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That Loving Feeling

Actor Sanjay Mishra along with director Harish Vyas and producer Manav Malhotra talk to team Box Office India about their upcoming film Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain

Box Office India (BOI): Filmmakers are now into making content-driven films. What prompted you to make a film revolving around love and romance?

Harish Vyas (HV): I feel films should have an element of love and romance. People don’t want to see hatred and I felt something should be done around this subject. I feel it enhances the film when the characters open up more.

In this film, we have spoken about romance which is always there in everybody’s life. There is love between old couples sitting at a coffee shop. My mother could not attend the screening of my film as she had to stay with my father, and that is also love. I did not notice all these things before. I think everything is about love, the world survives on it.

Sanjay Mishra (SM): Love ke chakkar mein comedy actor ko cast kar liya.

HV: I believe Sanjay sir is an actor who knows how to do comedy and romance. There are no boundaries for an actor.

BOI: You have also written the script. What was the process like and from where have you drawn your inspiration?

HV: I have drawn inspiration from around me. Somehow I feel the character of Yashwant is also me. In reality, I might not be all that rude but I am unexpressive to an extent. When I was writing the script, I narrated the script to my wife, who heard the entire script and told me, you have never said ‘I love you’ to me. The story has been inspired by my personal experiences.

BOI: How did you get the cast on board?

HV: Sanjay Mishraji was always on my mind because he is a fantastic actor and there is no doubt about that. In our film, you can see two shades of Sanjayji throughout the film. One Sanjayji is very rude and colourless, I would say it is a double role; and the other shade of the character is very soft and even his tonal quality is very polite and fine. You will see how he has even modulated his voice.

Ekavali (Khanna) came on board through a reference. I wanted Pankaj Tripathi to play the role that he has portrayed, he is a fine actor. We narrated the story to him and he liked it. I must say that the casting has been done very well. All the actors have something significant in store, be it a small role or a big role. Mishraji, fits anywhere, whether a film like Golmaal or any other film. Pankajji feels that Sanjayji is like a potato, kahi bhi fit ho jaate hai. And now that he is coming solo, it could not get better than this.

BOI: Sanjay, what made you say yes to the film?

SM: First, I do not get scripts like these; I usually do films that are content-driven and that revolve around social subjects, I have done films like Kadvi Hawa, and this film was very different for me. So right after I finished shooting Kadvi Hawa, I started shooting for this film. I loved the transition of the characters I played from the previous film to this. Also, I was not required to play a particular character. My role is of a layman, he could be any one of us, he could be my father or your father.

For example, Nawazuddin has played the role Manto and that is of a particular character, or for that matter Manjhi, where the protagonist has existed in real life. Ranbir Kapoor in Sanju is playing Sanjay Dutt. But, for me in this film, I am not doing a specific character. The character is of a regular family man. Also, I said yes to the film because of Harish, who likes old songs; he is also very poetic, which comes across in the film. One more reason to do the film was Varanasi.

BOI: Some of your previous films were shot in the heartland of India or in small towns. And this film is set in Varanasi. Do you feel it helps you connect with a certain kind of audience?

SM: Maybe I was supposed to become a scooterwala. Maybe I belong to the places or culture on which my films are based. My next film Kameyaab will be shot in Mumbai, which is a metro city. We belong to small towns, concrete buildings do not make people. It is culture that makes us the way we are. Cities are just demarcated as metros or small towns; everything else is just the same.

BOI: As a producer, what made you believe in the script and back the project?

Manav Malhotra (MM): Harish and I have known each other for a long time. I heard the script long ago and I liked it because our tastes are similar as we studied filmmaking together. After that, I was looking for a reason to see if I could do something. All the old songs Mishraji was talking about, we have grown with those songs. And our brain kind of works like that, like the old films of Tanuja, Sanjeev Kumar or Amol Palekar. We are still stuck in that era of songs and films, we do not really indulge in recent songs.

And when I heard the script, it stirred those same feelings in me. So I thought that if I get a chance to do it, I definitely will. This film was originally started by Mr Bunty Khaan, who is also a producer of the film in Varanasi. Eventually, I got the opportunity to take the project forward and that is how I got involved. I was very fascinated with the script. Also, when I heard that Sanjayji had said yes to the film, I was all gung-ho about it.

BOI: Not many filmmakers take the risk of making films that explore marriage in a realistic way but, lately, there are some films being made on this subject. How do you look at this shift?

SM: I would not call it a shift. We make a film according to the way we want to make it. Sometimes, we let ourselves loose and a film is born out of that. Sometimes, we make a film only for the sake of it. We incorporate a boy, a girl, some romantic and comic elements, and a film is made out of these elements because they are in our control.

Then there are some stories that just come to you. But the problem with our society is that we have created a typical image of a hero. I think a hero and a heroine are made in the process in which a film unfolds. You cannot call someone a hero before a film begins. So there is a process. Until we understand the process, new stories will not be made. The same old stories will continue, which are not bad because it is because of these stories that our industry is still functioning.

Consider that there is no hero and then you see how new stories unfurl. Forget the physical perception of a hero. Else, you will make stories of a similar nature. In Kadvi Hawa, he who is talking about climate change is a hero. In Aankhon Dekhi, the person undergoing a philosophical and spiritual transformation is a hero. For me, someone who does something extra is a hero.  The image of a hero that we have created is very problematic. I think it is time we called someone a hero by the work they do, not by their physical appearance. 

BOI: This is the first time we will watch you as a quintessential romantic hero, who is serenading and wooing his lady love. How was that experience?

SM: What you call a ‘romantic hero’ is basically a character actor. Others might tag him as a romantic hero. They say there are two categories – character actors and central actors. My character is trying to improve his life. He never once gave flowers to his wife but now he is trying to. He is not trying to be a hero, he is just trying. He might be unsuccessful too. When I did the role, this is what I was thinking. I don’t think I would call him a romantic hero.

We have a certain image of romance. I perceive a few films of Manoj Kumar as very romantic. I would call Roti Kapada Aur Makaan a romantic film. I would refer to my feelings for my country as romantic. Kadvi Hawa is a dark romantic film about climate change. We have changed the perception about heroes, but the definition has not changed. It is time to change the definition too.

Harish put it really well when he said that a character becomes a hero through a two-hour film. ‘Hero’ is a very subjective entity. For a daughter, her father is her hero. He does not come riding on a motorcycle and wearing a pair of Aviators. Everyone is a character hero. If an actor is not a character, then he is not an actor. For the sake of films and their business, we have attached the title of a ‘hero’ to actors.

But, yes, sometimes a film is based on you and rests on your shoulders. Even then, you are a character actor. People today want to watch realistic things that they can relate to. It is a great thing that is happening in Indian cinema. We have created categories for actors – comic, antagonist, romantic. These are labels for casting, not for the audience, press or media. 24mm, 50mm and 100mm are all camera techniques. These are not for us to decide.

HV: Even locations are changing. People are increasingly shooting in smaller towns like Bareilly, Mathura and Varanasi. Initially, they used to only shoot in Mumbai, Delhi or at international locations. Now, they are shooting in real locations.

SM: Films have become more regional.

BOI: What do you think the audience will relate to most in the film?

HV: I think the audience will relate to the film because it is a very simple story. For me, making a simple film is more difficult because simplicity is not easily achieved. In this film, we are conveying a simple message in a very simple way. There is no ornamentation. Whenever simplicity disappears, happiness also disappears. When people watch the film, they will think, ‘it is my story’. The characters will remind you of family members. When we were screening the film in the film festival in New York, there were a few women who said that the character of Yashwant reminded them of their husbands. We have received many reactions like that.

SM: Once they come to the theatres, they will relate to the film. Calling people to theatres is the work of the media. We all drink water, people in the film also drink water. You worship a basil plant, people in the film do the same. Neighbours fall in love in real life, the same thing happens in the film too. Things like these are really relatable. Then there is the character of Pankaj Tripathi, who says that life is too short to love. In the case of my character, his life is too long but there is no love. Everyone will relate to these things.

MM: It is a unique film because in every household, there are certain things that we take for granted. When you come home, certain things will happen and these too are portrayed in the film. Every time you come home, you see that things are orderly – the house is clean, the cushions are properly placed on the sofa, the utensils are kept in their right places in the kitchen.

Over time, you tend to take those things for granted and start thinking that this is what love is. We have touched on that subject where you need to make an effort sometimes. You have to express yourself. We realise the importance of things only when they are not there. Then you have to do those things yourself.  It is then you realise that you have spent your entire life taking people for granted. This happens to everyone. That is something that people will relate to when they watch this movie.

BOI: There are four other films releasing on the same day that Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain is releasing. Any apprehensions regarding that?

MM: That can’t be helped and we will have to live with it. But at the same time we also have to believe in the positivity and in the film. That feeling is very good. We are not scared of anything else, we are just focusing on our work and on what we have to do. Jo humse ho pa raha hai wo hum kar rahe hai. We are being honest about our film, we are not saying things like ye bahot hi hatke hai aur pata nahi kya jadoo kar jayegi. So we are just talking about what the film is, what it can do, how people can relate to it. Of course there are apprehensions. That’s only human.

SM: One more thing, Manav is our producer and we are very grateful that our independent producers are supporting us and understanding the seriousness of it by looking at its background. This is an amazing gesture.

BOI: How do you think the audience will react after watching this film?

HV: Considering the way this film has been made, if a husband goes home and gives his wife a bouquet of flowers, then it would be great. If he takes her out to a movie too, that would be a bonus.

 

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