Well, first TFLW was this small film we wanted to make without any money. It wasn’t a script written after we put the cast together. One day on my job, during an interview with VJs Ranvir and Purab, I learnt Ranvir wanted to be an actor. I told him ‘Every VJ wants to be an actor.’ He didn’t take that comment lightly. After we were done with the interview, he told me that it has nothing to do with a VJ. Every body in this world either wants to make a movie/be an actor or cut an album/be a singer or write a book/be a writer. “I don’t know you but I can bet you want to be a writer,” he said. I smiled back and said: “No, I’d be the movie guy.” “Oh, so you want to make a movie,” he asked. “No, I’m making my movie,” I said. He got all curious then, so though I was least interested in telling him what it was all about, I just gave him a polite two line description of what the movie was about and he immediately asked: Can I audition? Man, I couldn’t believe that! He was a VJ, someone I had great respect for. When I studied in Manipal, he had come to our campus for a shoot. He was so funny and not even in my wildest dreams did I think that HE would want to be in MY movie? For icing, there was Purab, who joined Ranvir and said: “Me too. Can I audition too?” Purab, then got busy with ‘Supari,’ so he passed on the script to Cary, who had just about quit Channel [V] after hosting the much acclaimed Virtual [V] for three years. I still remember that we didn’t have money, so the first time I ever spoke to him was through SMS. My message to him was: “Hi Cary, no STD, only SMS. This low budget film. You still interested? Welcome to the film.”
There was Cyrus Sahukar too who was once a part of the film after he expressed interest but he backed out last minute, saying he didn’t have leave. We just had another two weeks to shoot. And I could only think of Abbas, with whom I had shot a short experimental film called ‘Ellipsis’ a few months earlier. I called him, he said: Give me two minutes, I’ll check if I have dates. Two minutes later, he calls back to say we have. “When can we meet,” he asks. “Now?” “Cool,’ he says. Thirty minutes later, at 8.30 p.m., I meet him at his wife’s boutique on North Boag Road. I narrate the script and we end up talking till 2.30 in the morning. I’ve never seen anyone more excited than him. He could so relate to the character he was playing. And then, he told me something that happened four months before that. He had invited me to the premiere of his Hindi film, ‘Ansh,’ and it turned out to be quite bad. Interval break, he asks us to come out and asks us for our honest opinion. “Bad man … it’s very bad,” I say softly. But I wasn’t telling him anything new. He knew it was bad. He almost broke down: “Why does this happen to me? I make the same mistakes in choosing films,” he said with near moist eyes. “Let’s go for a drive,” I suggested because the last thing we wanted to see was him breaking down outside his own movie preview. A friend stayed next street, so we took him there and showed him the trailer we had just shot for the film, just to warm up. At that point of time, Cyrus was still part of our film and I had my whole cast. “I really wanted to ask you if I can be part of your film that day,” Abbas recalled. “I didn’t want to take advantage of our friendship. But I think it’s destiny. God wanted me to be a part of this film.”
To this moment, Abbas has displayed the same amount of unflinching commitment, passion and enthusiasm to the film. Which is why these days I never say ‘my film,’ I always refer to it as ‘our film.’
Oh, and Ranvir almost never made it to the film because he was busy with his play ‘Blue Mug’ and he asked us to postpone shoot by a month. Cary had waited a year waiting for the film to take off by then and so we told him we can’t wait any longer. Ranvir was already upset with us for an earlier goof-up. When we shot in Pune, he drove down all by himself from Bombay and couldn’t find us because he had the wrong phone number with him and we couldn’t reach him. He was left stranded there before we reached him 36 hours later. He was so angry, he swore he wouldn’t be a part of it. By now, he had cooled down but he was still upset that we couldn’t wait for him in spite of him having done so much for the film. “I was a part of the film even before Cary joined,” he reminded us. But Ranvir had a regular job, Cary did not. So we told him we had to shoot no matter what. “Well, no bad feelings then,” he said, wishing us luck.
There was no one else who could have done that role but Ranvir. And the next alternative we could think of was Cyrus Broacha. How do we get Cyrus Broacha, we wondered aloud sitting at Qwikys when a guy walked up to us and said: “I’ve been observing you guys for the past few weeks. I’ve always wanted to help with your film. I have Broacha’s number,” he said. We christened him ‘Angel.’ Ever since that day, Angel was part of our dream. He quit his job, worked with us on the film and went back to Pune to take up a low paying job saying we inspired him to chase his dreams.
Anyway, so we called Cyrus Broacha and said: “For us, sending you the script and asking you to do our film is like asking Amitabh Bachchan if he wants to work with us.” He laughed and said: “I’m not Amitabh Bachchan. Send me the script.” We did just that and he went incommunicado while we made friends with his Mom over a coupla weeks. Initially she was hostile, then seeing that we had no intention of giving up, finally became friends and tipped us on what time we can catch him at home. Cyrus first said he liked the script and wanted to change the lines a bit. We were game. Then he asked: “When are you looking at shooting this film?” Next month, we said. “Oh, I hate to sound like Amitabh Bachchan but I have two foreign tours lined up next month. One is the UNAIDS conference in Barcelona where Bill Clinton will interview me and talk about sex” (he wasn’t exaggerating too much, it was all over the papers that he was interviewing Clinton) and there was the Nickelodeon Chotta VJ hunt in the Middle East.
So he took off, became incommunicado again. We got so desperate we tried calling five star hotels in Spain through the internet phone at Iway to reach him. No luck, people who picked up the phone didn’t even understand English.
So we scheduled his scenes for the last four days and started shoot. Ten days into the shoot, we reach him … this is two nights before we have scheduled his scenes. And he now tells us his boss Natasha didn’t want him to shoot a movie. We then call Natasha who tells us that she didn’t have a problem, in fact, she didn’t even know about the film. “Maybe he doesn’t want to do it,” she said.
So that’s how Broacha pulled a Bakra on us.
And we were all so pissed off that we cancelled shoot that evening and went for ‘Bend it like Beckham.’ In the interval, Cary asked: “Why don’t you ask Ranvir what he’s doing day after tomorrow?” “He will kill me,” I said. “That’s not too bad. But what if he agrees … we have everything to gain,” he said.
Thank you Cary, for suggesting that.
Because the phone conversation, went like this:
“Hi Ranvir, this is an SOS. We need you to bail us out.”
“Why, what happened?”
“Broacha was supposed to do your role and he backed out last minute. We know we are being really selfish but we didn’t know who else to ask.”
“What dates do you need?”
“Four days from day after tomorrow.”
“Okay, I’m free on these days. Because I just quit Channel [V] yesterday. But I’ll come only for four days. And you were going to pay me 5K a day, now make it 10K. Send me the ticket and keep the cheque ready, I’m coming.”
Ranvir, we would have paid you a lakh a day if we had the money! We jumped at his offer. Done!
So Ranvir was in again and we got our Zebra back.
That was the last time around.
This time, it was a rollercoaster because we had to change our cast halfway and resume shoot in 48 hours. And all that we did for years to get our actors, we fit into the most tense 48 hours of my life. That is something I will save for the book I'm writing on the movie.
You are a full time reporter in The Hindu. How do you manage to juggle between your full time job and the movie.
Well, the movie has been part of me for these seven years. I go to sleep with it, wake up with it, have breakfast with it, take it with me to office, make it wait while I meet different people and key in my story and then come back home with it. A movie happens in your head. It didn’t really take time away from what my work required of me, except for the 20 days when we had to do the shooting. Or let’s just say that my job isn’t really a job. It’s like life. Everyday, I meet different people, get to know them and write them in my diary using a little journalese and hey, you read it in the papers. Most of my stories are conversational, they talk to people. I didn’t find a style in it, it was what came naturally to me. And I’m glad it worked. I don’t see myself as a journalist or even a writer, nor do I even claim to be.
I dream and films are just about living out that dream … you share it with a few people, shoot it for the camera and share it with more people. It is really that simple, leave the jargon and the work out of it.
Finding the money to shoot that dream is what is 90 per cent of the “work,” the rest of it is what we love to do anyway.