Nitesh Tiwari opens up on remotely directing Amitabh Bachchan in Kaun Banega Crorepati 12 promo during lockdown
The promo of Kaun Banega Crorepati narrates how dreams cannot be restricted by the lockdown in place, and has been remotely directed by Nitesh Tiwari.
As the country, and the world at large, grapples with the coronavirus outbreak, artists, filmmakers, and producers live by the mantra that the show must go on. That is why earlier this week, popular television Sony Entertainment Telvision quiz show Kaun Banega Crorepati dropped its first promo, inviting online registration for its 12th season.
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The promo had host Amitabh Bachchan narrate a delightful poem about how the world has taken a moment to pause, breathe, and reflect owing to the lockdown. Filmmaker Nitesh Tiwari, who has been associated with the show since its fourth season, has directed the new campaign video as well. However, this time he had to do so remotely because of the lockdown restrictions in Mumbai.
In an exclusive interview, he talks about how the lockdown inspired him to drive the campaign towards the current situation, reuniting with Bachchan after past KBC campaigns and the 2014 supernatural political comedy Bhoothnath Returns, and why people should turn to dreams in order to deal with the present crisis.
You weaved the theme of the campaign this year around the lockdown. Did you have a different idea in mind before the lockdown started? How did you improvise?
Yes, we were working on a very different theme before the lockdown happened. But once we realised we're going to be in it for some time, we changed the direction. Once we did that, all the insights organically came to us keeping in mind the new theme. That's how we arrived at the new script. It's written by Nikhil Mehrotra. I've only done the creative director's job by adding tadka here and there but it's predominantly written by him.
Dreams indeed have an unrestricted flow as the campaign suggests. How did you crack this hook line?
Dreams do find a way out of any situation we're in. For example, we writers haven't stopped writing. We're now writing over video call. Also, what was important us was to find an insight that's universal. Once you find the insight that has the potential to touch everyone, lines are easier to follow.
Since you directed the promo remotely, what different approach did you have to take as a filmmaker?
This is the first I've done something like sitting so far away from the shoot. But it's an experience, and that's why it counts. I did a rough sketch (with his nine year old daughter cranking the camera) to give a better idea to Mr Bachchan since he was going to shoot it by himself. I just wanted to share with him how the film would look, and in how many situations and with the magnifications I wanted him to shoot in. The best possible idea in my absence was to make a film with myself so he gets a very clear idea. He did more than what was expected out of him. He did it so well that I didn't need any re-shoot.
(Also read — Making films in times of social distancing: How the coronavirus pandemic is bringing innovation to entertainment)
Do you usually make a scratch film otherwise on set?
No, I mostly don't because I'm present there. But if I need to see how a certain sequence needs to look then I do make a scratch scene. For example, in Dangal, the entire Commonwealth bout sequences, we had shot, edited, and seen each and every move, and made changes if required, so that we knew what we needed to do exactly when we went on set.
Was the process of directing remotely easier since you collaborated with a seasoned actor?
Of course. In fact, Mr Bachchan's presence made it so easy for me that I didn't have to try at all. He's a veteran. He knows how to go about it. This was something that was very easy for him to do. Mr Bachchan, being Mr Bachchan, called me after every footage was sent, and asked me not to hesitate telling him if anything had to be re-shot. But I didn't require any re-shoot at all.
At what stage of writing did the background come in? How did you decide what the background is going to look like?
We kept in mind different corners of Mr Bachchan's house in mind so that it's very easy for him to shoot there. That's what I did exactly in the scratch film I made. I shot with different backgrounds in my house, and in different magnifications so that he'd also choose different corners in his house to shoot the film against. Since we couldn't step out of our houses, we didn't have many options. So we kept it fairly simple.
You have had a remarkable run with KBC over the years. Since the show has had the same format, how did you bring thematic changes in the campaign each year?
We've been working on KBC campaigns for over a decade now. Every year brings its fresh set of challenges. It's not easy to come up with a fresh idea year after year. What we do is tap into the mindset of people at that time. For example, the current campaign, "Sapnon ko break nahi lag sakta" (Dreams cannot be paused), we couldn't have done it last year. Maybe we won't be able to do it next year either. It's so apt with the current situation.
You are co-writing the biopic of Infosys founder Narayan Murthy and his author-wife Sudha Murthy. Would you say their journey defines the slogan line, "Sapnon ko break nahi lag sakta?"
What they've achieved in life seems impossible to a layman like me. Their journey has been truly inspiring. Like they say, "Every great journey starts with a dream." In case of Mr Murthy and Sudha ma'am, they dared to dream what nobody else did. And their intention was so noble that only the sky could've been the limit for them.
Kaun Banega Crorepati season 12 registrations will be open online from 9 May.
All images from YouTube.
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