Writer and filmmaker Sharat Katariya got the idea for Sui Dhaaga – Made in India when he visiting his family in Delhi in 2017. Aditya Chopra, whose Yash Raj Films banner produced Katariya’s small-town romance Dum Laga Ke Haisha in 2015, had suggested a similarly tender follow-up. In Delhi, Katariya saw a tailor setting up shop under a tree, and the image stuck in his mind. He pitched the idea to Maneesh Sharma, the director who also mentors other projects at YRF, and Sharma didn’t take much persuading.
Sui Dhaaga is the story of Mauji and Mamta, a couple from a small town who set up a business revolving around traditional Indian handloom weaving practices. The movie stars Bollywood A-listers Varun Dhawan and Anushka Sharma, and will be released on September 28.
Katariya began his career by writing the screenplays for Bheja Fry (2007), Bheja Fry 2 (2011) and Titli (2015). He made his directorial debut with 10ml Love (2010), an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Dum Laga Ke Haisha, which traces the relationship between an overweight woman and her slim and reluctant groom in Haridwar, signalled Katariya’s talent for putting the lives of ordinary Indians on the screen. Sui Dhaaga won’t be any different, he promised Scroll.in.
After ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’, you are back in a small Indian town for your latest movie. What draws you to the milieu?
One is only thinking about stories, and every story has its place. I never thought that I wanted to do a small-town story, neither did I look for one. It just so happens that Sui Dhaaga film is set there. It is not really a small-town film, as I don’t know the definition. In the film, they use cell phones and work in factories. It is a film about coping with big-city culture. It is about artisans fighting against the big machines.
There has been a three-year gap between ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’ and ‘Sui Dhaaga’.
I wrote the film in January last year. I was writing something else, which wasn’t falling into place. I spent one-and-a-half years trying to write that film. Every time I finished a draft, I used to think we had it. But I would read it after 10 days and would feel that it wasn’t working. I would get the same reaction from everybody, including Maneesh [Sharma] and Adi [Aditya Chopra]. We all felt that something was missing.
I wanted to write something fresh. Adi asked me if I wanted to make a film like Dum Laga Ke Haisha, a small, tender, intimate story. I had gone to meet my family in Delhi at the time, and was waiting for someone on the street.
The idea came to me when I saw a tailor under a tree. It was early in the morning, and he was setting up his sewing machine and doing a pooja. I observed his chores for about 20 minutes. I called up Maneesh and told him about a man who wants to set up his own business, and that the story could be titled Sui Dhaaga . That is how the broad idea of the film was formed.
What does the film say about the Indian handloom tradition?
The research showed us that many artisans have left their work and started doing odd jobs. It is about people like them – people who have left what they were doing. There are also a lot of success stories of artisans who have revived their businesses and art forms. That is why the Made in India [in the title].
What made you cast Varun Dhawan and Anushka Sharma as Mauji and Mamta?
Varun is actually Mauji. He is that guy who looks very flamboyant, but is actually very sensitive. His energy levels are of another kind. He never gets tired, no matter what. If you scold him or shout at him, he is ready to learn and always ready to perform.
The same with Anushka, who has a strong core to her, which helped the character.
What brief did you give Dhawan and Sharma about their characters?
I am a very lazy director, so there were no briefs. We read the script a few times. We had some small workshops, and then we were on set improvising the scenes. We all enjoyed the script, knew the lines and decided we would do something better than the script. Because a script is written in isolation. The everyday struggle in the shoot is to make it ring true.
Varun Dhawan had said in an interview to ‘Scroll.in’ that the characters are authentically crafted. What was the preparation involved?
These things are important these days. The camera catches everything. You cannot really hide with editing. With body language alone, you can figure out whether one can run the machine or not. We never spoke about acting. I only told Varun to learn sewing and stitching. It should not look like we were cheating.
I remember watching Geoffrey Rush’s film Shine. The camera would go from his hands to his face and again to his hands. You could see that he was really playing [the piano] and not miming. That is what I told Varun – whatever you are stitching, there should be a product in the end. He was meticulous for three months. There was a method to it.
Do you prefer writing or direction? And most of your screenplays involve a great deal of comedy.
Comedy comes naturally to me. Even when I am writing a dark scene, I always write a joke in the end. It is a way of seeing that to it that the characters do not take themselves too seriously. It also adds to the overall joy. Unexpected humour is funnier. Even Sui Dhaaga has a lot of such scenes.
And I like writing more. You have to interact with fewer people and you can do whatever you want. There is also no deadline involved.