DIRECTOR DISCUSSES HIS NEW COMEDY FILM GULABO SITABO AND PREMIERING IT ONLINE
by ASJAD NAZIR
NEXT week Gulabo Sitabo becomes the first really big commercial Bollywood release to be premiered directly onto a streaming site.
The potentially game-changing film available on Amazon Prime June 12 is the latest offering from acclaimed director Shoojit Sircar and revolves around a cross-generational property battle between two determined men. The comedy satire’s lead stars Ayushmann Khurrana and an unrecognisable Amitabh Bachchan have worked before with Sircar, on arguably his two biggest successes Piku and Vicky Donor.
Eastern Eye caught up with Sircar to talk about Gulabo Sitabo, his lead stars, dream team partnership with writer Juhi Chaturvedi and why he decided to release his film directly onto Amazon Prime.
You have made a name for yourself with unique subjects, but what drew you towards Gulabo Sitabo?
With Gulabo Sitabo, I have for the first time tried my hand at a satire on human behaviour. This film is set in a world that revolves around the old city of Lucknow. It was a Mughal city, then a British city and then what we see today. So, there is a lot of history to it and the characters present there, who are economically downtrodden and somehow managing their lives. I just wanted to enter their world and explore it. So, that is what this film is all about and what attracted me.
What made you want to unite the stars of arguably your two biggest successes Piku and Vicky Donor?
While Juhi, the writer and I had the idea for this film, Mr Bachchan’s character was there in our head with him playing Mirza, but we were not sure if he will accept the character because of the kind of look we were trying, which you see in the trailer. We didn’t know how he would react and went to him with the script. Over the years, some kind of trust and bonding have developed between us. That actor-director relationship has matured, so he took the challenge and wanted to be part of this out of the box role.
What about the casting of Ayushmann?
We were not sure about Ayushmann, because we were unsure about the age of the character, but slowly as the script developed and matured, suddenly one day we thought ‘why not Ayushmann’. I bounced it off Mr Bachchan and asked how he felt about Ayushmann, and he was also happy about it. Then we went to him. So, there is freshness to it, and as I had worked with both before, there was also a comfort zone. A lot of feelings cannot be explained just on paper, but with them it was easy to explain what was inside and my intentions.
You have a dream team with writer Juhi Chaturvedi and have done a number of projects with her, including Gulabo Sitabo. What do you like about her as a writer?
There is some kind of harmony between us of agreeing and accepting the kind of vision we have for a film and taking an idea forward, and also how we see it as a two-hour film. Our choices are similar, and we have a lot in common. Most importantly, we try to agree that we will not just play to the galleries, which is one of the most important reasons why we keep collaborating.
Your films have a message. What is the message of this?
I don’t give messages in my films.
It may not be intentional, but your films do have strong messages?
It’s hard to answer. As I say, a satire will always give a message, but what the audiences take away is up to them. But we do see a strong glimpse of the central part of India, which is the heart of the country and the characters residing there. More than a message, it is about the experience you will go through with this film.
Who are you hoping connects with the film?
It is very difficult to cater to everyone. I have an audience that likes my cinema, but a lot of people also didn’t like my film October and that is okay. You have to accept some will like your films and others won’t. I do have my audience, but I can’t make films for everyone.
What made you want to release it straight on a streaming site, instead of waiting for cinemas to open?
Of course, I had made it for the cinema. My release date was January and I was ready, but then it got pushed to April and the lockdown started. Everything did seem really uncertain. So the proposal came, and we started interacting with digital media and Amazon. I had wanted to hold and wait. At the same time, as soon as the film was shot, I wanted to present it to the audience. I have had certain bad experiences in my life of my film not releasing. All of that mattered and I thought why not go with Amazon, and they were giving me a huge release. I adapted to the situation at this moment. Cinema and the digital medium are going to co-exist in future. All these factors drew me to the medium. I am happy till now with the decisions and will see the post June 12 release, what response the film gets.
Do high expectations put pressure on you?
The one very interesting things about the digital medium I am realising now is that I don’t have to worry about the box office. I don’t have to see how well this film has done from the box office or critics deciding the fate. It’s on a strong platform, so if you want to see it, see it, if not then, it’s okay. I know my audience and people who love to watch my kind of film, so I hope I am able to make them feel satisfied in terms of the viewing. That expectation I have for sure.
What do you love about cinema?
Cinema is one of the most fascinating collaborative arts. You get to collaborate with so many people, ideas and talents, from technicians and writers, to musicians, actors and artists. That is one important factor. Second, it is a medium where you can express it the way you want. I also love cinema because it is much beyond what you see and not what is just there in front of you. It has a much deeper philosophy to it. When you come away from watching cinema, you have a deeper connection and learning. It is something bigger than the actual film and that is what I love about cinema.
Gulabo Sitabo is available on Amazon Prime June 12