tête-à-tête with Rohini Nag Madnani, on why he chose a social subject, and more
What was your inspiration behind Carry On Kesar?
I read about IVF and how it can give couples a new lease of life. The world we live in and the stress levels in our working environment take a toll on our relationships. Now, people are choosing career over family and prefer to prioritise their lives in a way that planning a family has to wait. Couples, at times, wait to have a child and later encounter problems. IVF has helped a lot of couples like these. So I thought why not make a film that would have this social message but at the same time be commercially viable. Hence I wrote a story about a childless old couple who decides to have their own child with the help of IVF.
Supriya Pathak and Darshan Jariwala are two very versatile actors. How did you approach them for the film?
While writing the story, I had imagined Darshan sir in this role. I have done many stage plays and was working with Darshan sir in a play when I approached him and told him that I wanted to narrate a film subject to him. We met the next day and he came on board. He asked me who I had in mind for the female protagonist and I told him I was still contemplating a few names. He mentioned Supriya ma’am and told me that she was keen on doing a Gujarati film and was looking for a good subject. So I approached her and two days after the narration, she came on board. It was a dream come true. Everything, from the cast to the team, came together so naturally that it feels like a blessing.
Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan too have shot for your film. How did that happen?
I know Jaya ma’am very well. I have directed quite a few plays for AB Corp and she comes to watch all my plays. She was supposed to do a television show which I was to write but that never materialised. While writing the script, I had written their scenes too. As the story goes, Kesar, played by Supriya ma’am, is a huge Amitabh Bachchan fan and hence Shyamji, played by Darshan sir, plans their honeymoon to Mumbai just to see Amitabh sir.
In the film, the couple fails to meet Amitabh Bachchan while on their honeymoon and years later, when Amitabh Bachchan gets to know about them and their brave choice of opting for IVF, he wants to meet them. So I spoke to Jaya ma’am and she readily agreed to be a part of the film. She said, ‘Main toh karungi but tum unka dekhlo. I don’t know about him.’ So I officially mailed Amitabh sir and told him about our film. Luckily, he replied that he would be happy to be a part of our film. I was on cloud nine, it was a surreal moment for me.
Initially, we were planning to release our film on November 18 but due to the demonitisation crisis, we held back the release. Back then, something or the other kept getting in the way and he was unable to allot us time for our shoot. I wrote to him again, on November 3, 2016, saying that our film was going to be releasing in two weeks and he graciously allotted us November 9 to shoot with him.
The night before shoot, I couldn’t contain myself and I was unable to sleep. When I did manage to sleep, I actually dreamt that he asked me what the next shot was. I woke up my wife and told her about my dream. I was excited but also nervous as I kept wondering how I would bring myself to say ‘action’ or ‘cut’ to THE AMITABH BACHCHAN. But on the day of the shoot, Amitabh sir and Jaya ma’am were very humble and gracious to have done the special appearance. It was a blessing.
Gujarati films are not only doing well at the box office now, they are rich in content as well.
(Cuts in) Yes, Gujarati cinema has literally risen from the ashes. With more professional producers and filmmakers, Gujarati films are being made with much more seriousness. I feel so lucky to have Kamlesh Bhuptani and Bhavna Sanjay Modi as my producers. People like them have a passion of giving the best to the audience, which is helping Gujarati cinema grow.
We had to shoot at Gondal in Gujarat, where films like Prem Ratan Dhan Payo and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam had been shot. The cost of shooting there was high and I thought we should change the location to contain the budget. But my producers refused to compromise and wanted the best for our film. We even shot on F65 – Pro Sony, becoming the first in Gujarati cinema to use this camera to shoot. The difference is apparent even in the trailers. When you have producers who understand the demands of the script and want to give their best to complement the content of the film, growth of any kind is inevitable.
From budgets to films made every year and government support, the Gujarati industry recently received a big boost. Where do you see the industry five years from now?
I believe the growth in Gujarati cinema will be boundless. We have already sailed towards success with the kind of films that are made now, with growing budgets and technical brilliance. Five years from now, I see our filmmakers making more diverse genres and not sticking to comedy. We already serve up urban narratives but most films are comedies. Our audience has grown and it is up to us to serve them relevant stories.
What is the state of satellite rights, overseas releases and digital rights for Gujarat films?
I am not sure about other Gujarati films but Carry On Kesar will be releasing in many overseas markets a week later than its Indian release, that is, February 24. The subject of our film transcends language and I am sure the emotional connect will be made with the audience, regardless of language. We are releasing the film in Africa, the US, Australia and a few more regions.
What’s next for you?
I will start my next Gujarati film in April. Meanwhile, I am very much active in theatre. It is a dream to direct a Hindi film and I am talking to a few producers but nothing has been finalised yet. I hope to mark my debut in Hindi cinema soon.