Indoo Ki Jawani director Abir Sengupta, actor Aditya Seal on why theatrical release during pandemic isn't a concern
Abir Sengupta and Aditya Seal talk about Indoo Ki Jawani, working with Kiara Advani, and exploring a story about dating apps in small town.
Indoo Ki Jawani is touted as a coming-of-age comedy, has Kiara Advani play the central character, a feisty, aspirational, relatable girl-next door from Ghaziabad who is trying to find her true love, and whose ‘wrong’ pick on a dating app results in several misadventures.
“When I was scripting the film, I had pictured in my head that I wanted somebody like Kiara to play the part," says director Abir Sengupta. "It’s like a dream come true. I knew that Kiara is a city girl, from South Mumbai but I was not worried because when I saw Lust Stories, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story or Kabir Singh, I had always seen her playing the part. I haven’t had an image of a Kiara Advani in my head because every time she plays a role, she becomes that character. She is like that kacchi mitti (raw clay). You can just mould her. I wanted an actor who would become a character."
Talking about his directorial debut and its origin, Sengupta says, “I have been hearing a lot about dating apps. When I started writing the story, some of my friends found their life partners on dating apps. I found it exciting, in the sense how people meet via dating apps, and how their meeting converts into a good love story, and at times even into marriage. I felt it was a great idea to tell a story. I decided to write an encounter over a dating app, and then the story came about that what if two people from two different lands, from two completely different worlds and ideologies come together through a dating app, and then what kind of madness follows, what they learn or unlearn out of it.”
“But there are many other aspects in the film that can interest the audience and not just the dating apps,” adds Sengupta. “The bond that Kiara and Mallika (Dua) share. It would strike a chord with a lot of women of all age groups. Also, with sarcasm and satire, we have addressed a lot of issues that my actors and I wanted to speak about. Cinema is the reflection of society, and we have the opportunity to use it. I am very curious to know how the audience would react."
Interestingly, actor Aditya Seal decided to have a practical experience while researching on how the dating apps operate by posting his profile, before removing his account shortly after. “I don’t know much about the dating apps. I was alien to all this. One of my girlfriends was on a dating app. She made my profile, and posted it just to find out my market value (laughs). And when I got some bhav, some responses, she quickly deleted my profile,” says Seal, laughing out loud. “Kiara also spoke to some people who found love and stable relationships through these dating apps. Mallika was on a dating app, and she is almost like a dating app queen. We all did part of our research, and it became a smooth ride,” adds the director.
While Advani’s character is someone who is judgmental, Seal’s portrayal is quite the opposite, says the director, decoding the film further. “Kiara’s character is someone who judges the book by its cover, and eventually discovers something totally different. I haven’t strategised or calculated to convey a message through my film but in every story, I somewhere reflect my thoughts. So when I wrote the character of Indoo from Ghaziabad, she represents all those people who are judgmental that we have come across in reality. She lives in her own little world whereas Aditya is like the citizen of the world. He plays a Pakistani but he has travelled the world. He has seen a lot in life, and can adapt to any situation,” says Sengupta. “But I am not trying to be serious, I am just trying to tell an important story in a lighthearted manner. The dating app is a cool thing that has happened to the new generation. So in the film, I have fused these two elements, and made a story out of it."
However, Seal, who plays “an absolutely non-judgmental” person, took some time to understand his character. “I couldn’t relate to my character Samar. He is like a global citizen so his worldviews are very different. He doesn’t associate himself to just one country or one religion. But in my existence, society has put so much in our mind that we do form a perception. To break that was very difficult. Even when we were doing our readings, I would have problems. I could understand the character but I couldn’t get into the skin of the character. I told Abir during rehearsals that I was just copying him, and it was not coming from within me. I took a tiny vacation, I went to Paris and met total strangers, who I couldn’t form a judgment about, and that kind of helped me play the part,” says Seal. He adds, “The story happens in one night where two people meet, and they come from different nationality, religion, mindset, and then the entire fiasco follows. There is a contrasting difference, and the entire banter that happens between them is situational and funny."
Indoo Ki Jawani was previously slated to release in June this year but got postponed owing to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, the movie that opened in theatres on 11 December, is the second theatrical release after Manoj Bajpayee-starrer Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari. “When the producers have taken the decision of theatrical release, they must have done all the calculations, and it is a good intent. They have to really believe in the film to release it in theatres. We know that the footfalls are very less due to fear in people’s minds. I went to the theatres myself to check, and they are taking proper measures for safety. I am glad that my film can become a part of that transition process when things are slowly opening up. It is not the right time to think about the box office, and me or the actors are not taking any pressure on that front. If the story reaches a maximum number of people, any medium is fine,” says Sengupta.
“I have no apprehensions at all,” says Seal, who has just started shooting Bosco Martis’s directorial debut, dance film Rocket Gang, in Goa. “People are losing jobs, lives are lost, and all that is of major concern. I have also been through a lot of s**t during the lockdown but when I saw the trailer for the first time, I forgot all my miseries. It made me smile. I watched the film recently, and for those two hours, I had absolutely forgotten about the outside world. It felt like everything was back to normal. I am not concerned about the footfalls but just that any number of people that go to watch the film should be reminded of what the world is supposed to be, what happy times are supposed to be. We have seen so many films on OTT, and now, when I saw the songs in my film, it was something that I was missing. It made me feel alive again. I am not concerned about the (box-office) numbers at all. I just want people who go and watch come out happy and satisfied."
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