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Village boy travels to big city to study medicine but turns movie star. Sounds just like a filmy plot, doesn’t it? But this is no silver screen story; it is the true tale of Aman Dhaliwal, one of Punjabi cinema’s most promising young heroes!
After appearing in a handful of Hindi and Telugu features, Aman made his Pollywood debut with VIRSA in 2010, a youth oriented story which proved popular and was even a featured selection at the Dallas Film Festival in Dallas, Texas in 2011.
Aman’s work in VIRSA was well received and soon more Punjabi film work followed with starring roles in the hit IK KUDI PUNJAB DI and the hilarious AJJ DE RANJHE, both of which featured excellent exposure for the versatile actor who has shown that he is not just hero material, but takes on comedy and negative roles as well.
Aman’s latest Punjabi picture, JATT BOYS – PUTT JATTAN DE will have him in another lead role and it would appear that his star is now shining bright!! No question about it, we will be seeing a lot more of Aman Dhaliwal in the future…so, let’s find out more about this actor. Aman was nice enough to take time out from promotional appearances for JATT BOYS to answer a few questions about his career and how he ended up in the entertainment business.
Mike Barnum : Working on the film VIRSA took you to Australia for filming. How was the experience?
Aman Dhaliwal: Punjabis in Australia are very supportive. At that time, Gurdas Maan had a stage performance there and he introduced me in his show as an actor of [the film] JODHAA AKBAR. So, Gurdas Maan saab promoted me during the shooting of VIRSA, which was very nice. Through this, many families invited me for dinners and functions while shooting in Sydney. Media was also very supportive.
MB: Was this your first time visiting Australia?
AD: Yes. I visited Australia only this once, for the shooting of VIRSA. Maybe very soon I will be shooting another movie in Australia, if the project is finalized.
MB: Your co-star in VIRSA was Arya Babbar, whose father Raj Babbar made several hit Punjabi films in the 1980s and 90s.
AD: I am definitely a fan of Raj Babbar, as my favorite movie is his film SHAHEED UDDHAM SINGH (2000), so of course I enjoyed working with Arya.
MB: Your latest Punjabi film AJJ DE RANJHE is a wonderful comedy, and it is the film that really made me take notice of you. It is also a very socially aware film, covering everything from drug and alcohol abuse to police corruption, and how honest police officers try to overcome a negative stigma.
AD: Manmohan Singh introduced me as lead in this movie and connected me up with the Punjab police department. Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab Sukhvir Singh Badal came to see the premier of our movie as it was the first Punjabi movie to also be releasing in Pakistan at the same time. After watching the movie Deputy Chief Minister Badal ordered the police to do improvements in police-public relationship by taking me around as a sort of ambassador. So this was another first for Punjabi cinema, wherein this film gave new ideas and direction toward improving relationships between the public and the police.
MB: Not only did you do this social work with the police, your assistance in helping others has continued.
AD: AJJ DE RANJHE connected me to do social activities to help “Aam Admi” (the common man), which is why I decided to shift from Mumbai to the town of Mansa (my home town). This is where I can best help people, as here my dad is socially and politically very active. Every day we get 5-6 applications of cancer patients in our area, so dad refers them for financial support, etc. I am B.S.C Honors in Radiology and Nuclear Medicine and an MBA in Hospital Management and my goal is to very soon make a free hospital for diagnosis of cancer.
MB: AJJ DE RANJHE had several comedians in the cast, including the wonderful Ghurpreet Guggi and Rana Ranbir –plus, you also had veteran actors like Deep Dhillon in the film.
AD: It was fun while working with Ghurpreet-ji & Rana Ranbir. We had a lot of fun, even during the time I was suffering with high fever while shooting! Deep-ji has a stong voice and is very positive by nature. He has a strong body, and he scared us when he was hitting our old gypsy character as part of the stunts in the movie. Those were real stunts! He and his wife encouraged me a lot.
MB: Was AJJ DE RANJHE well received?
AD: We think it found success, because our film has participated in improving the police system. After the film released I got calls from the Inspector General, the Deputy Inspector General, and Senior Superintendents of Police and they showed our movie to police employees. The film was highly appreciated in Pakistan (which is a first), Canada, and Australia, as well. So yes, film was a hit.
MB: You have another Punjabi film, JATT BOYS – PUTT JATTAN DE which just had a successful release. What can you tell me about your role in the film?
AD: In this one I play a boy named Waris Brar who is from a village and is studying in a city college. The story is how he maintains his values when he goes back to his village. Sippy Gill has a negative shade as a character who doesn’t allow anyone to comment on the heroine, but the heroine falls in love with Waris (me).
MB: Also in the cast are two of my favorite performers, Om Puri and Rahul Dev. Did you get to work with them in the film?
AD: Yes. I saw another shade of Om-ji, he is very humble, totally attached to Punjabi culture. He has learned many things about Punjabi culture which even no one knows in villages of Punjab these days. He is very religious. He used to keep a copy of “Ik Onkar Satnaam” with him. He is fond of gurbani [compositions of the Sikh gurus], so I gave him many audio shabads [hyms] and Sikh history books. He used to drink lassi all the time and would share with me. We were also sharing the same vanity. He is very funny and a great actor. Gugu Gill plays my father in the movie and Rahul Dev is chacha, so that was my best family! We had a very good chemistry and I wish to work with them again. I found Rahul Dev also very humble. He is very deep and has a keen interest in reading books. He loves his son and asked to borrow a few Sikh history books for his son’s knowledge. So we were really like a family while shooting.
MB: Do you ever get nervous acting in front of such veteran performers?
AD: No, I never get nervous because I don’t perform the scene, I just feel myself in that situation and automatically the performance happens. So, I don’t perform, someone else does inside me; why should I be nervous then. I have seen all phases of struggle in my life so I need not to copy any actor.
MB: In IK KUDI PUNJAB DI the main lead is played by singer Amrinder Gill and you are in a secondary lead role. It has become very common in the new wave of Punjabi cinema to use singers in the lead roles.
AD: After a long time a new era of Punjabi cinema again started with Manmohan Singh’s movie JEE AYA NU (2002). At that time no actor wanted to waste himself in Punjabi cinema due to the film industry’s downfall. Because of the lack of willing actors, Man-ji had to launch Harbhajan Mann, who was a popular singer. Luckily people liked the story line and direction of JEE AYA NU and the film worked well. Even though people didn’t like Harbhajan’s acting, they had no other option, and Punjabis outside the country wanted their children to know their culture; hence the film became a big hit in Canada. The film was a success not because of Harbhajan Mann, but because of the strong message which attached the youth to Punjabi culture. Harbhajan Mann became lucky for Man-ji, so that’s why he made several more films with him. Audiences slowly became use to Harbhajan, and at the time there was no competition, as Manmohan Singh was the only active film maker in Punjab.
MB: And the success of Harbhajan Mann’s films cemented this new trend of (almost) exclusively using Punjabi pop singers in the lead roles.
AD: Many singers started thinking that if audiences can accept Harbhajan Maan [as an actor] then why not him. Now, singers think it’s better to do a film than a music album because for a movie they can charge a fee, and also a movie has a long life, if it works. Also, on behalf of their popular songs they can get shows with high prices.
MB: Of course signing a hit singer in a lead role doesn’t always guarantee a hit film.
AD: Correct. Sharry Mann was a very big hit singer whose debut movie was super flop; but still producers and directors couldn’t understand that storyline content is what is most important for a film, rather than any singer. Till producers and directors will not take actors for their leads in Punjabi films, the industry can’t be at its peak as most singers have limitations in acting. But an actor is versatile. Again, a downfall will start if producers and directors ignore actors…eh gall directors te producers nu samajh leini chahidi hai…this is a difference in Hindi and Punjabi films. See how we got Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan, because directors were strong and they were confident about their story and direction. These days directors are weak and that is why they are dependent upon singers; they think a singer will attract the audience, not the film’s story.
MB: Many other Punjabi actors have expressed a frustration with the lack of film opportunities this has presented.
AD: Singers have set-up their lobby system, they don’t let actors be part of the industry, and you will notice that my film AJJ DE RANJHE is nowhere on TV screens. Even my name was also not nominated for that film in the actor’s category for PTC Film Awards. When I was a second lead in IK KUDI PUNJAB DI, that time my name was nominated, but why not this time? I was main lead in a Punjabi film, which they can’t tolerate. I ask of Manmohan Singh and PTC Awards — why was I ignored for any award, as well as in interviews and in reality shows. I asked Rabinder Narayan CEO and he said I was out because of lobby system in the industry. So, I openly challenge to those that if God listens then no one can stop anyone. Every success is in God’s hand…if God wants me to succeed then no one can stop.
MB: Going back in history a bit, before you entered the acting arena you worked as a model. You had set out as a medical student, so how did this change happen?
AD: How I got into modeling, that’s long story. I wanted to be doctor, so for preparation I went to Delhi. I had not enough money to stay in a hostel or as a paying guest so I used to stay in Gurdwara Rakab Ganj hall. Even a few times, due to security reasons, police warned me not to sleep in Gurdwara hall. Slowly I started doing a marketing field job but they didn’t pay anything so I used to eat in ‘langhar’ [where community meals are served at gurdwaras) and used to do my studying in the gurdwara. One day I went to a saloon for a beard trimming. A group of models were getting their makeup done there for a mega ramp show to launch some hair products. I had long hair as I never cut it, being a sardar. Employees thought that I was one of the models and began coloring my hair. I was very tired because of the heat outside and had fallen asleep, so I didn’t realize. Then a lady came who was a choreographer and she wanted to know who I was. I said I had just come for beard trimming and fell asleep on the chair, and when I woke-up they were coloring my hair. Then something clicked in her mind and she asked would I be a main show stopper for the mega ramp show. I told her that I never saw any ramp show and didn’t know about modeling. I was just a villager guy. She said “No worry. We will train you for that.” What had happened was that their main show stopper, who was an Italian guy with long, long hair had missed his flight from Frankfurt, but my look, after coloring, resembled that of the Italian model. That’s why the employees were confused, also. Because of my Italian looks I got a chance to do that ramp show as show stopper, and that’s how I got my first experience.
MB: That set you on a new track!
AD: Except that after this show I ran away because after seeing myself in the newspaper I got scared as my parents would never tolerate me in that profession. I would have to hide all this, so I decided to stay away from modeling in the future. But God has its own way. Again I started self studying in the gurdwara, and got a room there sharing with an employee. For one month I totally concentrated on preparing for medical admission. Finally I was selected and got a free seat, but staying in a hostel was still too expensive. At the gurdwara that employee refused to keep me in his room any longer, so now I had no place to stay. Then I met up with Vishal Nischal, who was assistant photographer on the ramp show. He said that the show was a hit and everyone wanted to take me into their company. I told him I was sorry, but that my parents would never allow it. He said he could arrange a room for me but he said, “I have to click your pix.” I said “Ok, you can click my pix.” He took me to his home. His family had come from Pakistan after partition and the government had allotted a home for them, but he had a huge family without much income source, and his dad and mom were not well. I told him that if I am staying with him then I can do anything possible for his family. So after college classes I used to work with him as a model. I never demanded any money. We started living like family members. And that’s how my career in modeling started.
MB: And then you made your way to Mumbai.
AD: My college professor, Mr. Nirmal Vilson, was a big fan because I was featured in music videos. He said he’ll not give me the internship certificate till I don’t work with [producer/director] Ashustosh Gowarika, and that’s how I came to Mumbai. Till that time I was not serious about acting or modeling as my main focus was to setup a cancer hospital. When I came to Mumbai I met Karan Malhotra (director of AGNEEPATH) who was at that time assistant to Ashutosh Gowarikar on JODHAA AKBAR. Cast was finalized, but for one character, who was supposed to be done by a celebrity. Karan showed my pic to Ashu-ji and he immediately called me and said my face is carbon copy of real Rajkumar Ratan Singh, the character that they had yet to cast.
He showed me the historical picture and I was also shocked to see that he was 100% resembling me. That is how I got my chance. I came back to my college to receive internship certificate from Professor Vilson and was shocked to know that he had passed away a few days before, as he had suffered from blood cancer. At that point I decided to take my career seriously and went back and started shooting. However, Ashu-ji didn’t allow me to work in any film till JODHAA AKBAR was released. That was a long time, more than 2 years. So then I joined a production house as an employee where I made a few contacts.
As a model, Aman was featured in many music videos, including this one by singer Romey Gill
MB: JODHAA AKBAR was a big film, but alas, it didn’t quite become the career starter for you that it should have been.
AD: When JODHAA AKBAR released, most of my scenes had been deleted. Ashustosh said that because of controversy surrounding Rajputs in Rajasthan he had to cut the negative side of Rajkumar Ratan Singh. That was 6 to 7 big scenes that were deleted.
MB: But this was not the end of your Hindi film work, was it?
AD: Next movie was also a Hindi film. COFFEE HOUSE which was based on politics, so again it was in a controversy. I worked on two more Hindi movies with big production houses which got stuck. Then I made my mind to either move back to Punjab or to settle in USA on job basis. On the last day before I was to go back to Punjab I met up with a gentleman named Pankaj and he offered me a role in the Punjabi movie VIRSA, which of course was my entrance into Punjabi cinema. And so now, here I am with my 4th Punjabi movie now releasing.
MB: And this 4th Punjabi release — JATT BOYS–has had a very successful opening, so congratulations for that, Aman, as it looks to be a big hit!
To learn more about Aman Dhaliwal check out his website at: http://www.amandhaliwal.in/
You can also find him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/amandhaliwalactor
And here is a sneak peek at Aman’s upcoming feature film which will be both in Punjabi and English!!
Well, as I sweep aside the cobwebs covering Pedro (the Ape Bomb) blog, I figured it was about I start updating the place. I have been so busy with Bollywood related book projects that I have completely neglected this here website…but stay tuned because soon I will have several wonderful interviews forthcoming of artists currently working in Hindi and Punjabi cinema. You won’t want to miss it!
In the meantime, here is an story that The Indian Express newspaper did on western Bollywood bloggers in which I was one of the featured interviewees (as was my friend Greta of the popular Memsaabstory blog and some other very nice Bollybloggers.) Please enjoy: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/desi-films-foreign-fans/955770/
For those who caught my recent interview with actor Anil Mange, and especially those who remember his highly regarded work in HELLO DARLING and LOVE EXPRESS, you will be pleased to know that he has a very important role in the upcoming feature film MYOHO, which will be releasing at theatres on December 14.
Not only does Anil have a major role in this highly anticipated film which has different stories based on the law of karma, but he also has a song from the film picturized on himself! Now, how awesome is that?!
Curious and excited about this, and always eager to know the behind the scenes workings, I checked in with Anil recently and asked about his experience filming for the song, titled Allah Jaane Maula Jaane. Anil was also kind enough to share some shots from the filming, which I have included below.
“Allah Jaane Maula Jaane is a sufi song shot inside the water, and there were some problems while shooting this song. We were shooting it in the month of February and weather was almost turning into summer, yet there was a snow fall in the upper regions of India which created a climate change where we were filming. So, on the day of the shoot it was down to 6 degrees! The song was supposed to be shot during the night and for this sequence I was to wear just a dhoti and a bandana.
Before the shoot, production people called a local diver to check the deepness of the water. I was standing on stairs [down in the cold water] for the whole song and there were hardly five stairs, and that too full of slippery mud. Just after 5 stairs the water became 15 feet deep. I was scared because I can barely swim, but thank God I took lessons last year. I was, like, a little calm, but still worried. However, there were people from production ready to dive in if in case I fell. Thank God nothing happen and I think this song had such a power that no protection was needed! The sequence is shot in one long take, and we shot multiple takes, and after every take people used to run and take me out of the water and for next 30 minutes I couldn’t feel my body, it was so cold.
My thanks to Krishan Hooda, Tikshika, Sonal and many more people on set. Full credit goes to the director who had full fate without a choreographer and to music director Runa Rizvi for such a wonderful composition. And of course Master Salim who has sung so many super hit songs and sang for Allah Jaane Maula Jaane. I think am really lucky to be a part of this song, and I hope people will love the song and the film… and rest, as the song says, Allah jaane maula jaane uski baatein wo hi jaane [the almighty knows everything] ”
Now, that is true suffering for your art! Good going Anil!
Although Allah Jaane Maula Jaane’s song picturization has yet to show up on-line, you can currently get a look at the promotional teaser for MYOHO and hear another of the film’s beautiful songs, Satthiya.
Coincidentally, the music launch for MYOHO occurs today (Oct. 24th) in Vijayadashmi at R City Mall. Anil and other members of the cast will be there, so if you are in the area check it out (and don’t forget to report back here!). From what I have heard so far, the soundtrack is going to be a complete winner! I will certainly be ordering my CD right soon!
MYOHO is written and directed by newcomer Ranjan Shandilya and stars, along with Anil Mange, Raj Singh Chowdary, Parul Chauhan, Malay Chakraborty, Yashpal Sharma (who was so great in LAGAAN) and Kanwaljeet Singh (an actor you will recognize from every Punjabi film ever made! LOL!).
Remember, the premier date is December 14th, so don’t miss it! And just as soon as Allah Jaane Maula Jaane song video is made available, you can be sure I will post it right here on Pedro (The Ape Bomb) blog!
The MYOHO music launch was a grand success, I am told, and here are a few snaps shots from the event which featured the cast and musical crew from the film including live performances by Master Saleem (one of my favorites!), A. Sivamani, Shahid Mallya, Runa Rizvi, and Neha Rizvi…all I can say is wow! That was some awesome entertainment going on there!
If and when I ever get to visit India, I am so going to a music launch! Imagine all that talent, and for free!
Of the many thousands of young people trying for their break into Bollywood, there are few as charming and talented as newcomer Priyam Galav. A member of the first batch to graduate from Whistling Woods International film school, Priyam has already starred in one feature film, last year’s amusing romcom LOVE EXPRESS, and has some exciting projects lined up for the future!
As the broken hearted Priyanka in Love Express, who meets her former lover Chirag (Vikas Katyal) after many years while both are travelling by train to an ill fated wedding, Priyam delighted audiences with not only her beauty, but also her dramatic range. Filmgoers are sure to be seeing more of this gal in the near future!
Want to know more about Priyam? Then just keep reading!
Having just graduated with a degree in philosophy from Mithibai College, and heading out to continue her career on-screen, Priyam was kind enough to take time out to answer a few questions for Pedro(the Ape Bomb) blog.
Mike Barnum: Where were you born and where were you raised
Priyam Galav: I was born and raised in New York for the first 10 years, before moving to India. Here, I studied at Mayo College, a boarding school located in Ajmer, Rajasthan. I have lived in Mumbai ever since I passed out.
MB: Aside from acting, what are your other interests and hobbies.
PG: I love dancing…Contemporary and Indian Classical… travelling, watching movies, reading and listening to music.
MB: What possessed you to want to become an actress?
PG: During my childhood years in New York, Hindi films were my main connect to India. I was obsessed with watching Indian cinema. Back here [in India] I happened to attend an interview of Aamir Khan, where he was promoting and talking about his experience of working in Lagaan. Seeing Aamir’s passion, attention to detail and methodology internally changed me. As he spoke, it was an instant connect for me. That was when I knew that this is what I would love and had to do.
MB: Are your family and friends supportive of this career choice?
PG: I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive family. I would not be in Mumbai pursuing my dreams had it not been for them. My school friends too, have always supported my dream to become an actress and their positive reinforcements have always given me strength.
MB: How exciting was it to first see yourself on the big screen in Love Express?
PG: It was nerve wracking. I personally don’t enjoy seeing myself blown up on such a large screen. My excitement came with other’s getting excited seeing me on screen.
MB: What did you find most surprising or challenging in making your first film?
PG: I believe that no matter how many acting classes one may ever take it does not fully prepare you mentally for your first film. There are so many emotions attached to it, excitement, anxiousness, nervousness. Love Express for me was all of that; and having to perform in spite of all that was very challenging.
MB: How was working opposite fellow newcomer Vikas Katyal?
PG: Vikas and I were from the same batch of Whistling Woods, hence we had done a lot of work together and spent a significant amount of time with each other. We were each other’s support system.
MB: Who were the most fun to work with on LOVE EXPRESS?
PG: Everyone. From our director [Sunny Bhambhani] , to producer [Subhash Ghai], to the entire cast and crew. Everyone brought their own element of fun to the sets.
MB: Your role in Love Express was both dramatic and comical. What types of roles do you hope to play in the future.
PG: I loved Kiera Knightly’s role in Atonement. I’d kill to portray such a character. Besides that, I’m a sucker for romantic comedies and period drama.
MB: Who would be your ideal leading man?
PG: In the Indian Film Industry it would be Ranbir Kapoor. I think he is super talented. In Hollywood, I am spoilt rotten for choices. There are just too many people to choose from.
MB: Are there any yesteryear stars you are a big fan of?
PG: I’m a huge Guru Dutt fan. Besides him, I love Madhuri Dixit, Madhubala and Waheeda Rehman. In Hollywood it would have to be Audrey Hepburn and Meryl Streep.
MB: Who are your current favorites?
PG: My favourites keep changing. But presently its Ranbir Kapoor. In Hollywood its Meryl Streep all the way.
MB: Just for fun, list for me your top 10 favorite films.
PG: All in random order and subject to constant change:
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge
The GodFather films
Rang De Basanti
Kaagaz Ke Phool
MB: Since making Love Express, do you find yourself being noticed on the street by people who saw the film?
PG: Sometimes strangers look at me as if they recognize me, but I don’t know whether it’s because of the film or because of some other reason ( LOL ).
MB: Do you have any projects coming up?
PG: I do, but everything is at a very nascent stage.
MB: What do you hope for in your career?
PG: I hope to be an actor who bridges Indian and International films. The world is becoming a smaller place, and with my back ground having lived in both worlds, I would want to be a part of this merger. For me a film of high budget is not a factor, but it has to be of great quality and content.
My thanks to Priyam for sharing a bit about herself. I hope you will all join me in wishing her the best in her career. She is truly a delightful new performer!
Whistling Woods Institute is fast supplying India’s entertainment industry with a fresh crop of talented film artistes each year. New among them is up-and-coming actor Anil Mange whose work in two recent comedies has already gotten him noticed. In Manoj Tiwari’s HELLO DARLING (2010) Anil plays Asish Singh Chaudhary the young love interest of beautiful Gul Panag, while in Sunny Bhambhani’s LOVE EXPRESS (2011) he essays the role of Sujaan Singh, the middle aged father of an unwilling bride. Anil proves outstanding in both films!
In addition to Bollywood features Anil has also kept busy in independent cinema, tackling a variety of roles in several soon to be released short and feature length films in which this “man of a thousand faces” is showing his versatility and grasp of characterizations.
As busy as Anil Mange is with acting and traveling (something of which he is particularly fond), he was nice enough to take the time to answer a few questions about his career, how he got his start, and where he hopes the future will take him.
MB: A bit about your background, please.
AM: I come from a business class family where the children are expected to take over the family business after completing their required education. Though I was born in a small town, Balaghat, Madhya Pradesh, I had an early dream to travel the world and explore as much as possible. I did my schooling from my home town and then moved to Pune, Maharashtra for my further education. I was raised by my parents, but I can say I was partly raised by my parents and partly by brother in Pune.
MB: When and how did your interest in acting developed?
AM: Everything I do is being passed on to me by my brother. I remember he used to bring comic books home. I never used to read the whole book but looked at the pictures for hours and tried to get into the character’s thinking, his feeling, sometimes dialogs. After that I used to go to an open field with my friends, creating stories and playing the parts till sunset. That was the time when somewhere back in my mind I knew where I was heading, but I still didn’t have clear idea of my final destination.
MB: As you were growing up were there any particular entertainers that inspired you?
AM: When I was kid I heard one name before I ever saw him, people call him God….king of pop…Michael Jackson. There are several other performers whom I love, but Michael Jackson was the first one
MB: You recently played a major role in the romantic comedy LOVE EXPRESS directed by Sunny Bhambhani.
AM: I played the character of Sujaan Singh, who is a father of the bride, a very sophisticated and family oriented man. Relationship means a lot to him, which can be seen in the friendship of Sujaan and his childhood friend Chadda. His only goal in the film is to make sure everything goes well in the marriage and that everyone is happy.
MB: Was it difficult to play a character who is so much older than you?
AM : Being born and brought up in Punjabi family, I have seen and observed people like Sujaan Singh. Half the work was done with makeup and beard, plus there was a lot of help from Sunny and Subhash-ji (Ghai) for creating the character, so the whole character was developed with everyone’s help. I am very thankful to Mr Subhash Ghai for trusting me with this character and it was his trust which has shown up on screen.
MB: The delightful actress Roobie played your wife in LOVE EXPRESS. What can you tell me about working with her?
AM: She is a gem of a person and opposite of what she played on screen. In real life she is very happy with everything around her, calm and composed, and very down to earth.
MB: How was your experience attending Whistling Woods Institute? What made you decide to go there?
AM: Since the beginning I was always fascinated by performing art schools, mostly seen in Hollywood films. When I was in Pune I used to order brochures of international music and film schools and dreamed of joining one, but I didn’t know that a brick of international standard film school had already been kept on Indian soil. When I came to know about Whistling Woods Institute, through a friend, I knew this was the place. I showed it to my brother and he said first to fill out the forms and then we will see about the fees, and after two months my dream of studying in an international school came true.
MB: Prior to LOVE EXPRESS you had appeared in the film HELLO DARLING.
AM: In HELLO DARLING I played an NRI sardar named Ashish who happens to be a boyfriend of Gul Panag. In the film, Ashish tries to convince his girl friend for marriage but due to work pressure and her over ambitious nature she says no.
MB: For this film you were actually picked to replace another performer, is that correct?
AM: I got to know about this after two days of my selection. I came out of my room and my friend who was reading the newspaper told me “Bro, you have replaced one actor”…otherwise no one in the production spoke to me about this and neither I dared to ask. So in the end it was just news through a newspaper.
MB: The Internet Movie Database lists you as appearing in a short film titled KALAPAANI last year. Can you tell me about that?
AM: KALAPAANI is a diploma project done in Whistling Woods Institute. A film based on the customary practices of the rural panchayats in Haryana.
MB: One of your latest projects is the intriguing short film STARING UPSTREAM directed by first-time film makerSidharth Mishra.
AM: STARING UPSTREAM is set in the late eighties, in an insignificant town in northern India. It tells the story of a marriage that suffers from guilt, loyalty, and sexual deprivation. On the day the husband decided to confess his criminal intentions against his marriage and his wife, we stand witness to the carnally starved lives of the couple. The character that I play, Viraj, deals with his guilt of almost committing a crime against his marriage which keeps him from displaying physical affection to his wife, Suman.
Suman, though clueless about her husband’s state of mind, deals with her own sexual cravings and her attempts at satisfying the guilt-ridden temptations. The film is about the ugly persistence of the “Institution of Marriage” in Indian society; the trauma and hysteria that accompany it.
MB: Thinking ahead to future film work, if you could play lead against any actress, who would it be?
AM: Oh God, there will be a long list but mentioning a few, I think Kareena Kapoor and Vidya Balan will be my first choices.
MB: And do you see yourself playing hero roles or character parts?
AM: Every actor in a movie is a character whether it is hero or a cameo role, but yes I see myself as a lead actor in coming years, and want to do some realistic and meaningful cinema.
MB: Would you find negative roles to be something that you would enjoy doing?
AM: I enjoy doing negative roles too because it gives you an authority to go against the rules and regulations which, in reality, is not possible for a guy like me! And for sure there is a certain power which a negative character enjoys over positive characters, and you get a chance to show your wild side.
MB: I understand you just finished working on a feature film titled MYOHO.
AM: MYOHO means mystic law; what goes around comes around. I am playing a double role in this film and the rest will be seen when the film releases this summer.
MB: Do you have any other projects in the works?
AM: Apart from MYOHO there are a couple of other films which will release this year. One is being shot by Vishram Sawant, who made the films D (2005) and RISK (2007). Others are under production, including one international project.
MB: Is your plan to work in Hindi films only, or would you also like to work in Punjabi or other regional films?
AM: I haven’t restricted myself, especially at this very early stage of my career. I want to explore as much as possible. So, as of now I am open to offbeat cinema, commercial, as well as other language films. If they really excite me, I’ll do them.
MB: Who would you consider to be your biggest supporters?
AM : I think I am really lucky as far as support is concerned and I have got this from the very beginning of Whistling Woods Institute days …from my brother to all my faculty members, all my senior, junior and my classmates. I am really thankful for all the good wishes and great amount of love I’ve received.
A big thanks to Anil Mange for chatting and here’s wishing you all the best in your life and career!
To get a glimpse of his work you can check out Anil’s show reel here:
… and if you’d like to see Anil groove to one of my favorite songs – Band Baja from HELLO DARLING - (Anil, you totally rock this!!) just check this out!!
Sidharth Mishra is a man with a passion to tell a story on film, he is also a man with the determination and drive to make it happen! Match this with a noticeable respect for his art and his co-artists, and Mr. Mishra is destined to be much more than a dot on India’s film making map. He has had no formal schooling in the art (or business) of film, but Sidharth’s focus, creativity, imagination and sincerity will take him far– that is, once his talent gets noticed.
But to get noticed, one’s creative work must be seen and this is the next step in the story of Sidharth Mishra, a resolve to complete the financing needed to finish his venture, a short film which takes a look at the institution of marriage and the power it has over two individuals. STARING UPSTREAM is the title, and it has been completed with exception to post production work.
I recently found myself in touch with Sidharth after seeing the trailer for his film (which I found mesmerizing) and decided to seek out the story behind his first production and ask him about the ups and downs of a beginning film maker.
Mike Barnum: When did the film making bug first hit you?
Sidharth Mishra: The idea of filmmaking, as a process and an artistic-commercial venture, was first conceived in my 1st year of undergraduate college. When I was young I was enchanted by the movies I watched, and somehow I thought that I could tell an equally good story myself. As you grow up this kind of notion either begins to fade away or take shape. Through the first few months of college I believed I could be in the acting profession, but while I was dreaming about it I was also constructing a story for myself. When the dream crashed, and I realized how bad an actor I was, what remained was that story. My belief in my storytelling skill was light-years ahead, and stronger than, my acting skill. That is when the idea of ‘creating’ new people, new stories and new worlds hit me and I started learning how I could do it, and do it right.
MB: And you took no schooling to learn film making?
SD: My school was the cinema that already existed. That taught me the values and ethics and rules to be followed and broken. My college hostel room was my classroom and I was my own professor. I bought books on cinema and filmmaking, learnt the art and skill of screenwriting. You wouldn’t believe Mike, but by the end of college where I was enrolled to study Economics, I had covered a curriculum on cinema which ranged from thesis on varied world cinema, production designing, cinematography, color palettes, youth, sexuality, politics and women shaping the art of moviemaking, etc.
But filmmaking is not like other academics. Your tests are the films that you make, and mere recollecting and reproducing what you have studied doesn’t matter then. Your decisions as a director are now governed by the story you are trying to tell and its demands and necessities to be told effectively. Most of what I know I learnt while actually making a film.
MB: STARING UPSTREAM is your first film, is that correct?
SM: I like to call STARING UPSTREAM my first film. Though, back in 2008, I can say I had tried to make a short film without understanding any aspect of filmmaking. I didn’t give the film enough time and resources. I hated the result because there was no element of filmmaking in that effort. I burned the tapes, I was so embarrassed.
MB: Tell me how the story for STARING UPSTREAM came about?
SM: I had come to Mumbai in August, 2010. I was working in a BPO [Business Process Outsourcing] for survival when a colleague, who actually aspired to be an actor, sensed my passion for filmmaking and wanted me to write a story for him. Though I don’t work that way, his personal character intrigued me. More than that it was the world and the society he came from that I was drawn to. Marriage was another thing that I was always puzzled about. I just don’t understand how that works here in India or anywhere else. It’s such an unnatural event in a human life. And I’m amazed at people’s fascination towards it. I clubbed them together with another important element– Woman. In the winter of early 2011, with these three elements, I weaved my story about a complex marriage situation in a small town in Northern India back in the late 1980s. I guess at the core it’s about how they fall apart and still stick together.
MB: And your cast, how did you find them. Did you know them previously or did you have a casting call?
SM: Only someone really fortunate can expect such a wonderful team of people that I got. I had to get a Director of Photography first and that’s where it all begins for me. Riju Samanta, my DoP, accompanied me for location scouting and auditions. We went to New Delhi for auditions but were disappointed with what we got there. I chose to trust him with his suggestions for the cast as he knew the story and characters really well. He suggested Anil Mange, a Whistling Woods graduate, for the lead actor and Anil suggested Nayani Dixit, from The Film and Television Institute, for the female lead. My first conversations with both of them assured me I had to look no further. What enhances this first film’s experience are my interactions with my cast and crew. These people are talented beyond description. The details they requested about their characters, the probing and research about the husband and wife and the period they were enacting, all this and the entire process was so welcoming because I wanted to approach the characters that way too. Let it be the violence, the intimate privacy of a woman, or the sensitivity of the subject, these people were so mature the way they treated all the aspects of getting into the skin of the character.
MB: Aside from the creative aspects of film making, there is the business side also, and unfortunately the financing for STARING UPSTREAM collapsed. What happened?
SM: This is one episode from my early experiences that is going to haunt me for some time to come. The gentleman who came on board as the financier had some issues with his financial situation which were strategically covered up and were not disclosed to me until everything started falling apart. Immediately after the principal photography got over we sensed trouble. My inexperience or my age is no excuse to drag my cast and crew into the mess that we were pushed in. I did not want my film to be associated with that person and his company so I took up all the liabilities pertaining to the film and got all the underlying rights transferred to me individually. This way my film was safe and still had hopes to find the audience it deserves someday. I am blessed to be doing business with people who, actually, should only care about their money and not my problems, but they are patient and are supporting my Crowd-Funding campaign with sincere intentions. It’s difficult for short films of this scale and budget to find a buyer or investor, especially when it’s unfinished. Going democratic with fundraising seemed like a noble option. Hence we are Crowd-Funding now on indiegogo.com/Staring-Upstream and we are doing well.
MB: Director/producer Onir used a similar novel approach to funding his recent film I AM. Is that where you got the idea for your own funding?
SM: Whatever Onir does somehow redefines the perception towards filmmaking and cinema, and the way to get a story told. I did a lot of running around, negotiations, convincing and pitching to prospective investors but the complexities with this project and its associated liabilities tend to give investors excuses not to play the crusader and rescue the film. I felt like a single parent who could not provide enough for his child’s needs to grow up. That’s a bad feeling. Of course, Onir and [co-producer/actor] Sanjay Suri came in the news with their way of raising funds for their film and I had no idea about Crowd Funding as a prevalent concept and mode. I wanted to know if this practice was exclusive to their project, and what I found were websites dedicated to Crowd-funding and thousands of projects seeking funds this way. This was enough to make me hopeful and give it a try. This way my family grows from a single parent to many guardians to make sure my child, my film, grows up healthy and protected.
MB: Once the funding comes through and the film is completed what will be your next steps with it?
SM: When that happens, Mike, I’d run to some Himalayan village, lock myself in a cottage and will come back to the world when I’m sane again! On a serious note, that would be a time when I would like to thank and reward each contributor for their support and generosity and dispatch their perks and incentives. As for the film, it will take a trip around the world through the film festival circuit. Based on our performance at these festivals we have a distribution strategy planned out which is designed for both commercial and non-commercial viewers. I want as many people as possible to watch this film, and to tell me it’s bad if they feel that way, but I want them to watch it. We want to turn every stone in sight.
MB: Who in the world of film making do you admire?
SM: I have great admiration for directors who write their own films. I am not referring to the auteur theory exactly, but that is one aspect of filmmaking that I feel good about because it’s such a personal process of a story’s development. The answer to this enormous question isn’t contained in one or two names. Directors like Francois Truffaut, De Sica, Godard, Almodovar, Takeshi Kitano, Terrence Malick, Vishal Bhardwaj, Anurag Kashyap, Majid Majidi, Jafar Panahi for his relentless passion, and the list doesn’t end; Woody Allen, remarkable guy; Jean Pierre Jeunet and Martin Scorsese whom one can never exclude from this kind of list.
MB: No doubt you have particular films which have inspired you, as well.
SM: My list is really long so I will name just five in no particular order- THE 400 BLOWS, THE TREE OF LIFE, THE SONG OF SPARROWS, TWO WOMEN and ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER.
MB: Do you have any other projects in the works?
SM: I have been trying to find answers about marriage and how this thing actually works. I’m not against it, just curious. So, my next film, which I’m writing now, is a feature about a much older couple understanding marriage as a union and as a necessity, a little later than they actually should have figured it out. It’s going to be an easy film while viewing, a light hearted take on the issue, unlike my first film.
MB: Despite the headaches associated with making a film, what has been the most gratifying thing thus far?
SM: I’m grateful for the entire experience. What I have seen and experienced in my first film has made me realize and understand things that people wouldn’t always learn so early in their careers. I don’t know if you’d agree with me on this but I think it’s good to have a rough start so you are trained and tested for the success you might enjoy later in life. And I’m grateful for that. If you still need me to point to a few things in particular, that would be – appreciation from friends and family. I see it in their eyes. They look at me like I grew up suddenly and they are looking for answers because they are puzzled and amazed at the same time.
It felt really good when I saw my cast and crew happy with the results. When I see a faint smile or dilated pupils in their eyes while watching the rushes or trailers, it is an incredible experience. Also, when I saw the rushes for the first time, for every shot that I liked, and I liked all of them, I could claim ownership. I’d say to myself “That’s your work Sidharth. You can be happy about it.”
Now is your chance to be a contributor to the arts and help a struggling cast and crew complete a work that has meant so much to each and every one. If you would like to contribute towards Sidharth’s film (and contributors get some darn nice incentives, not to mention the good karma you will accrue!) and help see it to completion and appreciation, you can donate (even just $25.00 is a great help) at indiegogo.com/Staring-Upstream.
To view the trailer of STARING UPSTREAM just click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6h8GEzdigyA.
And to learn more about the film, join the facebook page at facebook.com/Staring.Upstream
Every now and then a film comes along that fills me with happiness. A feel good movie that I know I will want to watch again and again. LOVE EXPRESS (2011) is one such film, and it features the directorial debut of one heck of a nice fellow, Sunny Bhambhani.
A recent graduate of film maker Subhash Ghai’s Whistling Woods International School of Media and Communication, Sunny (who also holds a Bachelors of Engineering degree in Information Technology from Thadomal Engineering College) was chosen to direct this delightful romantic comedy for Mukta Arts, which also features several other Whistling Woods alumn in the cast and crew.
Sunny Bhambhani, Bollywood director debutante (PHOTO COURTESY OF SUNNY BHAMBHANI)
A film fan from an early age, Sunny is a bright spot on the horizon of Bollywood’s future. LOVE EXPRESS has proven to be a great starting point for this creative talent whose love of music (and musical numbers) encourages me to be on the lookout for his future film work. Currently, he acts as creative producer at Weaving Magic Productions where he has several projects in the works.
So, what is it like to be a first time director? What are the ups and downs of working with debutantes and veterans? Well, Sunny was kind enough to take time out to chat about his first major filmatic adventure and he fills us in on what he plans to accomplish in the Mumbai film industry.
Mike Barnum: Did motion pictures play a role in your childhood?
Sunny Bhambhani: I have always loved Bollywood movies. I grew up by watching the Bollywood cinema of the 90′s where every movie was about boy meets girl, they sing and dance and there is a problem and then all is well in the end. Bollywood is known for its musicals, be it any genre of movie, and for me that was my major fodder when I grew up. I am a huge fan of Mr. Yash Chopra.
MB: How and when did your interest in film making begin?
SB: It actually all began back in my 11th standard wherein I wanted to video record a short movie or a movie that I wanted to write. This was around 12 years back. I used to be a choreographer in school, as dancing is something I purely loved from the heart… the rhythm, the music, the beat, and very much in particular the Bollywood dance style. So, I thought why not choreograph some songs and video tape them. Then I felt ‘wait a minute why not just write a script around it and shoot it with friends.’ That’s how it all started. It was a home video kind of a movie, but totally Bollywoodish style! So, I had songs… and we were shooting it.. OMG, now when I look back it feels embarrassing, but I enjoyed it the most!
MB: It is my understanding that producer Subhash Ghai chose you as director for LOVE EXPRESS. How did this come about? Had you worked with him before? If not, how did he know of you?
SB: After getting my Engineering degree I worked in a “subtitling” or “translation” company in the media sector in the industry so that I could get exposure to the very same world where I wanted to step in. After that I joined Whistling Woods International ( The film making school), and my first job was at Mukta Arts in the creative division, which is owned by Mr. Ghai. So, that is how he knew of me. Also, we were trying to work on a script together, which didn’t happen, but while I was there I directed a theatrical ad which he saw, and so he knew my work.
MB: With LOVE EXPRESS being your first feature film, was the script very important to you or would you have directed anything that was offered?
SB: I just feel one thing about the script, it’s your gut, you feel and hear something and the very thought has to excite you. What excited me about LOVE EXPRESS was the idea of a wedding procession traveling in a train. That world had not been touched so far and I felt that it would be interesting enough to see how it all turns out. In fact, LOVE EXPRESS is my humble gratitude to the Bollywood movie industry for all those growing up years of mine of the 90′s!
Also, I had heard a friend telling me of a wedding procession traveling all together, as in the whole family, from Delhi to Jaipur, and was fascinated by that idea, and hence wanted to make something around it and so the concept was taken to Mr. Ghai and thereby worked upon.
MB: Did you have a hand in the casting?
SB: Yes. Of course, all of it. Every character needed to be well etched. As I didn’t have sets for their houses, etc. it was very important that each character sitting in a train compartment should stand out from the rest, since there were a lot of characters in the movie.
MB: Tell me your thoughts on each of the four leads, all of whom are debutantes.
SB: The four leads are from the first batch of Whistling Woods, as actors. I have worked with them or knew of them as my colleagues as we were all students at one point together.
Director Sunny Bhambhani (center) with the four leads of LOVE EXPRESS: Vikas Katyal and Priyam Galav (left), and Mannat Ravi and Sahil Mehta (at right).
Sahil Mehta, who plays Kanav Chadda, I worked with in many short films and in my diploma movie ANSUNI ( Which got a national telecast on Sony Pix). He played the lead in that. It was a love story. Sahil has honesty in his eyes, which I think is his USP, you can see his soul through it, it’s very direct. If he hates something, you can see it, if he is scheming something you can see it, if he is in love his one look can speak volumes about it. They are transparent like one’s soul, which I felt works for Kanav.
Sahil Mehta as the spoiled groom, Kannav in LOVE EXPRESS
Mannat Ravi,who plays Ashneet, has very expressive eyes and a very earthy Indian face, hence her casting was perfect. She could speak through her eyes and hence the typical silent scene of the first meet between the bride and the groom in a traditional Indian arranged marriage scenario. Also, she is very child like in person and that inner trait of hers transcended on screen making her character very lively and adorable for the audience.
Mannat Ravi as the unhappy bride-to-be with co-star Sahil Mehta
Priyam Galav played Priyanka. Priyam is a very good dancer, and her body language is what speaks volumes of her emotions, apart from the fact that her eyes emote the pain of meeting her once lost love on the train. She is not someone who would cry over it, but someone who has moved on, and, as in the journey, she realizes she needs to wait and maybe revisit her past before she makes the final move. Priyam is very meticulous and is a rehearsed actor. In fact Priyam and Vikas [Katyal] are both rehearsed actors, while Sahil and Mannat are more spontaneous actors. The two couples come from these two schools of acting, I feel.
Priyam Gulav plays a lover who has lost in LOVE EXPRESS
Vikas Katyal (as Chirag) is a very detail prepared actor. He would go back and create the whole back story of the character. He wants to feel everything of the character, its important for him. He is someone who will feel in the moment and let himself go loose. He has done a lot of theatre along with Mr. Naseerudin Shah too, so Vikas knows that language and cinema form merges the two platforms that he dwells in. He also has a very earthy, raw sense to him, which I felt worked for his character, since Chirag is someone who hasn’t moved on. What I liked about the way he played his role was that he was very casual about it though he internally really wanted things, and I think that’s what truly makes him a hero! A lover who knows and is confident of his feelings and expresses it, which makes the girl turn around and go running after him. I found that beautiful in him.
Newcomer Vikas Katyal (right) with veteran film maker Subhash Ghai.
MB: How was it working with the more veteran artists?
SB: I must say once the artists are veteran, they only help a first time director like me and make the job of a director easier. They are not only attuned to their performances very fast but also they add to the scenes and lift it up with their finer nuances. Especially Mr. Om Puri. I mean, he is a veteran, but the way he would add nuances, he would add his moments of comedy, his timing, the way he would make not only me comfortable but also his co-actors. I think that’s a true actor! One who thinks of other’s performances first and then his, only then can he be a great actor. And I couldn’t feel more blessed than having him in my first movie!
The fabulous Om Puri plays a fun loving grandfather in LOVE EXPRESS
MB: What did you find were the biggest challenges you faced as a director?
SB: Well, the handling of 23 artists! Indian weddings are with a LOT of people, so clearly the movie also demanded that.. .so, we had 23 secondary cast along with the 4 leads. Though the scheduling was handled by my production and direction team, it was the people-handling creatively, as each one play such diversely different roles, that I felt was a challenge. We first made sure that all the cast was North Indian, so the diction of them speaking in that language would not be an issue. And then we had workshops with them prior to the shoot so that no time would be wasted on set once the shoot started.
MB: Was the cast supportive of a first time director?
SB: Since I knew the main leads from before, it was comforting. But also, because a big banner in Bollywood like Mukta Arts was supporting me, because of that, it made everything easy for me, and handling everyone became much easier.
MB: Are there any particular cast members you would most like to work with again?
SB: Of course, all of them, including most of the secondary cast too! But Mr. Om Puri for sure, not just because he’s a veteran but also the fact that I can always learn so much more from him. And, of course, it goes without saying the four leads of the movie.
MB: With the main cast and the director all unknowns, did this hurt the film’s box office chances?
SB: Well, yes, maybe. But the box office success is a combination of many things, which I am not the right person to answer. But, yes people are generally a little skeptical of spending money on newcomers. Having said that, I have huge gratitude for the company who invested in new talent like us and gave us such a great platform to showcase ourselves. My gratitude will always be with them for what they have done for me and the new talent in the movie.
MB: What kind of feedback have you received from this first effort?
SB: The feedback from the industry circuit has been very supportive; they have appreciated the new talent and the first time effort, for sure. And, yes, criticism is always constructive and that is the first job of a film maker–long with the pros, the cons are also mine. So, will be working to learn from them and deliver a much better product the next time.
MB: Have you begun working on any other film project?
SB: I have been. I just joined a new production house, it’s a start up. So have been working on something to be getting on board; a content tie up, so that is still on its way. It was supposed to happen and be sealed at the end of last year, but it hasn’t happened so far. Apart from that I am working on a script and couple or two additional concepts at the moment, all of which are movie based projects. So fingers crossed!
Sunny Bhambhani contemplates his next project (PHOTO COURTESY OF SUNNY BHAMBHANI)
MB: What do you hope the future will hold for you?
SB: I don’t worry about the future. When I decided to finish engineering and go into the media space I didn’t think, I just hoped, that I can tell a story someday on screen from the heart. And I have. I leave the rest to God, and keep doing my best! But yes, someday I hope, and I want, to take Bollywood known internationally because I sincerely feel we have a “cinema language” that can be understood visually without understanding the Hindi language in which our movies are made. That day, when I can achieve that, it shall be my most blessed day of my life, and I can only hope and pray that that day comes soon.
MB: Who are your favorites performers of the past and likewise, who are your favorite performers of today?
SB: I am a huge fan of Madhubala from the past. Of today there is Madhuri Dixit, then Aishwarya Rai and Vidya Balan. I really hope to work with them some day.
MB: What are your favorite films, new and old?
SB: My most favorite movie of all times, one that I am deeply passionate about, is Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s DEVDAS. I feel the most for it amongst the classics in Indian cinema. Then there are all of the Guru Dutt and Raj Kapoor movies. Kapoor’s SHREE 420 is an all-time favorite. Also, I love GUIDE ! Vijay Anand, a master in shooting songs, I have been a huge fan of him!!!!
The classic 1955 film SHREE 420 is among director Sunny Bhambhani’s all time favorite films.
MB: Are there any film makers that you have found inspiration in?
SB: Yes, I like Mr Yash Chopra. Also, Mr Subhash Ghai. I love his TAAL, of all movies. It has a feel of love which resonates with the strings of the heart. And of course Guru Dutt and Raj Kapoor, as I mentioned.
Internationally I am a HUGE fan of Chinese cinema. Wong Kar Wai and Zhang Yimou are my favorites. I have watched all of Zhang Yimou’s movies and all are my favorites. His THE ROAD HOME is something I cry at every time I watch it. It is love expressed unconditionally at its best, with the most amazing simplicity. Someday I wish I can reach that zenith of expressing even the most complex emotions with simplicity that resonates spiritually deep within, and which appeals to an international audience or to the whole wide world.
Film maker Zhang Yimou has been a big inspiration for Sunny. THE ROAD HOME (2000) is among Zhang’s best known works.
MB: There are some fun and beautiful songs in LOVE EXPRESS, particularly ‘Tere Bin Jiya Na Jaaye,’ which is my favorite. How were the songs chosen and who chose the singers?
SB: Mike, that’s such a surprise to know [that you liked that song], as my most favorite of all is ‘Tere Bin Jiya Na Jaaye.’ Incidentally that was the first song we recorded. I still remember the day when Kumaar wrote the lyrics and he showed them to me in the studio. By just reading them I had tears in my eyes and I knew that this was the soul of my movie. It speaks about two aspects of love, one on Ashneet and Kanav that, yes, in life we meet people just very casually, but we only value them once they are away from us. It only dawns then their true worth. The second part of the lyrics talk about Chirag and Priyanka, ex-lovers who have met after ages and both have changed and, had they first met now, they would have gotten along. But now they have already made some choices. Should they go back and change things or just continue with life ahead. The lyrics are like golden words. They speak the language right from the heart. A lot of inspiration Kumaar took from the way Mr. Anand Bakshi would write his lyrics — simple ‘n straight, yet deep and meaningful. And it is after this song that the movie is pushed into the climax, where I believe that one doesn’t need 10 years or so to realize and fall in love. The attachment builds, but the decision that she is the one or he is the one takes only a moment… and that moment is what I have tried to express through this song where one fine morning, after the moment has occurred, you wake up and you just know what is right. Couldn’t thank God for a better song! Another thing, the male voice [Gulshan] that sung this song is not a trained singer, he is a pure fresher from up north in India and had just recorded his voice for the scratch. We loved it so much that we decided to go with his voice. Gulshan’s voice has the rustic soulful feel to it which we thought would amplify the pain the lovers feel for not being together. As I said, one just needs to be very lucky in film making to get these things right at times. And the two other songs are ‘fun’ songs. ‘We are Rocking, Shocking Family’ was discussed during the pre-production of the movie that it needed to be a fusion song. One part of the song has English lyrics which the younger guys sing, and the other part of the song has a pure Punjabi folk feel to it so that the mix would be interesting since the whole drama of the movie is between the younger generation breaking away from the traditions of the older generation. And the song ‘Dance like a Punjabi’ is a pure fun number, with the idea that Punjabi’s LOVE to dance and LOVE to drink and LOVE to eat. We thought, what better way to celebrate that. Also, though it is a choreographical number, it has the screenplay of the couple moving through it and them maintaining a straight face in front of people that all is well, even as they know the wedding has been called off. Of course these two songs also involve a lot of other characters of the movie.
The lovely TERE BIN JIAY song from LOVE EXPRESS
MB: While the musical numbers are limited to three in this film, you mention that you are a fan of music and dance. Would you plan, or hope, to put choreographed musical numbers in future films?
SB: YES! ALL THE TIME! For me Bollywood is “Song and Dance.” That’s its genre. I hope to remain true to it from the bottom of my heart!!
MB: One frustration that a lot of fans here in the US have is that so many of the new Hindi films contain only a couple, and often, no choreographed musical numbers. Why do you think this is?
SB: There is technical answer to this. India is changing. A lot of films are made for the metro audience which is Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Bangalore, etc. These are city based audiences who are growing up fast on the movies of the west and the TV shows of the west. Then there is another audience which is tier 2 and tier 3, who are purely Desi, and love the song and dance. They are from small towns and cities. Hence, because of this change you are seeing lesser choreographed numbers the way they used to happen earlier.
MB: Can you give me an idea of how a musical number is put together? Is it mostly up to the choreographer or does the director have a hand in it?
SB: The steps are decided by the choreographer, but yes the director sees to it that the story and screenplay move forward in a song. I am a huge fan of Vijay Anand’s song picturizations, and also Mr. Subhash Ghai’s and Mr. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s. All these film makers have been very particular that a song, apart from being just an item song, must carry the story forward. Hence, I use the same technique.
Since I also dance and understand it, I also at times feel if a step is not working in accordance with the rhythm, etc., I do suggest the choreographer to change it, as we all know film making is, at the end of the day, a collaborative effort. By-the-way, in ‘Rocking Shocking Family’ you will see a shot of me dancing with two girls towards the end of the song. That shows how much I like dancing!!
MB: In the future, do you see yourself as a director of mass entertainers or of art films?
SB: Purely mass entertainers!! I love and respect art films, but for me, I feel, with all due respect, it’s more challenging to make mass entertainers as you have to cater to all kinds of tastes of audiences, and for me to be able to crack that gives me a kick or a high!
Crew members set up a scene between Sahil Mehta and Mannat Ravi in LOVE EXPRESS (PHOTO COURTESY OF SUNNY BHAMBHANI)
MB: Are the four debut actors planning to continue with a career in films? Has LOVE EXPRESS brought them any notice?
SB: They all are trying, and yes all want to take their career in films. They are waiting to see what comes their way next. I am sure each of them is very passionate and each one shall get their respective due. The lead pair has been noticed, Sahil and Mannat.
MB: Two of my favorite characters in the film were played by Daljeet Kaur (as Daadi) and Alka Mehta as (Naani).
The delightful Daljeet Kaur as the put upon granny in LOVE EXPRESS.
SB: Oh, mine too! I enjoyed shooting with them. They were a lot of fun. They are basically television actresses. I had modeled Alka Mehta’s character on my Naani, my real grand mom. She wears pearls and even at this age loves to dress up. Ha, ha, she secretly enjoys the attention men give her. And Daljeet Kaur, as Daadi, was a total surprise. Well, she is originally from Amritsar, so she was very rooted in her character and what I liked was she was so spontaneous. I feel they worked well because of the cracking chemistry with Mr. Om Puri. I am sure both the ladies were excited to be paired opposite to him and I feel that all three gelled. It is because of that you can see the chemistry working out brilliantly. As you know, if you can’t get along off screen, on screen might become a little difficult.
Alka Mehta’s character was partially modeled after Sunny’s own granny.
MB: I read that there were 11 of you from Whistling Woods debuting with this film, can you tell me who the others were?
SB: Yes. Well, Yashashwini is the editor, Sohel Sanwari the sound designer, Eesha Danait worked in the production. Four were the lead actors. Anil Mange, who played Ashneet’s father, he is also from Whistling Woods. He is just 27 but pulled off the role of a Sikh father of the bride. Kudos to him! Then, Siddhartha Chowdhary who played Kuljeet and myself, and another boy who plays Sasha, the guy in the yellow tee shirt in the movie. He wears a cap and has a beard. His was a very small role. So there you go, the 11 of us!
27 year old Anil Mange did a splendid job playing a middle aged Sikh father in LOVE EXPRESS. Roobie played his wife
MB: How did your family react to your desire to be a film maker?
SB: Well, they weren’t happy at all at the first go. Dad works for the government, mom is a housewife, and no one in our family is directly working in the movies. Dad wasn’t sure if I wanted to pursue it for the passion or the attraction to the glam world. So, he made a pact with me. My dad said “Stay put for four years for your degree course. Get your first class degree. If it (the passion) lasts through those four years, that means it is real passion. Then I don’t mind, you can go and do what you want.” And so it was. While I was studying engineering, I would choreograph intercollegiate musicals, plays, dances, and attend film making workshops by Anurag Kashyap and Sudhir Mishra here in Mumbai so that I could keep myself well with the industry. I cleared my degree with the first class and here is where I landed up!
Sunny Bhambhani with crew behind the scenes of LOVE EXPRESS (PHOTO COURTESY OF SUNNY BHAMBHANI)
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