Interview on 'BADMAASH COMPANY'
1. How did Badmaash Company take birth?
Badmaash Company actually happened all of a sudden in my life. Mein ek aur film likh rahaa tha Aditya Chopra ke liye. That film was approved but had to be put on the back burner due to some events that happened in Mumbai and we couldn't shoot that film. Adi told me you will have to wait a minimum of six months to make this film. Now I had stopped acting. I didn't want to act on TV anymore. I had told all my producers and directors. I didn't know what to do. So Adi said look why don't you write another one. I said it's easier said than done. I had mentally decided then that I would go back to acting. So I thought I'll just wait for 6 months, act and comeback. Then all of a sudden I just thought of one idea and I just told Adi - iss type ki picture banaoo? A caper kinda film? And he said yeah I love the genre very much, and I said great then let me give it a shot. I gave myself 20 days to get a rough structure of the film. I had 5 ideas that I short listed and I liked the caper idea the best and started writing. It came to me so fast that in about a day, in about 1.5 hours actually, I had the whole screenplay in mind - that was around 80-85 scenes. And the next day I started writing the dialogues. Luckily my wife and kids were all gone on a holiday and I was alone and I worked on the script for nearly 18-19 hours a day. I just kept writing and didn't stop and realized that in six days time I had my first draft of the film, so that's how suddenly and beautifully it happened.
2. Is the script close to your real life?
Yes it is very close to my real life. A lot of it is my real life actually... some characters are autobiographical and for some I have brought to life my friends. It’s like Karan is half me and half somebody I know, Zing is my darker side, Chandu is based on my friend Chandu - his name is actually Chandu and it’s the combination of him and another friend. There is Bulbul who resembles Archana a bit and another girl I know in Delhi who is similar. So a lot of it has been brought from real life including the scams. All these scams have happened. They are scams I have read through the years in papers and have been stuck in my head, I got so inspired and I thought this is a good idea. I can make one character do all the scams instead of different scams for different characters. It’s definitely inspired by true life. It’s definitely very close to my heart and it’s very close to my life when I was in my teens.
3. How was the experience of being a director on a film set vs being an actor?
For me it felt like I had come home. I had found my true calling. I was completely satisfied everyday when I went home. Of course there are problems, it's raining or things are not finishing on time, but when I went home and looked at myself in the mirror, I used to feel I have done some very good work. It was very satisfying.
I never got this satisfaction in acting and that's why I felt this is my true calling and that's why I am here. Direction on one part has been very satisfying and on another part a very huge learning experience. I learned a lot... what I thought would be difficult was easy and what I thought was easy turned out to be difficult, so it was a lot of learning and with Adi Chopra the producer – and he himself is such a great director and great writer, I learned a lot from him. I learned a lot from my actors and technicians. So it has been a very fruitful and enlightening journey for me and when I look back and see a smile, and say it was well worth it.
4. The film is set in the 90s. Why that time?
There is one scam initially which is based on custom duty and this was prevalent in the 90s. Custom duty was in almost everything that was imported in the 80s and 90s -today it is more relaxed. Now you can get a lot of things without paying any duty or no duty, so given the technical aspects of custom duty I had to choose a time period in which duty was very high so the scam would look bigger and something could happen during that time and was feasible. So 90’s was chosen as that was a time just before liberalization happened. So to make the movie more interesting more real and more believable we stuck to the 90’s timeline.
5. How did you go about the casting? Everybody is finding the pairing of all four actors extremely fresh and interesting.
Adi loved the script and within an hour he gave me an OK. When I met Adi, he said okay superb, who do you want? I said, who do I want?? And he said, who do you want as your leading actor? So I said I want the best actor, since he asked me with so much confidence and according to me the best actor is Shahid Kapoor in the younger category, who fit the role perfectly. He's very versatile, can look middle class and an unassuming kind of guy and can look extremely dashing and flamboyant when I want him to. He can look like a boy and can look like a man, which is his journey in the film, so I said Shahid. I just love him as an actor and he said, Done. So he called Shahid, but didn't tell him who wrote the script as he didn't want to pre-condition his mind… you know somebody, you don't expect a script coming out of you know, someone who has never directed, so Adi told me don't write your name on the script. He told me to hang out around the office, and be on standby, so luckily I was with my parents who stay close by and having some chai and counting how long it was taking. As Shahid says, he came to say No to the film as he was doing his father's film, so he was thinking I'll read the script and say No, not for me, and leave. So he started reading and then as he kept reading, he called for sandwiches and a cold drink, and he started reading and reading... and eventually after four and a half hours of waiting. I got a call from Adi and he told me to come and he told Shahid. this is the director and he has also written the script - and Shahid said, Parmeet?! Oh man, Hi yaar! So that was when we really got formally introduced, we had seen each other only socially. So it was quite awkward and Shahid told me so you have written it? How nice… actually I had come to say No to this movie but there is something is this film, so I will push my Dad's film ahead and do this because Adi made it very very clear that he doesn't want to wait, so he somehow pushed his Dad's film ahead and gave time for this and gave it preference and thank God he did this, because the film is looking so good because of him so that was the first casting. Anushka ki casting dehej mein aayi hai. Adi said if you are looking for a girl and she's fresh - I said that's correct… the trick was to change her image which was very Indian… we had to make her look very hot and I think we've managed that in the film. And I agreed she was a good actress, my first preference always goes to good actors rather than how big a star you may be, so I said Yes. I am absolutely fine, so he sent the script to her and she loved it and said I'll do it and then we did a reading with her and it was wonderful. We immediately clicked. She took instructions very well and for a first timer she was amazingly spontaneous. I said this is super, I was very excited. I had written the role for Chang… he doesn't know it but if he didn't do this movie, I would have to take out the character. I had only seen some of his stuff on Indian Idol and I thought he had a lovely screen presence. His Hindi is very good and he impressed me a lot. He looks good and a lot of girls are after him. He loves the camera and the camera loves him. I called him for a screen test and it went off so well, I felt blessed and I told him do you like the script? He said, Yes. Adi asked me, do you think he can act? Then I showed him what I shot with him and he said "this is superb ya" and I said "exactly". I think Chang is outstanding and that he has a super career ahead of him! I was stuck on two people for Chandu's character, coz it needs a peculiar kind of humor and I needed a peculiar kind of actor who ultimately is Chandu in the film, so I went to two-three actors. Sometimes they didn't want to do it because it was playing the second lead but lead nevertheless, but one or two people said no and I was very dejected. But retrospectively, I feel now thank God they said no, because what Vir has got on the table is simply amazing. Some assistant of mine suggested Vir Das and I said okay show me the picture and said no way, he looks older in this and I said no, I need a very young boy.. somebody who has just got out of college and after going through a lot of actors he said, Sir why don't you meet Vir? I said who is this Vir? Fine okay call him... so very condescendingly I called for Vir... you know like very causal - "let me go through this guy also" and when I saw him, I felt yeah his look is correct. He looks young... the photos of his gives an incorrect impression, so I went into the room with him and I read and this guy just became Chandu instantly. I was like oh shit! I was so excited, I said mujhe mera Chandu mil gaya, so I immediately asked him do you have the dates and he said ya, then without jumping or kicking up my heels I quietly shook hands and went out and told Adi I have found my Chandu and he is superb in the film as you can see. And there is one more casting – the father's casting, which was very tough for me... so so difficult to get someone convincing as a father who can look middle class and is a good actor and does not look cliché and everything, so eventually I settled for my very dear good friend Anupam Kher who I went to and told, I know you have done 500 films or so... this role may not inspire you and you may have done this role 1500 times but I want you in this role, because I think we can do something different in this. So he took offence to that and said why? Do you think I am bored of my work… I will reinvent myself and he said if this is what you think then I'll prove it to you. Let's go and kick ass! And all of the people around said "Anupam Kher has done those kind of roles and he is typecast" and I said "you know what he's such a great beautiful actor that we'll do something different in this" and that difference is something for everybody to see now. He has done a wonderful job, a very new Anupam Kher you'll see in the film who is very understated, so that's how Anupam Kher came into Badmaash Company.
6. Tell us something about the styling of the film - the 90’s look and style.
We have tried our best to stay very true to that period. We tried very hard… we had to do our taking in a particular way that would show the period very effectively. In fact for a lot of the Mumbai airport sequences – like when I went to the airport I thought Oh God the airport is sparkling new, then we went all the way to Hyderabad to the old airport which looks very similar to Mumbai airport of the 90's. So we went that extra mile. We shot there for 3-4 days and shot all the airport sequences there. We have shown that as Mumbai and it looks so correct and wonderful. The cars we have used in the film - Ambassador, Fiat, also Maruti 800, so we have tried to use a lot of props from around that period. Also if you notice Shahid and Anushka's clothes - they have been exactly styled like around that period from 1992 to 1997 or so. We have taken all the 90's fashion, Bollywood references and international ramp references and we got everything and styled all the actors' clothes - what they wear and use in the film according to that. So yes we have worked on the look around that period and I think we have done that successfully and interestingly. It's different and we have stayed very true to the film and I am very happy about that.
7. Tell us about the DOP Sanjay Kapoor.
When I met Sanjay, I did not know anything about him and I was just told that he has done a few ads and has worked in LA for some time and came back here. But when I started working with him, I realized that I am a big fan of his lighting and he has lit the film like an international film. We had three looks in the film - One is the Indian look - the "poor" look, one is the Bangkok section and one is the America section - all three are so wonderfully distinct and correct. The way the film looks in those parts, only an ace camera man could have done that. He's done a wonderful job as the DP. A big portion of the success of the film will probably go to him because of the look of the film. He's done an amazing job in the film and I am so happy that in my first film I have got a super technician. I think Adi did a very wise thing by giving me the best technicians and I think the result is there for everybody to see. It was a wonderful experience and it's been a good trip!
8. Tell us about the music director Pritam.
My first impression of Pritam was made when I was with Adi. We were discussing something in the pre-production phase, Adi was walking in the corridor and behind him was this man with a long beard singing like a mad man and it was a very surreal kind of sight. A man who's walking behind the producer and singing very loudly, as if he's in this bathroom and I was thinking - who is this guy and why is he singing so loudly in the corridor of the office. And wherever Adi went, he was just following him and trying to convince him of the song. Adi suggested why don't we use Pritam and I was so impressed... I thought someone who is so passionate about his work... he is so uninhibited about his work... I thought it was wonderful that he was there and that this was a choice that Adi had made and I went along with that and I said yes superb! He's the only guy who has been giving super hit music consistently for the last five six years at least. So I wanted him with both hands! I said I wanted him on board. And he's given superb music to the film, lovely theme, lovely music, very fast paced and contemporary and at the same time he's given a very retro kind of a feel to the music since its in the 90's, so I am extremely happy that I got Pritam da on board.
9. Which is your favorite song?
Fakeera is very close to my heart. It is something that has a lot of emotion and depth in it. The writing is brilliant. Anvita has done a superb job, the music is superb and it is sung very beautifully so that song I love. Another song I have started liking the more I hear it is Badmaash Company the title song. I think that one has turned out interestingly different from the rest of the songs so I love that too.
10. Tell us about the lyricist Anvita Dutt.
Anvita is such a surprise packet. When you look at her you don’t feel such a small girl can write so well. My first impression was that this girl will not be able to deliver the kind of writing we expect but when she actually sat down to write she was dynamite. I didn’t know she was so well read and so talented. I was actually pleasantly surprised and didn’t know what kind of writing to expect from a person like her but she came up with such good stuff so quickly and so beautifully that it was wonderful to work with her in my first venture and I want to work with her again.
11. You did not eat any non veg or oily food through the shoot?
I have a problem with my intestines and ulcers and I didn't want to end up in the hospital while shooting. Because I know with shooting ka khana, I could end up in hospital if I did any kind of excess, or not turn up for shoot for a day and that would be very expensive for a producer, so I was petrified about something like this happening. If you are an actor it is okay, because you are not the only one shooting and you know somebody else can shoot on that day, but as a director you have to be there for every shot. People thought I was doing it for a religious purpose but it was nothing religious. I just wanted to make sure that I was very healthy and on top of things when I am shooting my film. So for 6-7 months, I said no non veg and no drinking... nothing! And I kept myself very healthy throughout the film.
12. How was it directing the actors.
Directing the actors was actually just an extension of what I am. It was actually like acting with them. It came very naturally. I have acted for 15 years of my life and I know when a person is lying.. accha shot diya ya false shot diya and that’s exactly what I did. Because of my experience as an actor I could make out that the actor has felt that shot or not so I just used to be there watching them and I did not go to my monitor often. I used to just use the monitor for long shots. For close shots I used be next to my actors and I used to just know whether they have done that shot truthfully or not so that was just something which was the easy part for me but it was a very important part also. That is something I really enjoyed and my actors were such a young team. I felt old, outdated and felt yeh bacche aa gaye and it was like eating with my own kids. I felt like a father on the set but I enjoyed it.
13. Tell us about the first day of shoot.
My first day never happened as it started raining on the set, so my second day which was 2 July , became my first. I started shooting on the road and then I had to go inside a restaurant for a scene with Anushka. So as luck would have it, it started raining and the outdoor shoot got messed up and it was an inauspicious start to my film, but once we went inside and started shooting indoors it slowly warmed up. Yashji came on the set to wish me and I did not know that he was watching me, and I felt Yash Chopra is watching me, and what am I doing, and I hope I am doing the right thing here! But he came and he wished me and I took his blessings and after that it just flew... like somebody thrown me in the water and I started swimming... it was as easy as that.
14. Do you prefer being an Actor or a Director?
Any day Director... there is no comparison and I am not saying I didn't enjoy my journey as an actor. I did enjoy my stint as an actor and even today I am not opposed to acting. I would act one off kind of things but jo nasha direction mein hain… the mazaa and the satisfaction one gets in directing is way ahead of acting atleast for me. For other people it may differ, but I have found my true space in life.
15. You first started acting with YRF and now your first directorial venture is with YRF too. What do you feel about it?
I had to fight for my first acting stint. I remember I had to actually fight for my role for DDLJ (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge) with Adi as he had signed someone else for that role, and I convinced him that I was the better candidate and he cast me for that role. And as a director also I thought the best company I could think of in this whole world would be Yash Raj Films because they stand for something and they are very successful. Also I just love the way they function and the kind of respect they have in the market… you cannot even begin to compare them with anyone else so I thought I have to first try here before going anywhere else. So that's what I did. I called up Adi and said I have a script and he told me later that he thought that he had to meet me and didn't think that I could deliver a script, and that it would be something that he liked, but he had to meet me or it would be disrespectful, since I had been an actor with him, so he met me. Now this was for the script that I had first written, for which he said the idea was very good and eventually I gave him the script and I worked on it for a year and made some changes on it. I made it better and eventually it was ready to shoot and I wasn't able to shoot it because of some political happenings that took place in our county. And when this script (Badmaash Company) came, it happened as if somebody was blessing me. In six-seven days I gave the script and Adi loved it and said let's do it. Jo likha hota hai woh ho jata hai. Bhagwan ne mujhe is ghar se phir milana tha and so it happened and I am here.
16. One moment you will cherish the most in this film.
I don't know if it's something I should tell you guys but I will tell you anyways. When I was doing my last shot of the film, where the film ends with the big crane shot... we were shooting in Bangkok and when I left for the shoot I was in the car and I was planning the whole thing. And I started crying. I got so emotional about the fact that I was taking the last shot of the film. It was a long drive of 2.5 hours and for about 2 hours tears just kept rolling down and I was lucky that nobody was with me in the car and I didn't have to get embarrassed. I didn't know why I was crying. I think it was more of a release like I was putting an end to my first film - my dream of so many years. It was too overwhelming and emotional and I think it is my finest shot in the film, actually it is the best shot in the film. This is something I will never forget and keep reminding myself of that shot which is very special.
17. How did the title Badmaash Company come about?
The title really troubled us! We came up with a lot of titles for the film. Nothing was correct for the film. The film ended… the shoot ended and we still didn't have anything. It was embarrassing since I am a writer, Adi is a writer, Anvita is a writer, so there were so many people cracking their heads but here there was no title. We thought we will get it from the songs as usually we get some interesting words, but there was nothing that came. I was very happy with the first title that we came up with, but Adi felt it was too English and eventually he came up with the word Badmaash. He said badmaashi rakh lete hain and then somehow after a few days he said "Badmaash Company" kaise rahega? So it was an amalgamation of what I wanted and what Adi wanted, so it's "Badmaash Company" and I thought why didn't we think of this earlier? It was the most apt title for this film… it was wonderful and it happened at the right time and it gave us sleepless nights. For one year we were looking for the title and we couldn't get it and when we did it was so obvious and so easy "Badmaash Company" and we both looked at each other and said it... and started laughing. Ek saal ke baad kamaal ho gaya, jo hamare naak ke neecha tha woh dekh naa paaye… jab hona hota hai toh hota hai I guess. And then we quickly made the title song after that "Badmaash Company" and we are very happy with that.