Interview By: Team Super Cinema
““If I am not learning from my co-actors I am very depressed man”
- Manoj Bajpayee
“All the characters of the film are depicted from real life”
“Good actors in the industry are more of a bane than a boon”
-Kay Kay Menon
“There are some stories which whisper in your ears when you hear them”
Team ‘Saat Ucchakey’ visited Super Cinema’s office and we had a wonderful chat with them about the film. Manoj Bajpayee and Kay Kay Menon along with Vijay Raaz and director Sanjeev Sharma shared their experiences related to the film. Excerpts:
As actors what did you’ll feel about the script of ‘Saat Ucchakey’ when you’ll first read it?
Manoj Bajpayee (MB)– It was amazing. After reading script, I was thinking for 4-5 days that what I have read? It was something which I have never heard of, never seen a place like that in Delhi when I am from Delhi. We use to go to eat Paratha, Jalebi and Rogan Josh but only visited outer side. We never went to the inner parts. Reading about those characters, and knowing about their behaviour was so interesting that it stayed with me for three days. Actually, Neeraj Pandey and Sanjeev Sharma, they are very good friends from Delhi. Neeraj sent the script to me and said that see it and tell if something is there and what you feel about it? Third day I told him that I don’t know whether I liked it or not. I am still there in that world. I think I will do it. It was that kind of a reaction from my side. Something that I have never heard, never seen, never read. It was not leaving my mind. Then I thought there is must be something about it.
Kay Kay Menon (KKM)– My experience was very much similar. When a script can give you entire experience of being there in terms of atmosphere of the place, ethos and pathos of the place, then that script is extra ordinary. If I can actually feel and smell that place while reading the script which is “purani dilli” where I have never been to, then it’s something exciting. I have been a person born and brought up in Maharastra. When I could experience that in a script that means script is very alleviating in terms of writing and the way it is conceived. Everything seemed surreal in that sense, it didn’t seem completely real or it’s not completely fantasy. There is a space in which the script takes you into which is very fascinating and attractive. It does leave you at peace and makes you feel that this is the world which I want explore. I have never done something like this before. For me it was very obvious that I would want to do a film like this. I was surprised that I am being approached for this. Since people in the industry have a tendency to nomenclature and to put a notional value to your performances. They like to categorise you but I know Sanjeev from his theatre days. Firstly I thought that Sanjeev didn’t write the script. When I spoke to him I realised that there is something inside this man which I have never seen before.
VijayRaaz (VR) – There are some stories which whisper in your ears when you hear it. The story starts talking to you. It does not happen with every story. There is so much literature available. If you go to a library, you will find so many books. But all the stories won’t touch or will talk to you. When I read this story it started talking to me. So, I thought then let’s just talk. The result is in front of you.
Sanjeev, how was the experience while writing it?
Sanjeev Sharma (SS) – In the writing process there is a background involved. So, in this there is no as such thought involved but there is a background. There is a purity in the story and it’s about a world which you have seen. Magical realism and critical realism fascinated me a lot. Purani Dilli for me is a place where magical events are happening every second around you. So, you start imbibing it. I was born there and lived there till class 12th. So, I imbibed many things. I can write for 10 years about it. I actually witnessed these characters of movie in my life. If I have involved in that I would have not been able to write it. This witness level helped me in the writing flow. In this film, the camera is always on witness level and not involving at all. To all actors it was briefed that we have to do it as a very serious affair and it will become comedy automatically.
MB– It’s not slapstick. It’s a world. If you go Purani Dilli and observe then you will be surprised to know “aese bhi baat karte hain kya“. The wonder, the smile that you will feel at that point is the same you will feel while watching the film. Those people are completely different from rest of the Delhi, forget about Mumbai, Banglore, Chennai. There world is different and their history is different.
SS – These people of Purani Dilli live all four seasons of year. They have a morning, after noon and night and then again next morning is like a morning. It is ending from our lives. We are just living a day and we don’t have feeling of different seasons. So, we have taken that richness from there. All the characters of the film are depicted from real life.
Do you think the movie belongs to the dark comedy genre?
MB– I feel it’s a lightest comedy or we can say it’s a spiritual comedy. It will make you laugh, it will make you wonder and it will make you experience the world you have never seen before but at the end of the day, when you will come out you will feel spiritually much more rich in terms of life, aspirations. It is that kind of a rare comedy which has a purpose. There is certain content and background behind this story. So, yes, you will laugh but you will feel richer.
SS– I will call it divine comedy. The comic element is coming out because of the absurdity present.
As a director, how was your experience to work with this talented bunch of actors and as actors how was it working with each other in tune?
SS – The process starts from trust. You are placing your stakes with legends of the industry. It is sure that they will do justice with characters, so, we will talk about the surprise bit. The main thing is when you receive something more than justice that is surprise. You know that these skilled actors are going to do their best. But after giving their best there are small minute detailing which are very important as an actor to make those possible and when they do it, that is a surprise from such good actors.
Actors like you who have done such an elaborated body work but still to reinvent yourself with a character in each film, what is your own personal growth, journey or process? And how do you try to bring something new every time?
MB– I will take you a little back. I came to the city reluctantly and I was quite reluctant to take the train to come Mumbai. Because the films that were happening here I enjoyed them but I couldn’t relate to them as an actor. Shekhar Kapur once told me when we were shooting for ‘Bandit Queen’ that, ‘don’t do something that you don’t like but in theatre you are not getting paid so much. Tomorrow you might get married and might fall sick and you would not have money and that time no friends will help you,’ which really scared me. Those words stayed with me and I still try to follow those things he told me. So I am into this industry because I love acting, because I love to surprise myself and if I am not surprising myself then I am very frustrated person on the set. If I am not learning from my co-actors, I am very depressed man. For me it’s a journey which I have taken only for the passion I feel for acting, this is the only thing I enjoy and the only thing I know. So growing on the set, doing this film was a challenge for me to be part of this magical world that I have not seen before. So let’s go ahead and surprise ourselves and grow as an actor. This was the purpose behind it. There are lot of people who ask why I don’t do comedy films so for them my answer is that I’m never going to do comedy for the sake of it. It has to be compelling enough for me to be part of it and this is the kind of movie which is the definition for my choice of a comedy movie. ‘Saat Uchakkey’ is pure comedy where I won’t be making faces or pulling someone down to overpower him
KKM- We all come from a place where we all are secure. When we come from that space, every step that we take in company of each other is for any kind of inspiration. Now when you look at an actor normally, the idea is to neutralise yourself when you perform, I surrender my ego and take on that character’s ego that I am playing. When you surrender your ego completely then that is what you want; you want people like these in your company, not the other ones which I have worked (laughs). I will never go naked with my emotion and I will go with a guard around those kind of people. There’s something called trust in acting, when you can close your eyes and fall and the person will catch you so that trust can happen with these kinds of like-minded people who are extremely secure their own space. So this trust is very important; when you are in such kind of company you can be the best you are.
VR – They already said everything (laughing). This is a very beautiful thing that there is no insecurity in terms of career. I am not here to build my career I had no plans to come here but destiny brought me here so I am here today. When such a story and people come together, you don’t have to do anything it happens on its own. Now I can’t explain how because it just happens.
Coming back to the point that trust and securit important so having that with different directors and other actors would be so difficult right?
KKM – That situation leads to some magic because we are not insecure about Kay Kay. We are safe.
MB – Our relationship is true with all new comers also whether it’s with Aditi Sharma, Vipul, Nitin or Jatin all these guys are new and are juniors but on the set when we were shooting they were like family members. Aparshakti Khurrana, Ayushmann’s brother when he came for the workshop; the first day he was like a south Delhi boy, a decent well spoken guy and during the filming Vijay Raaz took him under his mentorship and he was a changed man completely, the guy who use to not even utter any bad word; end of the film he was only giving bad words (laughs).
What is that one thing that you want the audience to take back from this movie after watching it?
SS- There’s a character in the movie who says there’s no short cut to success, one has to wait for the right opportunity to come your way.
VR – I think whoever will see this film will be lucky and fortunate enough. It may sound like a joke but its reality. This is the USP of the film and if one will see, they will wonder why such movies are not made now-a-days and it’s after really long that a film like this has been made. So I think, that will be the thought the audience will take back after watching the film.
KKM – My expectation is that people should watch the film, first day first show. And another thing we guarantee that ones you watch the film you will definitely take back something precious from this film. What you take back will depend on an individual’s karma; but if you see the film you will be doing one good deed.
How do you’ll feel about doing films outside your comfort zone?
KKM – That time we don’t do films in our comfort zone, we go in our convenient zone
MB – When‘ Tevar’ was offered to me, I went through the script, I went through the narrations 3-4 times because I had to make sure I have my space in the film, and if I don’t get the space I don’t get into it. Our respected space is very important for us as an actor and to explore ourselves is very important for us; because well, the doctor hasn’t told me to work 24*7 and be busy throughout (laughs). I’m very happy if I even do one film, my house can be still managed with it. But if I’m getting into the project I see to it that each and every day I’m going with it.
KKM- Firstly, I feel in such films we get good amount of money. Secondly to do a film like this, I will take care of Kay Kay forget about my character I will take care myself which doesn’t exist in this kind of films because I know I’ll be taken care of because I’m very confident about the trust we share . On the other hand in other films I have to take care of myself, my ego and things like that and since I’m a very good actor I do a good acting of enjoying the film. I’m pretty good at that so while doing those films everyone has that impression of me that I’m enjoying the film thoroughly and nobody will know what’s actually going inside of me. Unfortunately what happens is that, good actors in the industry are more of a bane than a boon because we are seen in a cursed lot where in we should be seen in a blessed lot. There’s a lot of disparity; that one who isn’t a good actor is the one who’s exerted and people like us end up carrying the burden of being good actors all the time and there are people like critics who don’t understand the point. They criticize you; for example in a film like ‘ A Flying Jatt’ without understanding they are talking about a Kay Kay Menon or a Manoj Bajpayee or Vijay Raaz they are talking about us who are body of work who can shoot you out into the space. They should understand that, come pay some respect and we shall respect you back. My whole point to the critics is that I challenge you, I can critic a film better than you, can you do my job better than me? You can’t. Can you do better acting than me? You can’t. So who is superior? So have some respect because we are well educated, we understand cinema and we can critic well than you. The word critic comes from critical appreciation and not criticism.