Interview : Nagesh Kukunoor


Bollywood film maker Nagesh Kukunoor  is busy promoting his upcoming film MOD Our correspondent caught up with the critically acclaimed film maker for an informal chat in Kolkata.

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In Bollywood, love stories are more common than anything else. So why would someone want to watch MOD? What is so special about it?
Well MOD is a love story but it is not the kind you see in Bollywood today. For me love stories work only when characters are mismatched and the journey of falling in love is equally important if not more than the actual act of falling in love. If you as the audience already know that ‘yes these two people are already made for each other? then the fun is lost, but if the characters are quirky as it is in MOD you wonder that how are these two people going to come together. Having said that, there is also an element of mystery associated with the film.

What is the element of mystery?
As you see Andy’s character played by Ranvijay, who shows up at Annanya?s (Ayesha Takia) doorstep day after day to get his watch cleaned. Annanya is this watchmaker in a small town and everyday Andy’s watch has water in it but everyday she cleans it and you start to wonder what is his story? You wonder why does he show up like this and then you start to find out about his past which is very much linked to Annanya?s past. It is then that you see that there is a whole MOD (turn) associated with the whole mystery.

So MOD is unlike other films these days because it does not have preordained lovers who are trying to get married, it rather highlights the journey?
Yes absolutely, as for me the journey is more important than everything else and if the characters are lovable and believable then the film is good. In MOD there is this utopian small town ‘Ganga’ where a stranger arrives and things start off and then you start to find the links, the little pieces that stitch the story together and you enjoy the journey so that?s what is important. Then as I said before, the characters are quirky and different and if the audience buys it then it’s all I ask for.

You had said before that you would not make love stories, so what prompted you to change that?
Well I know I have said that before but there is a saying in Bollywood “never say never” and so here I am with the first proper love story of my life. I have used elements of romance before but this is my first actual foray into the genre.

While watching the trailer it felt as though there was a touch of Korean or Taiwanese films. Can you shed some light on that?
Yes MOD is inspired by a Taiwanese film I had watched during a film festival. It is called KEEPING WATCH and I have bought the rights for the film but in KEEPING WATCH the story is just about two people isolated in a town and on seeing that I wanted to create a story with a small utopian town and interesting characters like there is the father played by Raghuvir Yadav, who is an alcoholic and spends his days singing Kishore Kumar songs. Then there is the aunt at whose restaurant Annanya works part time, there is a local storekeeper, a builder who comes into town, a doctor; so there are different elements that I wanted to add up to tie the story together.

Your films are reputed to be different than mainstream cinema and so are your castings. So did something like that prompt you to choose Ranvijay whose image in the film is clearly different than his Roadies image?
No it?s nothing like that. In truth Ranvijay?s selection was purely through audition just like all my new castings in all my films. In fact I came to know about his macho image after I cast him and I liked the fact that he is going to be playing a character that is shy and sensitive and clearly different from his image. I like the idea of that contrast and that?s why I like to work with new actors because they carry no baggage. When I cast him I had told him that this is going to be the toughest role of his life and I think the audience will be surprised seeing how well he can act.

So what about Ayesha Takia’s selection? She hadn’t worked for two years, didn’t you think that it might affect her performance?
No, actually it was the contrary. When I met her and told her about the script I knew that she was hungry to deliver as she has been acting all her life before that break and after DOR I think no one has any doubt about her acting abilities. So I knew that she would give a thousand percent into this film and I think she has done a great job.

In your recent movies there has been a complete change of the urban background that you once used. Why the change?
Ever since IQBAL I have moved away from Indian big cities because I don’t think there is much beauty left in there. I think small town India is still beautiful and it retains a lot of flavour. I will choose a place as a background only if it’s a part of the story as I am not one of those filmmakers who will shoot anywhere. The place for me is carefully selected and only if it’s a part of the story.

As a filmmaker you have always said that how difficult it is to promote a film. Why do you feel so?
Yea, I do feel that promotion of a film has become more important than actually making it. You can have a brilliant film in your hands but if there is no publicity, if the people don’t know about it then no one is going to watch and the film’s a waste. The publicity thing can be very tiring but then it is essential in today’s world.

So where does that leave aspiring independent filmmakers of today?
Just makes the job harder I guess. As an independent film maker you can find someone who is willing to arrange the finance for making the movie but if you don’t have a person willing to spare the big bucks for promoting it then I am afraid the effort may go to waste. Having said that, I am not discouraging anybody because good work is always appreciated, it however can take more time without the publicity machinery.

You have been an engineer, an actor and a successful director. So how has the journey been like?
It’s been wonderful. Lots of ups and downs, that goes without saying, but in this field you live life to the fullest. It’s very, very strong. When you are making a film or releasing a film, emotions run high and they are like fully charged. Your film does well, you are at the top of the world, but if it fails then you come crashing down and you have to pull yourself up again. It’s a very dramatic but the journey is wonderful.

As a director are you inspired by someone specific?
I am inspired by many directors and when I see their work I feel that I have a lot to learn and a lot of catching up to do. There are also a lot of stories around me to keep pushing me.

We have not seen you as an actor for a long time. So will we see you in front of the camera again?
Yea, I know that is long overdue. I do plan to get into acting again in the near future. The funny thing is that I have had three years of training in acting while only a week of workshop for direction, so I am more proficient in acting than what I do.

Will it be your own movie or someone else’s?
Maybe mine or someone else’s. I do get offered roles from time to time but I am not going to act for the sake of it. I am rather going to do that only if I like to do so.
So with love story out of the way, what new genre are you planning to explore?
Oh there are many left, action is left and then there is crime and sci-fi. I always keep writing stories so you never know what is going to be my next feature but for now I am just concentrating on promoting MOD.