Posts tagged chuckle
Abhijat Joshi tells Lekha Menon why he would never lampoon institutions and how walking is the best inspiration to write good scripts
On a two-month break from teaching at the Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio, Abhijat Joshi, is basking in 3 Idiots’ success story. “We just wanted to make a good film; we never intended it to be a Titanic,” he chuckles, even as he moves on to his next script with Raju Hirani.
Abhijat talks passionately about ideas that fuel him - be it in the realm of cinema or education. And it isn’t difficult to see why. Hailing from a family of professors, he himself taught at an arts college in Ahmedabad before moving to the US for an MFA from the University of Texas, Austin. And as a teacher, he is thrilled to “take Premchand, Manto and Gandhi to students there.”
In many ways, he is an example of the ‘follow your heart, success will follow’ maxim. Abhijat was training to be an engineer but then switched to arts. No wonder the ace screenwriter is quick to defend the criticism that 3 Idiots negates the process of formal education.
|Pic: Rana chakraborty|
• Your partnership with Raju Hirani has delivered some of the most successful films in recent times. What explains your chemistry with him?
During Lage Raho Munnabhai, Raju especially wanted my assistance for the Gandhigiri scenes. Having been educated in the Gujarati medium I had access to Gandhi’s philosophies in the language. Later, we realised we had a lot in common - our vision of cinema, ideas and values.
As in cricket, a successful creative partnership also depends on the small nuances - knowing when to talk and when to keep silent, for instance. We just clicked.
We do a lot of our writing while walking. A few days back we took a walk in the Borivali National Park and didn’t stop until we completed a scene.
Walking gives us an adrenaline rush, it pumps our writing! In the US, we walk around all the parks of Westerville. We must have covered hundreds of miles by now!
• Does your growing-up years reflect in your scripts?
A lot. Memories of childhood pranks, youth and college years will always be reflected as they shape you. For instance, the ‘All is Well’ refrain is an inspiration from a chowkidaar who used to scream that every night.
Similarly, there used to be a joke in my science class - ‘Frogs legs fetch two marks’! There were so many body parts to remember, students would just mug up those that were necessary to get marks. I was inspired by these moments.
• What is your take on the argument that 3 Idiots dismisses the formal process of education? For all the flak that our system faces, they have thrown up some brilliant minds.
I agree. Institutions must be respected. Nowhere are we questioning formal education. But we need to see what is wrong with them and what can be done - it’s purely constructive criticism. Not a single scene says students mustn’t study or work hard.
But why should joy vanish from studies? I wouldn’t recommend students becoming slack towards education; only, they need to love what they learn.
• So is there a solution?
Maybe we need to question the way of studying. There should be a desire to learn. Unfortunately in our education system, there is no curiosity and education devoid of curiosity is dead.
• How different is the students’ response and approach in the US?
Studies there is aptitude oriented. But the enthusiasm of students is similar. I feel that if the teacher is good, students give a good response.
Taking a few years off to continue studying, after having been part of the workforce, is a luxury only a few of us can afford. In the film industry, where getting independent charge of a film is tough, it would be suicidal. And yet, there’s one person who has done exactly that.
Shaad Ali Sahgal, director of blockbusters like Saathiya and Bunty Aur Babli and the tepid Jhoom Barabar Jhoom has not only taken two years (by the time Raavana releases in June 2010) out of his professional life to assist his mentor Mani Ratnam with the never ending Raavana, he also doesn’t think there is anything weird about it or that it means taking a step back. “No,” he says resolutely, “it’s not a step back because beside the fact that Mani sir is my mentor and guru, Raavana is as much my film as any film of mine and I’m still learning with every film.”
|Pic: Rana Chakraborty|
“In fact,” he adds, “I have been with him for every film of his from Dil Se except when I have been shooting at the same time. It’s not something I am asked to do; it’s just something I do. I will continue to do this in the future, as I would for any close friend or anyone who had worked for me too. I have a 13-year-long relationship with Mani sir, nearly half my life. For some films I stay for a longer duration, for others I am there for a shorter while.”
He is rather amused when asked what exactly it is that he does on a Mani film which another assistant can’t. “I run around and get the work done and give whatever creative and logistic input I can give to him which is what I would do for my own film. I work very very closely with him and because over a period of time our relationship has grown, my inputs are taken more seriously. I try and add as much value as I can when I am on set, try to anticipate problems and see that the work is done on time. Also,” he adds with a laugh, “I think I am the best assistant in the country.”
Shaad was 19 and had just finished school when he saw Mani’s Roja and knew he had found the man he wanted to learn from except that Mani sent him away saying he wasn’t a good teacher. Two years later, when Shaad was 21 he brushed aside Mani’s objections and insisted he take him on. “Luckily Mani sir was making Dil Se and needed someone to help him with his Hindi,” Shaad says with a chuckle. Shaad never left.
He shot into prominence as an independent director with the sensitive Saathiya (a remake of Mani’s Alaipayuthey) and then completely lived up to his early promise with the fun and cheeky Bunty aur Babli which did more for the cause of small-town India than a dozen National Geographic documentaries could. He faltered with Jhoom Barabar Jhoom but insists it was not the failure that made him go back to school, as it were. “I will only make a film when I think I need to make a film and I have something to say. Though Jhoom… didn’t work, I liked the script. It is not in my hands if a film works or not.”
Shaad is 34 and Mani is in his mid-fifties. When asked to define their relationship, Shaad reflects. “It’s a very strange bond, he’s neither like a boss nor like a father, it’s a friendship. It’s a relationship that I have earned and which I will always have. I talk about everything to him and I run all my scripts past him. Sometimes when he comes up with ideas which no one else would think of, I am awestruck. He is a genius and he keeps showing that quite often. It’s like seeing Sachin bat from upclose.”
He continues, “It’s an old and strong bond, it’s beyond films and assisting. He and I are very close friends, we are in touch almost daily.”
Co-workers on the sets say Shaad was very protective about Mani after he suffered his heart attack and would constantly monitor the food Mani ate as well as keep him supplied with the pills he needed to take. Shaad is totally nonchalant about it, “If somebody in your family is not well, won’t you monitor his food and check-ups? It’s just a normal thing; it’s not anything out of the ordinary.”
|Pic: Yogen Shah|
Shaad’s next film will once again be for YRF but while he doesn’t know what that is going to be, he does know that it will be more serious without losing its entertainment quotient and not just be a completely light and musical film because he is done with that. And will Rahman score the music? “It all depends on the film I’m doing and what kind of music I want and what kind of time I have to be with Rahman because everyone wants to work with Rahman, but Rahman wants to work with very few people,” he says.
And on the subject of assisting, would he assist anyone who wanted a ‘great assistant’? His answer is typically non melodramatic, “I don’t think anybody wants me but if there is a close friend or someone that has worked with me or has been my assistant or my boss, if they need me, I’m available any time for any kind of help.”
By SHAHEEN PARKAR (Mid-Day; December 25, 2009)
Dara Singh is both amused and horrified to see Vindoo become a weepy person on Bigg Boss 3. Though his son is the frontrunner for the reality show’s prize in the finale tomorrow, his drastic behaviour is worrying the father.
|Dara Singh and Vindoo Dara Singh|
“I am shocked to see this side of him,” says the Rustom-e-Hind. “He has become extra sensitive in the house. Vindoo is an emotional man no doubt but he has gone beyond limits. I don’t think he is missing his family and resorting to all this. He was keen to be part of the show. Guess the situation has made him kuch zyada hi.”
Singh Sr catches up on the antics of his son every night. People ask him: Pahalwan ka beta hoke bhi rota hai?
“When tears roll down his cheeks and Vindoo keeps wiping them away, I keep chuckling.”
About the housemates telling him to create his identity and not latch on to his father’s name, he says, “Vindoo has always been known as Vindoo Dara Singh. He prefers it this way. He has been telling the others, too, to write their names like that. Many people like to show others in bad light. Neecha dikhane me aur ilzaam lagane mein…some love to do this to others – to each his own.”
Dara Singh’s last B-Town outing was Jab We Met. “I lead a retired life and if there are some dada and nana roles that come my way and I like them, I am game.”
He’s looking forward to the show’s finale tomorrow night. “If an invitation comes along, I don’t mind going to Khandala for the show,” he says. And the first thing that he will tell Vindoo on meeting him is: “Tu itna kyu roya?”
Vindoo has a brother Amrik who is based in Chandigarh and runs a film studio.