As ‘Notebook’ is all set to hit the marquee, we spoke to the man behind the camera, Nitin Kakkar who has bagged several merits and won a national award for his debut ‘Filmistaan’. He spoke to us about how different is ‘Notebook’ and his choice of scripts amidst much more…

What was the starting point for ‘Notebook’?
The starting point was from where I and Salman sir were in conversation on making a film together. There were films which we were in talks that never took off. Then he called me and said that, he was looking for something with Zaheer and we can think about what we have. There were 3-4 scripts from which I personally liked ‘Notebook’ and that’s how it all began.

Your films are usually shot in a specific backdrop, for instance, ‘Filmistaan’ was shot in Rajasthan, ‘Mitron’ focused on Gujarat and in ‘Notebook’ we see the beautiful Kashmir. Has this got to do with the sensibility of the script?
I always believe that whatever you are today, is because of where you come from. Because that space does make you what you are. People who are staying in a city like ‘New York’ are of a different energy. If I had to consider it in India, people who stay in Mumbai are different from others who stay in Jabalpur, to somebody who is staying in Lucknow and Delhi. Mumbai and Delhi are two metro cities yet people are different. There is political backdrop, financial backdrop, there is financial and Bollywood influences, they make you into a person you are.  Thus in my films I always see the cities as a character; it is never just a backdrop – be it ‘Mitron’, or ‘Filmistaan’. ‘Ram Singh Charlie’, was shot in Calcutta, so when you see that film you’ll realise that the city is the character in it.

Do you believe it’s always a win-win situation to make a romantic film with fresh faces? To name a few films – ‘Maine Pyaar Kiya’, ‘Kaho Na Pyaar’ Hai…
I think times have changed; we are talking about ‘Maine Pyaar Kiya’ which was in the 80’s. Today in a very good way nothing is safe here, everything is in risk. You come out with a good story, good content then definitely the audience are ready to accept it. There are so many romantic films which come with newcomers which have not worked so there’s nothing safe here.

Talking about how the audiences have evolved and are accepting the unheard subjects thrown at them. Do you believe that has led to a new class of directors coming in?
Of course! And I think not only the audiences but even the filmmakers have evolved because filmmakers have started experimenting with the new subjects as the audiences are accepting them. There was a time when there was parallel cinema and commercial cinema – now the line is blurred a little, where we see good content packaged right, presented right, presented honestly then the audiences are ready to accept and consume it; which is a great time for everybody, for audiences to get new stories and filmmakers to make new subjects.

What do you have to say about ‘Notebook’ in terms of its story and the title, it’s seems to be an unconventional love story…
What happens is that love stories generally have a classic format of Shakespeare, of Romeo-Juliet, set in that format. ‘Notebook’ is not in that format; from its writing point to view, but it’s in two time zones which is unique in its own way. And it’s about how you present the film, so much so that the film is one story but having two time zones so from its writing perspective to how interesting the screenplay can be, thus calling it a unique story. When one will watch the film they will understand that the world is different, yet one; it’s a great mix and that is what I think is amazing about the writing and the film.  The title ‘Notebook’ is very naturally there, ‘Notebook’ is the catalyst in the film where the promo says that they don’t meet, they know each other via notebook hence the title ‘Notebook’, so it’s very organic in that sense. The title of the film comes from the story; it’s never a thought of keeping an unconventional title. I am glad that my titles are different unconsciously.

Off late, there’s a sense of liberation in the way one wants to tell stories. How challenging does it get for a director to also have a commercial aspect to it?
It’s very important, and I think we as filmmakers are also artists who want an audience; we are not making films for watching it in a niche set of group so you try and create the balance of your sensibilities and people’s entertainment and when you merge that together you try and come to a space where a good story is narrated in a entertaining way and people take things home. And when I say entertaining – I mean engaging, entertaining doesn’t necessarily be that you make anything because entertainment has different connotations for different people so it has to be engaging when you are narrating a story, and it should be engaging enough that the audiences sit and watch the film and enjoy it.; something that the audience talks about the film after they leave the theatre.

How was it to direct the newbies, how are they in terms of acting and how much potential did you see in them?

I think they are very mature for their age, they are very hungry, and they are very hard working because they want to create a name and space for themselves without knowing from where they are coming and how they have been launched. We have examples in our industry where people coming from a renowned family background have made their own name and identity. They have made their space, so that’s very important. It’s not from where you are coming but it’s who you are, that matters. So they are very hungry to make space for themselves which is a very good thing about them and they have great head on their shoulders; much matured and very good actors.

As a filmmaker what is your sensibility in terms of how you choose your scripts?
I don’t think from the head, I think from the heart so if I feel that; the script has touched my heart and I have connected to it, I go ahead.  And no script is right or wrong, it’s your connection that decides the script and how well are you relating to the script.  There might be a fantastic script but you have no idea about that world so I can’t paint a world where I’ve not been.  I might even see a world of that script and paint it but the characters, the story, if I am able to associate with it; then I will do it. So I want to resonate with the core characters if I am relating to them, you should get the feeling of telling a story that reaches the audience.

What will the audience take back from ‘Notebook’?

I can’t really comment on this because everyone has different perspective. My work is over as I finish my film, I don’t have control over the audience’s perception because it’s one’s perception and I am sure, it will be right. I was open to all kind of reviews, when I made ‘Filmistaan’. I didn’t know people will love the film and to the fact, they are still liking it and I still get calls so it has stayed with them for over the years which is a good thing.  When I read a Shakespeare story, I will interpret it in my way so similarly it’s audience right to interpret it, in their own way. As a filmmaker I have communicated that with the audience, now I just hope they like the film be it in any small way. Trade Magazine