'Didn't make YEH HAI BAKRAPUR to cash-in on Shahrukh Khan's popularity'
Janaki Vishwanathan, known for her National Award winning Tamil film KUTTY, speaks about her latest satirical film YEH HAI BAKRAPUR, Shahrukh the goat, the challenges of promoting a film without big stars and more in this exclusive chat with Glamsham.com.
How did you get the idea of making this film?
The film is inspired by the real life tale of a goat by name Khushi who was believed to have divine powers and was eventually sold for Rs 21 Lakhs, after having been showcased at Jama Masjid for people to seek her blessings. The story just fit in well with an idea I'd been toying with, and voila, we had YEH HAI BAKRAPUR.
Was it difficult to make a goat act?
Working with children or animals obviously requires a certain extra effort in terms of explaining what you need out of them. At the same time, I believe animals are incredibly intuitive. For example, while we were shooting a sequence where the little boy is very sad about losing his goat and hugging it, at the end of the shot, we found Shahrukh shedding tears too. It was amazing!
Is the film on the lines of PEEPLI LIVE?
"I want to clarify that the goat in our film is called Shahrukh, not Shahrukh Khan"
The films are both similar in the sense that they are both satirical take on issues in Indian society, but the issues they tackle are completely different. If I recall right, PEEPLI LIVE was a satirical look at the state of farmer suicides in India and the media at large, whereas YEH HAI BAKRAPUR has a larger focus in terms of reflecting on a variety of trends across Indian society as opposed to a focus in the media. I would say closer to WELCOME TO SAJJANPUR, as a reference for the feel.
Have you made this film to cash-in on Shahrukh Khan's popularity?
Absolutely not. Again, I want to clarify that the goat in our film is called Shahrukh, not Shahrukh Khan. There is a trend in rural India where people, as a tribute/symbol of their love for our Bollywood superstars, name their pets after them. While we were looking for the right goat, we met a variety of Shahrukhs, Salmans, Aamirs and even heard of a Saifeena! As it so happened, after auditioning nearly 400 goats, we settled upon this one. He was called Shahrukh in reality and having been a year old at that point, had already been used to the name and would only respond to it.
Does the film make fun of Shahrukh Khan the actor?
I have immense respect for Mr. Khan and the film is in NO way related to him at all. I believe, from everything I've seen of him through media interactions, that he is a witty, intelligent man who has expressed strong feelings on some issues that the film addresses. Once he sees the film, I am in no doubt he will understand and appreciate its message.
Have you shown the film or do you plan to show the film to Shahrukh Khan? We have been in touch with his team and we are hopeful that he will see it soon.
Is it that you have already started working on YEH HAI BAKRAPUR's sequel?
There are plans for a sequel, although not immediate.
What are the challenges in promoting a film which doesn't boast of big stars?
"There are plans for a sequel, although not immediate."
It is both exciting and challenging to promote a film without stars because you have to keep coming up with ways to creatively engage the audience and build excitement around the film. We've tried a variety of things - getting an election time release because of the political undertones in the film, an app (Kaun Banega PM?), different media for offline advertising as well as a steady and heavy digital marketing campaign. I've had the benefit of working with some wonderful people who have given us their best and beyond because of their belief in the film. We've all pitched into together collectively into creatively marketing the film and I really do hope and believe our efforts bear fruit with the audience.
What are your future projects?
I have some scripts/storylines in mind. I'm always open to doing new exciting things that match my sensibilities and allow me to break new ground.
- By Pankaj Sabnani, Glamsham Editorial