Jawaani Jaaneman director Nitin Kakkar on working with Saif Ali Khan: He doesn't make humour look cheap
Nitin Kakkar discusses discovering a new language for Jawaani Jaaneman, and how he rose above the box office failures of Filmistaan, Mitron, and Notebook.
Writer-director Nitin Kakkar burst into the Bollywood scene with low-budget comedy, Filmistaan (2014), which released in theatres more than two years after it won the National Award among other honours.
Kakkar’s subsequent releases, Mitron (2018) and Notebook (2019), tanked at the box office. His production Ramsingh Charlie, that traces the life of an impersonator who performs in a circus, is still waiting for a release even as the film has been showcased in several national and international festivals.
Kakkar’s journey may have been tough so far but he is confident about his storytelling and craft. Probably, that is the reason failures have not made him bitter.
“There is no formula to success but films should be made with full honesty. I would be more worried if I wasn’t honest. I am more answerable to myself. I approached all the films with all my heart, and I got a lot of love. All my films are completely different from each other. Filmistaan was in an independent space, where I did everything, from writing to directing to executing. Both Mitron and Notebook were appreciated, be it cinematically and for the quality. With Notebook, I shot in Kashmir for the first time, and the film to me was like poetry,” says Kakkar.
“But yes, it does hurt when a film flops because you invest so much time and money. I gave Filmistaan four years of my life, including two years to release it. I made Ramsingh Charlie with all my heart but it didn’t see the light of day. I have actually not given importance to box office till now. Maybe I should because that might change things in my filmmaking (laughs). I should make films that people want to watch,” he adds.
Kakkar’s latest release, and his first with A-list stars, is Jawaani Jaaneman, a romantic comedy that follows Jasswinder ‘Jazz’ Kapoor (Saif Ali Khan), a London playboy in his 40s, who meets his daughter (newcomer Alaya F), while Tabu plays a pivotal part of the mother of the child Jazz did not know existed.
Saif has frequently played a commitment phobic character in many of his films for over three decades. “But now the playboy has matured,” says the director, pointing out the difference in the actor’s characterisation. “In all his previous films, he was a playboy but here, he is a faded playboy, and that has its own repercussions. When men turn into their 40s, and in their head, they are 18, there is a problem. Some people don’t want to get married because they want to stay young, and they want to make people feel that they are still available. But then life catches up. Saif has pulled it off brilliantly. I haven’t seen him perform like this in a long time. When Saif’s name was suggested, I was like who better than him. With the age right now where Saif is, and the kind of role it was, he brings a lot of class. Saif doesn’t make humour cheap. He makes everything look very classy. Tabu was our unanimous choice, and when Tabu and Saif come on screen together, there is firework. They have great chemistry, ” Kakkar says.
Kakkar is all praise for the actor, and does not tire talking about him. “Saif is my first so-called star-actor I have worked with but he never made me feel that he was a star. I really enjoyed working with him. He is one of the wittiest actors around, and he is so well read. So when you are working on cinema with him, we know what we are doing, and we go all out and give our best. He is a very giving actor. Once he is on board, he will question you with all the doubts that he has, and once he is convinced then it is a joyride,” he adds.
Many of Saif’s films in the last few years may have not fared well at the box office but his most recent release, Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, has been a huge success with the actor’s performance being praised by both audience and critics. Will that help the prospects of Jawaani Jaaneman?
“Well, we didn’t know then how Tanhaji will be received but I respect Saif for doing the kind of roles that he has been doing. Most actors want to play safe but he is ready to take the risk, and it’s wonderful to work with an actor who is not insecure. If he has enjoyed playing his part in Tanhaji, similarly he has done with Jawaani Jaaneman. He has just gone all out and had so much of fun, which comes across in the trailer. As an audience, and as his fan, I hope this film works for him, and he never stops doing various other roles because our audience deserve actors who do multiple kinds of roles without getting scared."
This is Kakkar’s first film to have been shot on foreign locations. One of the tasks for him, he says, was to find a new language for this film. “This world of London was very new to me. I am desi at heart, whereas all the characters in Jawaani Jaaneman are more urban. So for those kind of settings, I had to do my homework. Basically, the treatment is different but emotions remain the same. But if you see a Notebook versus a Filmistaan and even Mitron, which was a story from Gujarat, all had different settings, and I knew that I will be able to find a new language for this film. I have tried and treated in my own way. I have shot London not as a tourist spot but somebody who will stay there. For me, clichés and regular script are very boring. If I am scared of a script, and wonder how I will do it, that means I will do it. When I feel it is a cakewalk, I don’t do it,” he concludes.
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