Writer-director Nitin Kakkar burst onto the scene with the terrific Filmistaan in 2014. The low-budget comedy, which also marked the debut of actor Sharib Hashmi, follows an Indian who is captured by militants in Pakistan and slowly wins everyone’s hearts with his love for Bollywood.

Kakkar’s subsequent releases, Mitron (2018) and Notebook (2019), sank without a trace at the box office. Ramsingh Charlie, the self-produced movie he made immediately after Filmistaan, has never been released despite doing the rounds of national and international film festivals.

“Well, I couldn’t continue making films which won’t see the light of the day after all,” Kakkar told Scroll.in. “I should make films which people can at least watch. There’s no sense in wasting a producer’s money.”

Kakkar’s latest release is Jawaani Jaaneman, out on February 7. The comedy follows Jasswinder ‘Jazz’ Kapoor, a London playboy in his forties who meets his daughter (Alaya F). Saif Ali Khan plays Jazz, while Tabu plays the mother of the child Jazz didn’t know existed. The cast includes Farida Jalal and Kakkar’s regular collaborator Kumud Mishra.

Jawaani Jaaneman (2020).

Khan’s urbane commitment-phobe appears to be a rehash of the characters he has frequently played over three decades, but Kakkar promises that Jazz is quite different. “A wrestler at 44 is not the same as a wrestler at 24,” Kakkar reasoned. “Jazz is faking it. Age is not on his side, and he is not quite the playboy he thinks he is.”

This is Kakkar’s first film to have been shot on foreign locations. “I understand the appeal of Uttar Pradesh, but this is not a Uttar Pradesh story,” he said. This is also Kakkar’s first production featuring A-list stars. In the past, Kakkar worked with fresh faces in Filmistaan (Hashmi), Mitron (Kritika Kamra), and Notebook (Zaheer Iqbal and Pranutan Bahl). Alaya F, the daughter of Pooja Bedi, is making her Bollywood debut with Jawaani Jaaneman.

“Working with newcomers makes you better as a director, since you have added responsibility of holding their hands and making them walk,” Kakkar said. “On Jawaani Jaaneman, Mr Khan took a lot of pressure off my shoulders, and seeing Tabu take a character on the page and turning it into something brilliant was fabulous.”

Tabu in Jawaani Jaaneman (2020). Courtesy Pooja Entertainment/Black Knight Films/Northern Lights Films.

Kakkar has only the highest praise for Saif Ali Khan: “He is a total actor who completely submits to the director. That’s why within just one and a half months, you see him playing Udaybhan in Tanhaji, an assassin sadhu [in Laal Kaptaan], and now Jazz.”

The director’s upcoming projects include a black-and-white film “with no producer attached yet” and a sports drama. Will Ramsingh Charlie, starring Kumud Mishra as a Charlie Chaplin impersonator, ever find a release?

Kakkar isn’t sure. “The distribution network said it’s not a good return-on-investment film,” he said. “I was extremely lucky with Filmistaan, which not only won a national award but also found a release. But the non-release of Ramsingh Charlie doesn’t bog me down. All I know is to make films, and that’s what I have done over the past few years. I have tried to earn the audience’s acceptance all this while. I hope I get that with Jawaani Jaaneman.”

Nitin Kakkar. Courtesy Instagram.