As the trailer and songs catch everyone’s attention, the team of Fraud Saiyaan – actors Saurabh Shukla and Arshad Warsi along with producers Kanishk Gangwal and Disha Prakash Jha and presenter Prakash Jha – talk to Team Box Office India about their upcoming film
Box Office India (BOI): Where did the concept of Fraud Saiyaan come from?
Prakash Jha (PJ): About 2,000-4,000 years ago or even before that, when a relationship between a man and a woman started, fraudulence took root. Women have never believed that a man can be right. Even out of love, they say that a man is a fraud. This is the eternal reality. Belief, disbelief and sweet love are a part of every relationship. I think ‘Fraud Saiyaan’ is an excellent title. It has a bit of love in it and a bit of wrangling too. Do you want to say something, Arshad?
Arshad Warsi (AW): I am recording your conversation, sir. In my next interview, I will memorize your lines and repeat them (Laughs).
PJ: This interview is being recorded for the digital space too.
AW: Arrey yaar, saboot le jaate hai sab jagaah! (Everyone laughs)
BOI: How did the cast – Saurabh Shukla, Arshad Warsi, Elli Avrram and Sara Loren – come on board?
PJ: I will have to ask the producers.
Kanishk Gangwal (KG): It was very simple. When the writers came to us with the script and the director, and once we heard about Bhola, the main character played by Arshad sir, it was evident that only he could play this part. Once you see the film, you too will realize that there could be only one choice…
AW: (Cuts in) Which is not a very good compliment for the character in any way (Laughs). They thought that since Bhola was a deceitful and dishonest character, they should cast Arshad for the role. (Everyone laughs)
KG: Yes, Bhola is a very devious character. When we heard about the character in detail, Prakashji, Disha and I unanimously said that…
Saurabh Shukla (SS): (Cuts in) Sourabh Shukla fits the bill!
KG: Correct (Laughs)! Then we thought who could complement Arshad sir.
AW: And so you have Saurabh Shukla opposite me in the film (Laughs).
KG: This is actually what
Fraud Saiyaan is.
AW: This is the closest I can get to a heroine.
KG: The casting was pretty simple, in that sense.
BOI: Arshad, as you said, your character is very cunning and he is a conman.
AW: Jo jo bharaas hai, sab nikaal do.
BOI: But, as is evident from the trailer, Bhola is a very likeable character too.
AW: This is where I try to do my best. In the Munna Bhai films, my character Circuit is very crude. Even Babban from Ishqiya is very crude. I would like people to like these crude characters. I try to make my characters lovable regardless of how negative they are. The same goes for this film. Bhola is wrong in every way but you will still love him for the way he is because he is entertaining.
PJ: Bhola does it with conviction. He has created a different world where the definition of relationships is different, the meaning and value of life is different. He wants to lead a certain life, but to have that he chooses a path that he has created for himself. And he has done that with a lot of conviction. From the trailer, it is clear that he gets caught between two women. He says he is the first woman’s husband and the second woman is his wife.
AW: That is a white lie (Laughs). The whole conversation is happening with the three of them present in the scene. I love that scene. He pretends as if he does not know ki kiski baat ho rahi hai.
BOI: Saurabhji, tell us something about your character.
PJ: His character in the film is also very intriguing.
SS: My character complements Bhola and, in that process, I end up doing a lot of things. Prakashji called me and said he was making a film and that there was a role for me. I knew I would do the film because it is Prakashji’s film. I realized it was a very important character. When I heard the story, it turned out to be even more interesting than had imagined.
The story is about a flawed character. Stories are invariably about flawed characters. When I started doing theatre, someone had explained that a film cannot be made on sadhus and saints. A good person’s story gets over really quickly. When you have a flawed character, you have a bunch of questions cropping up – why is he bad and what is bad about him? He must have something good about him too. Maybe, there is something bad in his goodness. Or maybe, there is something good in his evilness. That is the beauty of the central character in this film, Bhola.
There is a point in the film where you feel that he is right. At one point, he asks where are we going wrong? He says we are only sharing some love. If we are causing harm and hurting someone, that is worse. In return for love, if we are engaging in certain compensations, what is so wrong about that? We also have the right to take something. This is Bhola’s philosophy and it is very intriguing.
As far as my character is concerned, you will realize he is not who he seems to be. That is why I like my character. There is something hidden in him that you figure out during the course of the film. You will then realize why he is the way he appears to be. He meets Bhola, becomes his shishya, and starts earning with him. At the same time, he is doing something else too. The film drops many hints about this but you will find out his ulterior motive only after you watch it.
AW: And that’s the end of the interview. (Everyone laughs)
BOI: Arshad and Saurabhji, having done so many comedy films in the past, would you say that it is a tough genre to crack?
AW: Comedy? Definitely! There are only a few actors who can do comedy. So, yes, it is difficult.
SS: When people talk about comedy, they always say it is a difficult thing. Comedy basically means ‘happy ending’. That is the basic definition. We often loosely refer to humour as comedy. You have to understand that humour is a way of looking at life. People also enjoy a kind of humour where they find joy in other’s sorrows. That is slapstick comedy. I think the finest quality of humour is when you can laugh at yourself. It is easy to laugh at others. It was the thrust in Arshad’s and my character that makes us bring out what we know in life and what we also suffer from because sometimes we are vulnerable… good at times, sneaky at times and most of the time escaping things.
PJ: That is not the only reason the film stood out for me. The other reason was the script. It was very raw. The backdrop of the film was the heartland. Had this film been set in Haryana, things would have been different depending on the native intelligence of the people there. This film is based in Uttar Pradesh, around Varanasi, in areas like Jaunpur and Kanpur. So the characters in the film speak and negotiate like the people living there.
It is not like a lot of tadka has been added against the backdrop of a metropolis. We talk, walk, sit in a car and dress up like the people from UP. Our relationships are also like that. These two characters have sunk into it. Arshad is definitely good. But to counterbalance him, there is Saurabhji with his straight-face humour. It has worked so well. That’s what I liked about the script. When Disha and Kanishk came to me with this proposal, I liked it and I laughed.
AW: Thank you for doing that.
BOI: Since you are both experienced in this genre, are there any improvisations you made while on the set? Like adding some nuances to your character?
PJ: I had made you all sign a contract that you would have to do exactly what was written in the script. (Laughs).
SS: Correct (Laughs).
KG: There is actually a very lovely thing Saurabhji told me on the set one day, that the scenes were written and the dialogue was written according to the terrain we were shooting in like Lucknow or UP. Hence, they were written in a particular fashion. And, sometimes, when you are saying a line, people add something to it and it becomes something else. And Saurabhji told me that it was written from the writer’s perspective. Now, what I am doing is from my perspective. And when I am performing that scene, there will be the characteristic of Saurabh Shukla somewhere or the other.
SS: Since I am a writer myself, I think film writers are very special. You are not writing a novel or a short story, where the pen is in your hand and the mind is yours. It’s a very specialized kind of writing. I believe I was a born in a certain place, I grew up in a certain circumstances, I speak a certain language and I have a certain line of thought.
But Arshad was born somewhere else and he grew up in another environment. Now, we have a common factor, which is the concept. When I take my concept to him, he will interpret it based on his own life. And that will change. That is how and why films are much more layered. If you keep presenting one person’s perspective, there would be no difference between a film and a novel. The good thing about a novel is that the reader interprets it. A film is something where everything is fixed. So, while making the film, people bring their lives into it. I think all film writers should remember that.
PJ: A film is written many times… on paper, in someone’s mind, on the screen, by the actor, by the editor, and everyone who is working on it. When it reaches the audience, they write their own film because they interpret it in their own way. That’s why films are called ‘jeevanth’. It is a ‘live art’ form. Every other art form, apart from singing or performing, is finite. Film has the quality of becoming infinite because everyone looks at it in a different way.
It is not only that Saurabh Shukla and Arshad Warsi, who are acting in the film, are from different places, different backgrounds. The audience too has come from a different space, a different background. You are going to interpret it in a different manner. It is very interactive. When you sit in a dark hall and the screen comes alive, you forget you are sitting in a chair and that there is a screen in front of you. The power of cinema draws you in and you become part of that world.
SS: Let me tell you something interesting. Whenever I used to watch English films when I was young, I wondered why they used to eat dinner when the sun was setting, especially since dinner time was at around 10 pm for us. When I grew up, I travelled and observed different cultures, and realised that in many countries, dinner time or supper time was very early. They eat in the evening as the sun goes down. The moral of this story is that your interpretation depends on where you have grown up and the culture you know.
BOI: Kanishk and Disha, this is your first production. Why this script and this genre?
KG: When Disha and I decided to partner, we didn’t know what kinds of scripts would work, what kinds of stories we wanted to tell. So we randomly started listening to scripts. After listening to 60-65 ideas-cum-scripts, this was an idea that cracked us up. But it was not our call. It excited us but approval would finally come from Prakashji because he was the presenter of the film. So we bounced it off him and in the first go, I think sir, you liked it.
Disha Jha (DJ): Iss ka rachao-basao bahut accha tha, the family that this film comes from. There is a point system that we followed while evaluating every script. And this script received the maximum number of points and so we thought we would make this film.
BOI: The Chamma chamma recreation has become quite a sensation on the Internet. What made you choose that particular song for this film?
PJ: Arshad is solely responsible for that. Now you tell them where it came from.
AW: It came from Tips, where else? And we wanted to see Elli’s legs! I don’t know, Tips decided this. There was a section in the film that needed a song like this and it was chosen. It is a damn good song. It has been recreated beautifully. Elli is a damn good dancer.
DJ: Yes, she was very good in the song. Outstanding!
AW: It was great to have her. I wish I had got to dance with her more.
SS: I actually got to act with her. There was one scene around the dance sequence. Arshad, you were not paying attention to the acting as it is, because you were dancing with Elli.
AW: True. I was paying attention to the fabulous dance (Laughs)
PJ: What did I tell you about his behaviour!
AW: It is because of this behaviour that I was approached for this film (Laughs).
SS: After so many years, I have finally understood why you get films with this kind of behaviour (Laughs).
BOI: Saurabh sir and Arshad, after working together in Jolly LLB, were you more comfortable with each other in this film, especially since you share an interesting camaraderie?
SS: For me, it works in a big way. The reason is that when we were shooting together for Jolly LLB, Arshad had gifted me a very beautiful cigarette case with a lighter. I knew he would continue that trend and give me something during this film too (Laughs). And I was right. He gifted me an amazing pair of shoes this time.
AW: I keep bribing him with gifts.
SS: I am very happy working with Arshad because of this. And this time, I thought I would get a foreign gift or something of that sort (Everyone laughs).
PJ: Their chemistry produces things.
AW: I believe that if you know your job, when you are good at acting and there is no ego involved, the chemistry always works. If you try and outdo the other in that zone, then there is no chemistry.
PJ: Then there is insecurity.
AW: These are the factors that I see. You will notice that there are real-life brothers or actors who are girlfriend-and-boyfriend off screen working together but they have no chemistry. I think the chemistry works when you are secure and you know your job.
BOI: There was talk about the director of the film, Saurabh Shrivastava, not being part of the film. Do you ever fear that these controversial issues might affect the film adversely?
PJ: I hope not. We hope not and we are all still wondering what really happened. He has done a good job, he has worked hard. He was the one who brought the script to us and I have no complaints against him. He should have been there to reap the harvest of his hard work. It is unfortunate that something put him off.
I am still trying to understand it and wish it had not happened. The film will succeed, I can tell you that. It’s already working. The trailer has worked, the songs have worked and the film is working well with us. It is very unfortunate that he is not part of this. All of us enjoyed this journey and we had no problems with him.
KG: None that I know of.
SS: I was actually busy receiving shoes (Laughs).
BOI: Kanishk and Disha, as a production house, what kind of films are you looking to be part of in the future?
SS: Well, the other day, they were telling me they wanted to make the kind of scripts I write. (Everyone laughs)
KG: And the kind of scripts Arshad sir wants to act in. But, jokes apart, let me tell you something that the first decision could be ours but eventually it is also about what others want to do. It could be that we might like the script but actors would not want to be a part of it or we might love a script but it will not be commercially viable. Hence, it helps to have a producer like Prakashji to guide us. He approves or disapproves of a script purely based on those 120 pages. It is not so much about the commercial viability at the first read. But eventually we have to do a logical deduction and figure out if everything is going to fall in place. But, yes, the first thing obviously is that it should excite us. Then we start figuring out the rest.
DJ: I think Kanishk said it perfectly. That is what we are aiming for right now.
KG: But Disha is an absolute commercial keeda.
PJ: It is because she watches every film.
KG: Also, all the music from our films and maybe a couple of songs from Prakash sir’s past films too are approved or disapproved by Disha. She has a really great ear for music and she sings really well too.
BOI: Prakash sir, when they launched this company, as a senior filmmaker, did you pass on any learnings to them?
PJ: Sunte kidhar hai yeh dono?
KG: He does it every day, till today. It is something or the other.
DJ: (Laughs). That is true. He always teaches us something.
PJ: Nahin, yeh log sunte hi nahin hai.
KG: We get shouted at every day but we also learn something every day (Laughs).
BOI: There is a lot of talk about clashes but it is redundant now since we have many films and a finite number of Fridays. Has that apprehension disappeared?
PJ: It’s an interesting thing that the Friday of January 18 is going to be all about cheats and frauds and rangeelas, with Why Cheat India, Fraud Saiyaan and Rangeela Raja all releasing together. That is the kind of weekend that everyone is going to have. So enjoy!
AW: What a way to start the New Year! You have cheats and frauds all over (Laughs)
SS: About these clashes… Whenever we go to a party, do we say that since Arshad has come to the party, should we get more food? There is already enough food since it is a party. Similarly, there is a sufficiently large audience. Every film will find its own audience based on its merit.
AW: I agree. All these things don’t matter.
PJ: The only time it matters is when there are two big films releasing together.
SS: Either two big films or two films that are very similar.
PJ: Yes, then the screen space is cramped. But in a space like this, we have enough cinemas to accommodate all the films.
SS: I am just saying that this film is good. I don’t know about the other films. Yaar hum apni film ke baare mein accha bhi nahi bol sakte kya?
PJ: We are not feeling insecure about this at all.
BOI: Do you have any expectations about the outcome on January 18?
KG: I think the audience will get some really wicked ideas.
AW: Which is exactly what we don’t want the audience to take back (Laughs).
SS: I think the audience will have only one thought when they leave the theatre, and that is that they will come back to watch this film again.
KG: I too hope so.
AW: I think people are going to love this film.
SS: I have to say that I had the most wonderful time shooting for this film. And I would like to thank Prakashji, and Kanishk and Disha for giving me this film. As for Arshad, I hope you keep giving me gifts like these (Everyone Laughs)