As Baar Baar Dekho hits the screens today, the film’s debutante director, Nitya Mehra, who’s “comfortably numb now”, recalls the first time she met the leading lady Katrina Kaif.
It was before the narration of the film, which is touted as a new age love story. They were in Katrina's house, and the actress, sans make-up, was giving instructions to her staff, in Hindi.
“I was so excited, hoping that she said “yes” because I knew exactly what I wanted to bring out from her. I felt no one really knows her well and that’s all I wanted to tap into. I wanted to merge my character Diya into Katrina and make it believable and real,” says the Amritsar-born writer-director.
She further adds, “I had seen her films like Namastey London and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and finally when I cast her I went and saw Raajneeti. I was so amazed that not many people have tapped into her potential. She has a kind of mystery about her."
When I looked her (Katrina) up on the web, I found very little of her. I didn’t understand her at all, she was a blank slate, which in a sense, was great. And now that I know her personally, I feel she is very expressive and articulate. Her social demeanour is very different. You have to really scratch the surface to get to her.
Besides the film’s hit soundtracks, and quirky promotions for which the lead pair have gone all out, it’s the crackling chemistry between Katrina and Sidharth Malhotra that has become the talking point of Baar Baar Dekho. The film brings the two actors together on the big screen for the first time.
Mehra elaborates, “As a director you can only do that much. You cannot build chemistry but what you can do is build interesting characters. If the actors believe in those characters and characters demand the chemistry, then we are home. All I could do is give actors real characters. Every day Katrina and Sid would arrive on set with the kind of clothes and the look and feel of the film in mind. They felt it and chemistry kept growing.”
Casting Sidharth Malhotra was not an immediate thing for Mehra. She took her time, but the interest was always there.
"He interested me because he is fairly new, he is experimental, he is not very flamboyant and he is a very neutral person. I can inject him with my character. I had seen Sidharth in only one film, Hasee Toh Phasee (2014), and I thought he doesn’t bring any particular personality to the screen or to the forefront, which is exciting for a director. You can take your character and decorate him with it. He has this thehrav, he is restrained as a person and has a very earnest look in his eyes. I am a huge believer that love stories require such eyes. For me, it was a win-win situation," she says.
When Mehra decided to become a director, she says she wanted to make sure that she didn’t fall into the trap of doing the usual boy-meets-girl story. She wanted to push the boundaries.
“Most love stories are about how two people meet and then there is a conflict. These are the kind of love stories I watch. My film is about regret and making up for lost time. I wanted to deal with the fact that nobody talks about what is happily ever after. Every film ends with — 'And they lived happily ever after'. I wanted to dwell into what it actually means, and what it takes, to remain happily ever after," says the director. She is already working on her next script, which will be ready by the end of the year.
Mehra has worked on both, Hollywood as well as Bollywood films. She holds an impressive CV, having assisted Hollywood director Ang Lee in Life of Pi, and Mira Nair in Namesake and The Reluctant Fundamentalist.
She was also an assistant director to Farhan Akhtar in movies like Lakshya and Don: The Chase.
“I have been influenced by all these directors. I was mentored by Mira Nair on Namesake, from whom I learnt passion of film-making; I have learnt the art of Zen film-making, philosophy and how silences are really important from Ang Lee. And I have learnt the art of discipline and meticulousness from Farhan. Assisting all these directors have been my film school,” she signs off.