In the trailer for Sudip Bandyopadhyay’s debut film Hope Aur Hum, Naseeruddin Shah’s character contemplates destiny. “Everything happens when it is destined to happen,” Shah’s Nagesh Srivastava says, stroking his beard thoughtfully.
For Bandyopadhyay, destiny is an antagonist of sorts. “In this film there is no villain,” he told Scroll.in. “But destiny plays a villain in the film. How destiny plays around with you forms the crux of the film.”
The other themes that Bandopadhyay explores in the film, love and hope, are equally philosophical. “Hope is a very personal thing,” the adman-turned-filmmaker said. “Deep down we do not want to share our hope. We feel good when the hope does come true and sometimes it does not.”
Also starring Sonali Kulkarni, Aamir Bashir, Naveen Kasturia and Kabir Sajid, Hope Aur Hum traces three generations of a tight-knit family in Mumbai. Shah plays the patriarch of the family, who is obsessed with his old photocopy machine. The film will be released on May 11.
“It is a simple family film,” Bandopadhyay said. “I took three generations to tell the story. In a family, every individual has their own story to tell. Together we build one story, but simultaneously, every character has their own problems. I thought that was an interesting approach to narrate a story: a kid, an old man and a young man.”
Bandyopadhyay contemplated several genres for his directorial debut, including a thriller and a drama, before settling on a family comedy, all thanks to his nine-year-old daughter. “One day my daughter asked me what I was writing and I told her I was writing a film,” Bandyopadhyay said. “She then told me that she might not be able to watch it because it would not be age-appropriate. I laughed and thought for sometime and told her I will make a film for her to watch. That was my challenge. I wanted to make a kid-oriented film.”
But Hope Aur Hum is not a children’s film, Bandyopadhyay clarified. “It is a film with a kid’s point of view. But the sensibilities are very grown up.”
Bandyopadhyay, who has also written the film, said the seed of the story was sown during his college days in Kolkata. “The film is based on my real life experiences,” he said. “For Nagesh’s character, I drew from people in my life: a photocopy machine owner I knew, my school headmaster, my football coach and also a little bit of me. The characters are right out of my real life.”
While Hope Aur Hum is set in Mumbai and explores its many quandaries, the film is universal, Bandyopadhyay said. “The story can be set anywhere,” he said. “But I made it in Mumbai because I live in Mumbai and also the city is a very strange place. It has a bunch of very rich people, the poor people, the middle class, people with value for money, people with hope. Mumbai is a city that is filled with hope. I thought setting the story in Mumbai would be a brilliant idea.”
For Bandyopadhyay, casting Shah was a no-brainer. “When I was writing Nagesh’s character, I only had Naseeruddin Shah in my mind,” the filmmaker said. “Samira [the film’s producer] actually went to his house and gave the script to him. In a month’s time I got a call from him and he wanted to meet me. That is how it happened.”
Working with the veteran actor was a revelation for the first-time filmmaker. “There was so much learning,” he said. “I am not a very talkative person and understood that he too was a person who was very to-the-point. We had a brief and short interaction, but it was very educative and overwhelming.”
Bashir and Kasturia were chosen in part because they look “very similar to Naseeruddin’s younger days”, Bandyopadhyay said. “If you put all of them together, they look like they are from the same family. They have a lot of resemblance. And they are fantastic actors.”