Filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra dons the director's hat after 13 long years. The man was waiting for a story that could bowl him over and in his words 'Shikara' does that rightly so. He regards it as one of his finest works and I could see the sparkle in his eyes as he spoke about the film, how and why he didn't choose established actors, his take on changing phase of Indian cinema and much more.
You didn't want to cast someone who came with a lot of baggage. How did you find these your leads for Shikara- Aadil Khan and Sadia?
It took us 2 years to find them. I must have easily auditioned 200-300 people. What's surprising is that this girl Sadia was helping us find girls in Jammu. And then Indu Sharma, who was casting, showed me her girl's picture, saying let's try her. There was something about her that was magical. When I spoke to her father on phone, he didn't believe that it was me on the call. It was so funny. Then, when I did a Facetime with him and when I said 'Bhai, Khuda Haafiz', I saw that the entire village had gathered in the background. For the main guy, I needed a voice like Mr Amitabh Bachchan’s. Honestly, yeh mera best talent spot hai, kyuki maine ispe jaan lagayi hai.
To make a film like this, you're clearly not looking for money or awards. Where is it coming from?
It’s for my mother (who left Kashmir after the ouster of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990). She had come for Parinda premiere and she didn't return. How would you feel? Imagine, she couldn't back to her own house. Now, she is no more. But immediately after her death, I started writing this film in 2008. So it is like a tribute to her. I wouldn't have made this film if I was not a Kashmiri. I would have gone back to Munnabhai, 3 Idiots or something like that.
In today's times, how difficult was it to get permission to make a film like this?
It's difficult. However, I think the people and the State Government trusted me. They knew what I was doing. It was not like I was fooling them. They all helped me and believed in me.
Didn't you face any obstacles from any party?
I had a few obstacles but that happens in every sphere. You have to overcome them.
And from the Censor Board?
They were very kind. They loved the film. Some of the women in the committee even invited me over for dinner.
Were any feelers sent to you from any party that they want to see the film before it releases?
No, but I would definitely want all of them to see it. Right from the opposition to the Prime Minister, all should see this film.
Are you a hands-on producer?
Producer is a bullshit term. I should be called Co-Creator because I'm not merely the producer at all.
You have worked with Hirani on quite a few films. He too has strong opinions. Any conflicts?
No, people listen to me. You know where the Jadoo ki Jhappi came from. It's crazy. SLB was my assistant. He got one kid to cut my promos. It was a terrible promo. I abused that boy. After 2-3 days, I was bowled over by the new promo. SLB told me that the same boy had cut it. I went ahead and hugged him. That's how Jadoo Ki Jhappi happened.
You mean that boy was Raju Hirani?
Sadia was finalized to select a heroine. How did she become a heroine herself?
See, the first day that I saw her pictures, I knew that this girl is exceptional. She was weeping. I said this is a love story, not a weepy story, I want to see smile in your tears and she smiled through her tears and that was magic. It reminded me of Nutan. I just couldn't believe it.
Has the star-driven cinema changed? Is it different today?
I’m still striving in cinema. I’m still the same who made Parinda. I don���t really know what happens outside. I don’t want to corrupt my cinema. I don’t want to colour my mind. Hence, I don’t see movies. I have only seen Lagaan and Gully Boy in the last 19 years.
Which is the closest film to you apart from Shikara?
I would go with Lage Raho Munnabhai because of Gandhiji. I also like 1942: A Love Story. There was such exceptional music at that time. It’s tough to get melody now.
Why don’t we make melodious music today?
You should ask the listeners.
Not the makers?
When you start catering to the market, instead of creating music or cinema that you believe in, this is what happens. You start doing what you want. So please don’t call them ‘makers’.
In hindsight, any film you feel you could have done it much better that what it was?
That you feel with every film. The moment you start feeling that ‘jo maine kar liya woh greatest hai, then you’re dead’. But with Shikara, I don’t think I could have done any better than this. Two things that touched me are ones that Abhijat Joshi said and Irshad Kamil said.
That ‘Shikara is an achchi and sachhi film’ and that ‘I was born to do Shikara’. Even James Cameron has seen the movie, he has loved it.
Image Source:- starsunfolded/misskyra/vidhuvinodchoprafilms/youtube/
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