Filmmaker Homi Adajania, who has previously helmed such notable films as Being Cyrus (2006), Cocktail (2012) and Finding Fanny (2014), returns to direction with Maddock Films’ hugely anticipated outing Angrezi Medium (2020). Starring Irrfan Khan, Radhika Madan, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Deepak Dobriyal in important characters, the movie is a standalone sequel to the 2017 satirical comedy Hindi Medium.
Recently, Eastern Eye caught up with Homi Adajania and tried to know more from him about the film. In this interview, the directors told us how emotionally draining was it to shoot with ailing Irrfan Khan, why he agreed to helm the project, how Angrezi Medium is different from its predecessor and much more.
Hindi Medium was loved by the audiences and did good business as well. When you started working on its sequel, did you feel any kind of pressure?
Zero pressure, because I loved Hindi Medium. I thought it was a beautiful, brilliant film. But if Angrezi Medium was a sequel to Hindi Medium, then I don’t think I would have directed it. As a creative person, because it was a blank slate, new characters, a new story, all that was very exciting for me because I could make new characters. It was a fully different story.
How different it is from its predecessor?
Actually, Hindi Medium was about how crazy parents go to ensure their kids get into the right school. In this, there is a single father and how far he goes to make his daughter’s dream come true. So, there is a certain story that is being carried forward, but it has got nothing to do at all with Hindi Medium in terms of characters and the story. I guess, based on that I decided to do it. There is no pressure. It is not that I am taking it forward.
This is a very special film not only for you as a filmmaker but also for us. How emotionally charging this was as a lot of things were going on when you set out to make this film?
It was emotionally charging, it was emotionally draining, it was one of the most beautiful experiences I had in my life. It was completely different than the ones I have directed before. I mean there were good days, there were bad days but Irrfan Khan has such incredible spirit, strength in him that strangely we were feeding off his strength rather than he feeding off us.
You know, earlier when I used to make films, I used to spend a lot of time bothering about the lights going off, something not looking aesthetic, etc. I used to bother about things that were not in my control. On this film, I realised that it is the stupidest thing to do. We complicate our lives as human beings by spending so much attention on things that are not in our control. We like to do that for some strange reason. We are a bizarre species, but in this film that was not important and it made me a better human being, it made me a lighter person and it made me realise that I can make films in a much lighter way with the same amount of effort, with the same amount of intention but in just a happier space.
It is always that we got out fun in our films, we always had a blast but it used to consume me earlier. I used to get exhausted every time a film would get over. In this case, I suddenly realised that we were not curing cancer, we were not sending someone to the Mars, we were telling a story. I was like, ‘Don’t take yourself so seriously, you are making a movie, so enjoy yourself.’ Movies will come and go, your memory of making it will remain, so make it a great memory. I think this film was made with so much love and so much positivity. We laughed and laughed our way through it. I don’t know how it got done. When I looked at it I was like, ‘Wow, we got a movie here.’
Like you said that movies are the stories that we talk about and share with the world. You know there is a certain section of society that can get influenced by a certain content in movies. How much responsibility do you think movies have?
I do feel that they influence the consumer. A book that you read influences, a movie that you watch influences, a song that you hear influences. I mean that definitely does happen. This is one of the reasons I made this film. I was actually working on a very dark subject in my cabin. It was about a schizophrenic serial killer. Then one fine day, Dinesh Vijan asked me to come and listen to the narration of Angrezi Medium. He said, ‘All the writers have come. We have a whole lot of directors. We keep helping one another, where we pitch ideas, we give feedback on one another’s stories, etc. Just come, give your feedback.’
When I actually went in, I was rolling on the floor laughing. Then I was rolling on the floor crying a bit. I realized what was I doing? Why was I getting into the serious shit? I said look at the world around us, it is the time to make people laugh, it is the time to spread love. I really feel that this is the time and when I heard this, the feeling I had got from hearing it and laughing so much was amazing. It is really a bizarre movie at some level. But I realised that this is what I should be sharing.
I will tell you something as a filmmaker with huge gaps in between, when you quietly go into the theatre, you hear people laughing. They are not laughing at some gag or something, they are laughing from their bellies. I can’t tell you the satisfaction. You feel like, ‘Wow, yaar! I made them laugh.’ It is such a fulfilling feeling and when I heard this. I was like, ‘Why am I not doing this? This is what I should be doing. If I can’t make movies, I should be making people feel good about life and that’s exactly what this is.’ I said, ‘Okay I am doing it.’ Like you said, does it influence people? Yeah, it does and therefore I said let me influence people to laugh and love more.
When it comes to dark, serious and sensitive topics, as a filmmaker do you feel responsible that you want to portray it in a way that it looks right on the screen?
I think, no. For me, as a filmmaker, if I am portraying a real issue, I have to portray it for what it is and that is all it is. We have to get to the truth and core of the issue and portray it. That is what you do when that is the genre you want to get into and put it out there. It is not a film that it should not be told. They should be told. They need to be told. Then can they be misunderstood or can they be taken in other way? Of course, everything is subjective. I mean, different people will have different perceptions of the same interview. It is the same interview, but it will be different from what he will take away and what you will take away.
A filmmaker is vulnerable as audiences may have a different vision to the filmmaker’s vision but that is a subjective thing. Now if your dealing with sensitive topics, I mean, it is difficult to get across, please everyone. But I guess if the intent of the filmmaker is correct and the reason why they want to give a social message is for the right reason, their job is done and now how it is construed is not in their hands.
Tell us something about the song ‘Kudi Nu Nachne De’.
Irrfan Khan could not promote the film because he underwent the treatment. So, we had to figure out different ways to do this. I messaged all these beautiful people and called them up and said, ‘I want you guys to do this’. For me, it was a two-fold reason why they did it. The first one was that it was a beautiful song about just let a girl dance. And it is symbolic that let a woman be and the world will become a better place. And that is what the song stands for. They all loved that and also the idea that Irrfan couldn’t do it. Irrfan Khan is such a huge inspiration for everyone in this industry. There were no questions and they were as busy as they were. I said, ‘I will come to where you are, I will shoot it off, it will take me half an hour’. We just shot all of them.
Deepika Padukone could not do it because she was not well. I was supposed to shoot with her too but we couldn’t wait otherwise we would have the whole lot. I did not have time otherwise I would have taken every woman in the industry and put her in for all ages. Unfortunately, I was rushing for time and suddenly I got the idea because Sachin- Jigar were working on another track and they were sitting outside with a guitar and they made this song and I said, ‘Wow, give me this song and I am going to put it on the end credits of my film without any visuals and get all the girls to do this’. So, it was very rushed but it is beautiful. I think it is really beautiful.
Angrezi Medium is running successfully in cinemas now.