Still from the film Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain
I had gone to a gathering of my friends, and the conversation turned to the gimmicks that everyone had to take part in to win their love over; how they had to sneak away or be sly. I didn’t have any such story to brag about, as I had an arranged marriage. But then I realised, yeh saari kahaaniyan, shaadi ke baad khatam ho jaati hai,” says Harish Vyas, who is making his Hindi feature film debut as a director with Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain, which will release on Friday.
Starring Sanjay Mishra, Ekavali Khanna and Pankaj Tripathi, the film is about romance in all its manifestations. There are three tangents in the story. One thread is that of Sanjay Mishra, who plays a 52-year-old married man, Yashwant Batra, whose character can be summed through the dialogue: “Main office jaata hun, aur yeh ghar sambhalti hain. Yeh hoti hai shaadi”. “Then there is a young couple who believes that love can be achieved at all costs, including rebelling. They are very vocal about their feelings. In Pankaj’s (Tripathi) case, his love has reached that stage ki bas ab fanaa ho jayen uske liye. Aur hamare Mishra ji, inhone kabhi socha hi nahin ki yeh apni patni ko apne pyaar ka izhaar karen,” says Delhi-born Vyas, who has also written the film.
The filmmaker, who grew up in Pitampura in Delhi, drew from his childhood observations for some of the scenes. For instance, a scene where Sanjay Mishra is riding a scooter, and Ekavali Khanna is riding pillion. “I had seen this, where the husband chided his wife for sitting too close to him on the scooter — ‘sambhal ke baitho, padosi waghera dekhten hain’. This really struck me. Why do we stick to this image of purity and shy away from any expression of affection? Even in love marriages, leave alone arranged, affection dies after marriage. It becomes a chore, wedged between children, school, EMI and other things. We don’t even create that opportunity to express any affection,” adds Vyas, 45.
His characters are not stereotypical. While the hero is in his fifties and drives a scooter, the heroine has a married daughter. “Why does our hero need abs all the time? Or should be college-going? Sanjay Mishra’s character is someone whom you know, he could be a distant cousin or a neighbour. He doesn’t seem like a hero in the beginning but during the course of the film he becomes heroic. With this desire for having only good-looking heroes, we end up compromising on our stories. Hero apne kaam se hone chahiye, sirf shakal se nahin. We need to challenge the dominant notions about heroes and heroines,” says Vyas.
Earlier titled Nayi Dilli Ki Purani Sadke, the film now owes it title to the eponymous super hit song from the Amitabh Bachchan starrer Khud-Daar (1982). Set in Banaras, the city is also a character in the film. “We had an able guide in the form of Sanjay Mishra, who has spent a lot of time in Banaras. He would always have a portable radio attached to him, with a playlist that included the likes of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Pink Floyd. Actors like Sanjay Mishra and Pankaj Tripathi are in a different league,” says Vyas, who has earlier directed a Punjabi film, Proper Patola.
The project has been co-produced by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), that has films like Salaam Bombay, Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro, Ghaire Bhaire and Raghu Romeo to its credit. “It’s good to have state backing for films like these, especially since this is not an art house film or a commercial venture. An NFDC stamp gives you credibility. It will be great if we had bigger production houses — the ilk of Karan Johar — who perhaps make one film with Rs 60 crores or more, to make two with a budget of Rs 10 crores each. We need public-private partnerships to encourage quality cinema,” says Vyas.
Trained in fine arts, Vyas turned to filmmaking rather late, at the age of 28. “Coming from a middle class family, I used to think that films were made by people who are from a different world. I used to ponder if Amitabh Bachchan ate bhindi at home,” adds Vyas, who reached Mumbai in 2005, after making short films, documentaries and films for PSBT. “ I think I had done everything before I headed to Mumbai. I have even produced bhajans that are sung by the kaawariyas during their pilgrimage. That really helped me with my speed. I could cut an entire album in one day. After 12 years of struggle, I now finally have a film,” says Vyas. He adds that Bollywood is going through interesting times, when a film doesn’t need an item number or glitz to become popular. “I am hopeful of the times to come,” he says.