Vikramaditya Motwane on AK vs AK: ‘Anil and Anurag are both naturally fantastic in their parts'
'With Anil [Kapoor] I was a little nervous because it is an experiment. But I was very confident about the material, the story,' says AK vs AK writer-director Vikramaditya Motwane.
Vikramaditya Motwane, director of critically-acclaimed films such as Udaan, Lootera, Trapped, and Netflix Original Sacred Games, is excited about AK vs AK, a film he has been working on for seven years. With Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap in the lead, the film [releasing on 24 December on Netflix], follows an accomplished director (Kashyap), who kidnaps the daughter of a veteran Bollywood actor (Kapoor) and shows the latter’s desperate search for his daughter (Sonam Kapoor) in real-time – with cameras rolling for 10 hours. The actor’s quest in finding his missing daughter forms the premise, blurring the lines of real and reel.
Shot on several locations on the streets of Mumbai, there were many challenges shooting this film-within-a-film, says Motwane who wanted to make a masala, commercial movie and had this idea from a writer friend (Avinash Sampath based in Amsterdam) for seven years. The biggest challenge for him was finding the right pitch (for performance) for both Kapoor and Kashyap. “Now the film is AK vs AK but earlier, in 2015, it was AK vs SK with Shahid Kapoor. That time it didn’t happen because of date clashes. Anurag was on board from the beginning because I wanted to make it in my style and I always wanted a commercial star for my film, so I approached Anil,” says Motwane.
He continues, “With Anil I was a little nervous because it is an experiment. But I was very confident about the material, the story..Anil read it and he called me saying it was great and I was like ‘Really?!’ Anil was excited and at no point of time there was any cultural clash. We were all on the same page from the beginning and we decided to go all out and have a lot of fun with this. We decided to have fun taking potshots at each other. No offence meant, no offence taken..Anil and Anurag both of them are naturally fantastic with the way they have approached their parts.”
As seen in the trailer, AK vs AK has many scenes where Kashyap and Kapoor take jibes at each other. The video, shared by Netflix India, featured the two ‘invading’ each other’s homes. While Kashyap takes digs at Kapoor’s wealth, acquired over the years thanks to films like Race 3, Kapoor jokes about the box office failure of Kashyap’s movies. While Kashyap believes one cannot make it into Bollywood unless their surname is Kapoor, who, in turn, states that Kashyap has finished the careers of artists by making “dark” films. “All of us had to do a lot of prep between us to find our rhythm. Finding that right pitch for performance for both Anil and Anurag was the most important thing for us. We didn’t want to underplay or overplay, you had to hit that perfectly right pitch where you believe that you are watching a drama which is real and it is not getting filmy and yet at the same time having fun with these characters playing hyper real versions of themselves. Connecting all these dots took us a lot of time. We rewrote the film in August last, it was green-lit by November and we were shooting in January. I actually finished it fast as compared to my previous projects," says Motwane.
When asked if the script was altered with Anil Kapoor replacing Shahid, and the director divulged, “With Shahid it was that Mira (Shahid’s wife) has been kidnapped and here Anil’s daughter gets kidnapped. Besides that large change the film has pretty much stayed the same. Of course, the beginning was different. At that point the film began with the party that happens one day before the release of Bombay Velvet where Anurag and Shahid get into a fight...broadly that is the only difference but I do believe that this version of the film is better and it suits Anil better. I love Shahid, too, but Anil was absolutely perfect for the role considering his age...now people will say here is an actor who is too old but he will go out and prove to the world that I am not. I can do everything..I can dance, I can emote, I can do action all that better than anyone else. It also suits the Netflix format much better than the previous one. It is a much tighter and better film,” says the director.
Motwane further says that the format allowed them to resort to unconventional ways of filming giving them a free hand in canning shots. “We were able to not have to be perfect in every single take, we were allowing mistakes. Of course, when we forgot our lines we would call, ‘Cut’ but as a director I was not restricting them that you have to play exactly like this in this take. It is more like this is you, you know who you are, you do it and I am following you and that was so much fun to do. You roll the camera for six to eight minutes and see what happens, if it works great or we will do another one. At times, when the cast and crew would ask what is happening, I would say, ‘Arre, have fun don’t think too much of what is happening over here, let’s see how it plays out’. The whole approach was we wanted to have fun and we want people to invest themselves into the conflict between two people whether you know them or you don’t. Just go for a ride..either people will abuse or they will love it,” says Motwane.
Motwane had managed to convince Kapoor for the film within no time and this had surprised his actress-daughter Sonam Kapoor, who, too, gave a nod immediately. Sonam, Harshvardhan (Kapoor's son) and Boney Kapoor make a cameo appearance in the film. “Harshvardhan was on board from day one. Both Harsh and Sonam are in for any cinematic experiment. I met Sonam at Emmy Awards last year in New York and narrated the script to her. When I told her about this movie I was doing with her father and she was like, ‘Oh, dad is doing it?’ She said if dad is doing then I am doing. Anil had told me very clearly that he was not going to convince his family members to do the film. He said that from his perspective he was doing the film but if I wanted Harsh, Sonam, Rhea, Boney on board then that was my problem. So I had to go and convince all the members of his family individually but they were all very sporting and secure,” said Motwane.
He furthers, “If you look from a pure cinematic perspective it is a good role for Anil to play. Maybe 20 years ago he wouldn’t have done it like he says in the film, ‘I was a superstar, I was insecure’. But right now he is still on the top, he has been through his career, he is still loved, so he doesn’t have any qualms doing anything. He is at such a position where he doesn’t have to prove anything other than the fact that he is a great actor and that is why he jumped in to doing this role. He understands the new medium, the new media, the new audience, he is happy to experiment,” said Motwane.
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