The birthday celebrations of ZEE5’s Chintu Ka Birthday are going on and on. Amidst the fear of corona and uncertainty the movie has infused hope and brought smiles on our faces. Basking in the glory of accolades, the co – director of the movie Devanshu Kumar speaks at length on how their thirteen-year-old dream became a reality. Starring Vinay Pathak, Tillotama Shome, Seema Pahwa and Vedant Chibber. Written and directed by Devanshu Kumar and Satyanshu Singh, Chintu Ka Birthday is streaming on ZEE5 from June 05, 2020.
Congratulations finally Chintu Ka Birthday is out digitally, and the reviews are raving? What’s the feeling at present?
Thirteen years in the making. Its finally out and the feeling is both elating and surreal. The day it got released on ZEE5, we celebrated by interacting online through video call etc, fooled around. We knew we had a good film on hand but honestly never expected such an overwhelming response. People are getting emotional, crying, baking cakes, sending pictures, fan arts. It’s just incredible. Really thankful for all the immense love and understanding for Chintu on his birthday.
Did you ever in your wildest dream believed that the movie would release during such a period of pandemic like Corona worldwide?
Never. You cannot predict such things at all. We wanted to tell a humane story not a war story. Like No Man’s Land. During lockdown we are with our families doing the best we can. There is fear outside and in this ever-changing world the only thing constant is survival, love. Unfortunately, the movie is still relevant today.
How did the idea take birth?
As Satyanshu would like to put it. The idea came out of a whim. We where in our early twenties. Stayanshu was at armed forces medical college where he was undergoing training for medical doctor. During one of the lectures, he was sitting in the last bench. He was reading newspapers and playing games on mobile with his friends.
The news of US invasion of Iraq was all over. It was March 2003. Satyanshu felt that the normal life of people in Iraq must have been disturbed and the he got smitten by this idea. He shared the idea with the backdrop of US invasion in Iraq and a Indian family from Bihar getting stuck. Honestly, I rejected it as I could not see characters in it. I was not interested in this obsession to tell a story in a day. I felt like an enthusiastic, smart film student wants to experiment something which may not work.
But Satyanshu was convinced and he is the person who just milks the believes that has made a place inside him. After a few days, he said that he is keen to tell this story and the story will be of a Bihari family stuck in Baghdad. It is the birthday of their youngest member and the army gets inside the house. I now started seeing character’s and visualisation began. We are from Bihar and have happy memories of our childhood. Like a Rajshri family.
During those times Satyanshu was watching lot of world cinema and during this exploration he came across Shyam Benegal’s Mandi. He observed that while the movie is based on a serious subject, its characters are light and not intense. So, we started getting ambitious suddenly and decided to tone the movie in such a way. So, those who have seen will notice that the characters are funny, they are not grim. The situation might be tense but still it will make you laugh. There are moments of chuckles and care in this tense dark situation.
How you zeroed down on Vinay Pathak, Vedant, Tilotma etc
Vinay is a Bihari father of two daughters. We were young while Vinay has seen life. Vinay embodied the character of Tiwari. Vinay was the obvious choice. Tilotma was tricky, she is a Bengali playing a Bihari. Bengali are known for having a good ear for music and are familiar with Rabindra Sangeet. Tilotma believes she is toned deaf. She was very much interested and said she wanted to get trained for dialect and music. She worked hard. She is the one who can surprise you. Contrast to Vinay or Seema Pahwa who use their experience and believe in their roles.
Chintu was the toughest. He was the key ingredient. We didn’t want a typical advertisement wala kid. I travelled from Mumbai to Delhi to Jharkhand and then zeroed down on Vedant after going through around 1500 + search of kids. He is the fourth-generation child and his father, grandfather wanted this to happen.
Your inspiration behind Chintu Ka Birthday?.
World cinema like Danis Tanović’s No Man’s Land. Majid Majidi films. Cinema by Asghar Farhadi to name a few. But strangely there is a lot of Sooraj Barjatya in Chintu Ka Birthday the Rajshri fundamentals of a family in the movie. The way the family bonds with each other trying to help each other, are together as a team. The respect for elders its all there. We are proud to be a family movie like the Rajshri’s in the house of Tripathi. Only the fear outside is global.
Do you think OTT a boon for indie, out of the box thinkers, filmmakers?
Yeah. Movie making involves money for making, promotion etc. many a times a budget of advertising, marketing/promotions etc challenges the budget of an indie movie. OTT provides faith. You don’t have to bother about weekend, number of screens etc. if a content is good, then it will find the love in due course.
Any memories that will remain for long from the shoot
First of all, I rejected the idea in the beginning. Later when it all began, the jamming on sets, fooling around will remain strong in our memories. Everybody was on it toes, eager to give their best. First film for so many of us. Its special. We are not competing just making an introduction by making a space.
Indian filmmakers you admire
Bimal Roy, Satyajit Ray, Vijay Anand, Shekhar Kapoor, Gulzar, Basu Da, K. Asif, Mehmood Khan, Raj Kapoor the list is endlessly long. In today’s times its Dibaker Baneerjee, Shoojit is a personal favorite, There was a time we loved RGV. So many.
What will you do after this interview?
Will go back and read more reviews. Thank you so much for the love.