On the eve of the release of his debut film Badmaash Company as a director, Parmeet Sethi tells this correspondent that though he had to struggle to get a break as an actor from director Aditya Chopra, he did not have to struggle to get a break from producer Aditya Chopra.
What is Badmaash Company about?
My film, Badmaash Company, is an ensemble of characters. It is a very bold script which has been set in the 90s. As far as the title of the film is concerned, I have been true to the film, because the film that I have made asked for the title. In a film, you need both style as well as soul. At times, only soul may work but style alone will not.
Is it for the first time that you have written a script in your life?
Badmaash Company is not the first subject that I have written. I had actually worked on another script for six months before I had conceived Badmaash Company. Unfortunately due to various reasons I could not make it a film for Yash Raj Films, though I waited for almost a year and a hall for the film to materialize.
Why did you not cast either yourself or your wife Archana Puran Singh in Badmaash Company?
I did not cast either myself or my wife because we do not suit any character in the film. Though I am not at all very vocal, I make it a point to observe a lot from life around me, whereas my wife speaks a lot. In fact, the biggest compliment that I received for my subject was when Pam Chopra told my wife that she felt I had a devious brain to think of such kind of scams as part of my story!
What made you decide to turn a writer-director after having been an actor for nearly fifteen years?
As an actor, ever since I had made my debut with Yash Raj Films" Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge almost fifteen years ago, I have done some good roles. Not all the roles that I had done were good. Some were not good but I had done them for the sake of money, because I had to provide for my family. Once I was settled and had a roof above my head, I felt that I"d regret if I do not write or direct now.
How would you describe yourself as a director?
I am a very focused and stubborn director. I am telling this at the risk of being quoted. I know what I want as a director and I will get it, though I am quite open to suggestions. I do not know where life will take me but my focus will always be on direction. I am of the opinion that writing a story is as painstaking as giving birth to a baby. I can understand what a woman feels, because Badmaash Company had taken nine months for me to make though it took only six days to write the subject.
When did you realize that you had the making of a director in you?
I have seen movies over the years. I have observed how they are plotted, and learned how to make the plot very intriguing. Even while I was acting in films, I was interested in what was happening behind the camera. It was while I was acting in the TV serial 'Kurukshetra' that director Lekh Tandon told me that I had in me the making of a good director, because one particular day when he was directing a scene with other actors, I told another actor how to approach his scene from the director"s point of view. It was gracious on his part to have asked me to direct a scene for the serial.
How tough was it for you to get a break as a director?
Though I had to struggle to get my break as an actor from director Adi, I did not have to struggle to get a break from producer Adi. When Adi read my script, he told me that he instantly knew the fact that I know how to write a script, because I had studied how to write a script the way it had to be seen on the screen. Adi is a very giving producer, who goes out of his way to spoil and pamper his directors. He did not say no to even one single demand of mine.
Did you cast Shahid Kapoor in your film, because Yash Raj Films has signed him for a two film contract?
I decided to cast Shahid Kapoor in my film not just because Adi has signed him for a two film contract for Yash Raj Films beginning with Dil Bole Hadippa but because I needed an actor who could portray two contrasting shades, with a great emotional graph to match his performance. I needed an actor like Shahid who would be able to look downtrodden and middle class and also intelligent with a razor sharp brain.
Is it true that Shahid Kapoor interfered with you on the sets?
Though I feel that Shahid is definitely going on the same path as Aamir Khan when it comes to intelligence as an actor who knows what direction is, I was quite lucky that Shahid and I were on the same page as far as Badmaash Company was concerned. Shahid knew that I knew my job as a director well. I remember on the first day of the shoot, when I told him that he could pack up for the day because I could not take a scene with him since it had started raining heavily and started shooting a scene indoors with Anushka Sharma, Shahid stayed back just to observe how I was directing her. Later Shahid told me that he wanted to observe me directing and was happy that I knew my job. Since then, he was like a baby on the sets. If the media reported that he was interfering with me on the sets, the reason is that an actor"s 'discussion" with his director is often misconstrued as 'interference" on the sets by the media.
How did you zero in on Anushka Sharma as Shahid"s leading lady in the film?
Anushka Sharma fit the bill as far as the role of Bulbul in Badmaash Company is concerned. It is very creditable on her part to have broken the conventional mould in which she was seen in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and taken on a very modern and unconventional role in Badmaash Company. How I zeroed in on her is interesting. When Adi told me to meet Anushka to know whether she suited my script, I asked her to come and meet me at my office. For the first ten minutes, she kept on talking on and on and I could see that she had a lot of energy. Anushka suited the character of Bulbul because I wanted a girl who was talkative. Anushka is extremely good and fresh.
Who are your favourite directors?
If Yashji, who is the King of romance, Aditya Chopra, Ramesh Sippy, Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, Shimit Ameen etc. are my favourite directors, it is Steven Spielberg, who has inspired me as a director. All of them have a good sense of telling stories since they know what should come after what. In fact, I should also confess that I have never seen an astute story teller like Yashji in all my life.