Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Telling tales

Jaideep Sahni, who is fast gaining popularity as a writer of repute, talks about why hockey as a game, needs to be highlighted

The game becomes bigger than ever for you with Chak De India, isn’t it?

We’re just too glad that the film has been completed. I’m not thinking of anything else. This is one film we wanted to share with the world really badly.

But after Bunty Aur Babli and Khosla Ka Ghosla, you’re on a roll…

Personally, I tell stories and this string of success can’t possibly last. One day, you’re going to love my story, the next time, you’re not going to like it all that much. So it’s better if I don’t get used to being successful all the time.

Talking of Chak De India, how did the idea originate?

It happened about 3-4 years back, when I saw a newspaper report about the women’s hockey team, winning a major match. It was covered minimally in 10 column centimeters and that’s what got me thinking. If this were to be cricket, it would have been splashed all over the front and back pages. And I observed that this was becoming a pattern with winning hockey teams. That’s when I started researching on it; I read books on it, visited stadiums, spoke to coaches. So even when I was writing Bunty Aur Bably and Khosla Ka Ghosla, the idea was always taking shape in my mind.

So, this has been an idea for a long time now?
Absolutely. Also, I saw how women from other teams such as Argentina looked three times fitter than our players, so it’s no mean feat to defeat them. In spite of all our disadvantages, we’re doing well. The way I look at it, all these players are three times underdogs. Firstly, In India, being a sportsperson itself is something few would look upon favourably. Then, if, you choose any other sport besides cricket, it’s even worse. And then, if you also happen to be a woman, then you are truly three times the underdog.
So how did you take the idea to Yash Raj?

When I finished Bunty Aur Babli for them, Aditya (Chopra) asked me if I had any other idea. I told him about this concept and said I had not mentioned it to a single soul. He liked the idea very much, asked me to leave everything else that I was doing and concentrate on this idea. That’s how it happened.

Shimit Amin had made a gritty thriller like Ab Tak Chappan. Didn’t you find the choice a bit odd??

This is exactly what Aditya (Chopra) excels in, he knows who can do what. Otherwise, do you think he would have given Bunty Aur Babli to the guy who wrote Company. This is a hell of an action film, besides other things. In any case, I feel few understanding the medium of cinema as well as Shimit. I shared all my research with him and then, we came up with the story.

Was Shah Rukh Khan your first choice?

Yes, when we were writing the film, it was clear in our minds that SRK was the best choice. But briefly, we did consider other names, when we felt the film could not start early, as SRK didn’t have the dates immediately. But then, the training with the girls was anyway taking a lot of time, so in the end, everything fell in place. And Shah Rukh was most excited about the film, he’s been the captain for his college hockey team and has passion for the game. He was more than happy we were making this. You’ll be seeing a very new and gripping SRK in this film.

The general impression is that Yash Raj Films may not exactly be the right platform for niche, edgy creative talents like you and Shimit. After all, they’ve been known to make such unabashed commercial fluff?

You have to understand that Yash Raj has changed enormously over the last few years. It is no longer just a production house, it is an international level studio, where all kinds of films are being made. They’re coming up with films every 2 months and obviously, they cannot be making the same kind of movies –each one will be different. So if they make a Dhoom2, they will also support a Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Maara. If they make Fanaa, they also finance My Brother Nikhil. Everyone seems to judge them by the last film they make. So, when they made Dhoom 2, it was said they are making pure fluff. When their last film, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom flopped, people said it was a set back to the banner but honestly, it’s very different inside the four walls of Yash Raj. There are so many projects in the pipeline, with ideas brimming all the time. So many directors with varied sensibilities, it’s a very exciting place to be in.

But supporting Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Maara or My Brother Nikhil hardly puts any commercial pressure on Yash Raj and moreover, it’s good for their image. You’re forgetting they distributed Sins

Oh did they? I don’t know if they distributed Sins but I feel Chak De India couldn’t have been made better under any other banner. It’s no joke to spend so much on training camps and let me tell you, this is by no means, a small budgeted film. In fact, given a chance, I would have loved to make Khosla Ka Ghosla for Yash Raj. At least it would've released earlier.

But by and large, they have made only commercial films, haven’t they?

Ta Ra Rum Pum was a family film….

I thought it was the most synthetic film I’ve seen in my life…I preferred Jhoom Barabar Jhoom...I thought it was trying something new

Shaad (Ali) thought so too. It’s nice you could appreciate it. I liked Jhoom… too and Shimit also liked it. Now, obviously someone stonehearted and commercial minded wouldn’t have supported the film. Adi did. He could see that Shaad was trying to create something genuinely different.

No love angle in Chak De India, I hear
Sports people and faujis are the only people who have emotions at their truest and undiluted best. It’s about that chocked up feeling you experience when you are playing for the pride of your country. That’s what you’ll see here. And without giving away too much, I’ll say that it is not possible to make an honest film without following the graph of all the characters. So you will see emotions flowing at every turn.

-Sandhya Iyer