Hardik Mehta directorial Kaamyaab will hit screens on March 6.
What has been your fascination with those tagged as ‘character actors’?
The fascination originates from being a movie fan. I have grown up watching all these trashy films of the ’80s and the ’90s, until movies like Hum Aapke Hain Kaun..! (1994) and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) changed the landscape of Hindi cinema. Earlier, movies used to have stereotypical tracks — the hero has to avenge the father’s death with some comedy scenes thrown in. There used to be these typical henchmen. There would be a set of lower-rung villains, then middle-rung baddies and then their top boss. When a certain actor appeared on screen, the audience already knew what she/he would do. On screen, DK Sapru used to be a rascal while Mahavir Shah often played a corrupt cop.
Why do you think Hindi films went for this kind of typecasting?
When I spoke to the actors who played such stock supporting characters, I realised that there used to be 25-30 takes for the film's hero. But the character actors had to do it in one or two takes. Directors would always go for somebody who knows how to deliver a particular line. These actors were often told: “Pichhle film mein jo kiya tha bas wohi kardo (Do what you had done in your last film).” They knew that they were not going to be cast as a hero, but doing these roles would keep them in circulation.
Since Mukri was short, he was often cast as a comedian. He could have been a dreadful villain. With web series and other platforms opening up, actors have many options today. Gajraj Rao, for instance, does a TVF (The Viral Fever) video as well as Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. He is getting a whole range.
Why did you cast Sanjay Mishra, who has played stereotypical characters in the early phase of his career?
I wanted to cast a character actor and not someone like Jackie Shroff or Amitabh Bachchan. That’s why I thought of Sanjay Mishra, who was so amazing in Ankhon Dekhi (2014). He has been fascinated with all these character actors too. He would imitate most of them during the shoot of Kaamyaab. Sanjayji has made a career out of imitating Jeevan in Rohit Shetty’s movies such as All the Best, and speaking with a nasal twang. His dialogue ‘Dhondhu just chill’ is used in so many memes.
A scene from Kaamyaab
Kaamyaab shows rivalry between Mishra’s character Sudheer and Avtar Gill, who plays himself. How did you come up with that?
In a screenplay, after some 20 pages when you have established your character’s journey, the following pages are fun and games. I wanted an engaging banter between the protagonist and Avtar Gill, who had to play himself. He can pass off as a little mean guy. Yet, he can do comedy. I was most nervous about approaching him. He could have said that he would play the character but the name should not be Avtar Gill. That would have defeated the purpose. However, he said let’s do it.
Once these actors were on board, how did they contribute to the script?
Sanjayji has been through all this from the early ’90s. This was almost semi-autobiographical for him. He gave us block dates. The script started sounding much better when these actors, Deepak Dobriyal and Sanjayji, started contributing to their parts. It was Sanjayji’s idea that as soon as an actor steps into the casting director’s room for auditioning (in the film), there should be applause. This shows how actors love to be applauded. We used to discuss the typical music that used to be played in the climax for a chase, fight or kidnapping. The idea was that we show trashy stuff but with love and nostalgia.
Your second movie Roohi Afzana releases in April. How would you describe your journey so far?
With back-to-back releases, I feel like David Dhawan. In 2009, I started working in movies. Somen Mishra (head of script development at Dharma Productions) has a theory: If you are an outsider, the rule is that you have to undergo 10 years of struggle or write 10 scripts before you can turn into a director. It kind of came true in my case. Most people, who move to Mumbai to make films, should understand that there is no other alternative than working hard. Even while working as an assistant director, I used to try and write for two hours. It helped that during the post-production of Lootera (2013) its writer-director Vikramaditya Motwane as well as his friends, such as Devashish Makhija and Abhishek Chaubey, read my writing and gave feedback. Filmmakers like Motwane and Anurag Kashyap encourage you to do something on your own. Then, someone like Manish Mundra gives you the money and lets you do what you want.
In Roohi Afzana, we have visually challenged ourselves with some very cool locations and Harry Potter-ish kind of fantasy lighting in the night in a forest. The script is humorous. Rajkummar Rao and Varun Sharma had a ball while shooting it. Janhvi Kapoor is going to surprise the audience.