In the lead-up to the trailer launch of Shashanka Ghosh’s Veere Di Wedding, publicity posters were released with the disclaimer #IAmNotAChickFlick. The makers were responding to media reports that had begun referring to the film, starring Kareena Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Swara Bhaskar and Shikha Talsania, as a “chick flick”.
Both Ghosh and the film’s co-producer Rhea Kapoor did not think their film was a chick flick at all. But they had a discussion about it.
“Rhea wanted to tell the world that this is not a chick flick,” Ghosh told Scroll.in. “I was like, what did you expect, the film is an estrogen tsunami. She asked me if I genuinely thought it was a chick flick. I clarified that I didn’t. The film could have had four boys too as far as I’m concerned. Veere Di Wedding, for me, is a story about friends. It is about how friends know how to be there and help and also know when to pull back.”
The director, whose filmography includes Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part II (2003), Quick Gun Murugan (2009), and Khoobsurat (2014), also read the idea of friendship a little differently. Friends are the new family, he argued.
“The idea of a family, I think, has changed in the last 20-odd years, at least in the urban context,” he said. “For instance, I’ve grown up in a different time when blood was the real family. Some uncle or aunt would be called to get you a job, find you a path or guide you. In the last two decades, I’ve noticed that everyone lives with their friends. Families, in the blood sense of it, are drifting and necessarily so, because job, study and life opportunities have taken people to various places. Over there, it’s just the friends that are there to take care of them.”
When Rhea Kapoor, who also produced Khoobsurat, came to Ghosh with a script about the lives of four female friends, he felt it was the perfect opportunity to delve deeper into his idea of the modern Indian urban family. “Having grown up around really strong women, it was a story I really wanted to tell,” he explained.
Bankrolled by Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji Telefilms in association with Anil Kapoor Films & Communication Network and Saffron Broadcast & Media Ltd, the June 1 release tells the story of Kalindi (Kareena Kapoor), Avni (Sonam Kapoor), Sakshi (Swara Bhaskar) and Meera (Shikha Talsania) as they attempt to figure out the institution of marriage. As the trailer reveals, each of them is at a different juncture in their life: on the verge of being married, on the verge of getting divorced, married without the family’s approval, and looking for a partner.
“The film is very outspoken, urban and as far as tonality is concerned, it is fun,” Ghosh said. “At the same time, it is also about dysfunctionality and dealing with mistakes.”
Ghosh credits Rhea Kapoor with the basic framework of Veere Di Wedding, including the casting. “She worked hard until she got what she wanted, which was a cast comprising Kareena, Sonam and Swara,” he said. “Shikha’s casting happened fortuitously and I’m very grateful for that.”
Rhea and the writers of the film, Nidhi Mehra and Mehul Suri, took a long time with the script before they came to Ghosh “because they were hell bent on making the story and the expressions as credible as possible”.
This meant that the team decided that they would not censor how their characters speak. The trailer is littered with profanity as a response to trying circumstances. The producers aren’t worried about the censor board awarding cuts since they plan to apply for an A certificate, Ghosh added.
“I have even gone to Ekta [Kapoor] and Rhea with a reworked, fully sanitised version of the script saying that instead of this swear word here, we can say this,” he said. “But they were insistent on keeping it the way it is. They argued that they are not trying to sensationalise the script, but this is just how we speak, even if not all of us say it out loud all the time. I agreed. We are all thinking ‘Bhenchod mangalsutra’ in our heads. One of my favourite lines in the film is when a character says, ‘Fuck this shit man’ and then turns around and says ‘Hello aunty’ when she realises who is around her. We’ve all done this at some point.”
Ghosh didn’t have much to say about directing an ensemble cast. “It’s like me asking you how it is to write an article,” he said. “You just get down to it and write it. Also, the world has changed a lot. I think we have a bunch of really professional actors who do their homework. You only have to tweak their performance rather than actually direct.”
All the actors resonated with their parts well, he added.
Was there ever a fear that one of the actors would overshadow the rest? “Not for me,” he said. “Any good actor will want to give their 200 per cent in order to own the scene they are in. It is actually something to applaud.”
Both Veere Di Wedding and Khoobsurat are markedly different from the films with which Ghosh began his career. His debut, Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part II, was a quirky drama about a man who gets embroiled with the Mumbai underworld. Quick Gun Murugun was a feature-length exploration of the Channel [V] character, a Tamil cowboy who likes his whiskey with masala dosa. Ghosh also directed 10 Minutes, one of the films in the 11-part unreleased anthology Mumbai Cutting (2010).
Four years later came Khoobsurat, a Disney film about a prince from Rajasthan (Fawad Khan) who falls in love with a physiotherapist (Sonam Kapoor) who is treating his father. The world of royal, dreamy romance was a distinct shift for Ghosh even though it retained some of his trademark quirkiness and wit.
“After I made the first two films, a famous filmmaker asked me why I was making such films,” Ghosh said. “I replied that as far as I’m concerned, I’m doing good masala entertainment. I’m not making art films. The filmmaker then suggested I do three films with one producer who is as excited about bringing a film out as I am about making it. He said, your craft is good. Just do three films with one producer.”
What did he make of this advice?
“Maybe the filmmaker thought I was too kind of up my own arse, you know,” Ghosh said. “I probably was. I thought I had made good films but I had wanted to do it my way – fully in control. The truth is filmmaking is pure collaboration – between producer and director, actor and director or editors and directors. I think that’s really what that person was saying, that I need to work with a producer that’s as excited as me.”
Ghosh met Rhea Kapoor for the first time to discuss another Disney project that didn’t work out. Then she approached him for Khubsoorat: “I said fuck it, yes. And I had just had this conversation with this filmmaker.”
Ghosh has an interesting name for the current turn in his career. “I call this and Khoobsurat a part of my sellout trilogy,” he said. “I often tell Rhea that everyone is offering me these romances now and they’ve all forgotten that I’ve done a gangster film and a film like Quick Gun Murugun. But yes, I had decided I’d make three films the way my producer tells me to make it and I have one more to go. There are ‘want to do’ films and ‘can do’ films. I can do these films and not necessarily lose sleep over wanting to do these films.”
One question lingers: what is the story behind the title of Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part II, especially since there is neither a part one nor three?
“This is about me and that poor boy Samir Gupta, who was a first-time producer, sitting and watching Star Wars three or four, I forget now,” Ghosh said. “I thought if we make a film which claimed to be a part two of something, everyone would come to see it. Of course, during the edit it backfired because suddenly Samir came to me panicking that the audience may not come to see the film thinking they haven’t seen part one. So, we put part one, two, three – all of it in the same film.”