Interview By: Drishti Pandey

Filmmaker Saket Chaudhary, who has previously dealt with the funny side of romance and marriage, with ‘Pyaar Ke Side Effects’ and ‘Shaddi Ke Side effects’, now experiments his humor on India’s education system in his third film. Having a quirky concept and comic effects in the film,Chaudhary talks to us about how he conceived the idea of ‘Hindi Medium’ and how English has become a class in our society. Read on… 

How and since when did the idea of ‘Hindi Medium’ happen to you? 

The idea came to us when we were writing ‘Shaadi Ke Side Effects’, we were searching family, parents and all of that and my co- writer Zeenat Lakhani, she came across an article of how a child was denied an admission in a good school because her father just had a B.A degree. The school only wanted parents who had M.B.A, M.B.B.S and engineering degrees; so the poor father left his business and took admission in M.B.A. course just so that her daughter gets into that school.  So that’s when we realized – how desperate the situation can be, how desperate the parents can get, to give the child what matters to them the most. And in India, Indian parents are very obsessed with education. For the middle class people it’s the one big thing they can do for their children; so that’s how the connection started and then after “Shaadi Ke Side Effects’ we stared writing the story and started working on it.

Making films which has social message for the society and also realistic element; are the genres you like tomake or is itsomething that attracts you for such concepts? 

I feel all films are interesting I don’t think that there’s any given that one has to write on social message, I like to explore things which are different in relationships, I like ideas which are more than just boy meets girl; so those are the ideas that attract me but I think all film makers should make whatever film they like to make. 

Which genre do you enjoy the most and any other genre you wish to make? 

I do comedies and I enjoy doing comedies a lot but I would love to make a thriller. I have always enjoyed writing and watching films which has a bit of political in them and ‘Hindi Medium’ has a bit of politics and social in it, so I really enjoy doing it.

Does your personality reflect in your films?

Yeah absolutely, I think most writers; people who write their material somewhere invest themselves, their personality. So in ‘Pyaar Ke Side Effects’, ‘Shaadike Side Effects’ there was a side of me related someone who lived in big cities, has had a very posh school education, comes from a upper middle class city background, but there is another part of my personality which is very Delhi, very Punjabi, so that part I finally manage to explore; so basically out of all experience.

Why the title ‘Hindi Medium’? 

The title comes naturally from the main character because the main character has studied from the Hindi medium government school and on the other way it’s a way of mocking somebody like “Yeh toh Hindi medium se hai”  so that’s from  where the title comes.   

How was the collaboration with Irrfan Khan and how do you think he is as an actor? 

Irrfan is an extremely talented and extremely accomplished actor and it was very interesting to work with him because Irrfan’s whole process is to constantly understands the scene, on the other hand some actors whole idea are to start to do the scene. But Irrfan will constantly understand the scene so he will keep reading the script again and again and constantly observing till the point when he actually does it.  And to a certain degree you have no idea how he actually does the scene but he does it. So it’s very interesting to work with him. 

So while you were writing the script, was Irrfan always your first choice? 

Yeah, when we wrote the first scene of the film, the main character Raj who owns a lengha shop in Chandani Chowk and sells copies of designer lenghas – that moment we sort of knew Irrfan is the perfect fit for the role. 

Was it easy for you to get him onboard? 

Not easy but through our producer DineshVijan who is a very well known producer helped us, and so we reached out. And Irrfan wanted to read the script; so once he read the script he liked it and said yes. 

Having such a quirky concept, the trailer itself shows the standard of living of both the classes’ rich and poor, so how was the process and experience searching on little facts that we don’t know?

 It was an interesting process.  I’m not a married man and I don’t have children so I didn’t know how difficult of getting an admission can be and what are the various things that parents have to go through; so we started visiting schools, and last time a good school was which had a classroom and a playground which was considered a good a school. And now we see schools having swimming pool, horse riding, indoor squash, its like where have we come? It’s like better than most 5 stars hotels I’ve stayed. (Smiles) So schools have changed radically, parents are now very different; you go to school, you see, they constantly have to decide if they go to school to drop their children they should have this particular car and this a specific address – that they need if we go to a good school. So all these are become big factors in getting children in good schools, and children are become very status conscious, children now sort of have the understanding that now if they give a birthday party it has to be in so and so hotel and these are the return gifts we have to give. So they have become very status conscious; so these were the things that we learnt while writing the script.

In a way children are being status conscious is also because their upbringing is taking shape in that way right? 

Yes obviously, and I think as a society we’ve become very status and brand conscious; I think difference between our generation is that when we were kids there so no brands enough to be conscious about it but now- a- days there are so many brands, so many options and everything is becoming about branding; so schools have also become about branding, rather than the educations that they give. So these are the things that have changed and there’s a society which has extremely become brand conscious and that reflects on where you live and how you approach even something like an education.  

Do you think Hindi language has no worth in today’s date and that we have stereotyped the language and also look down upon it? 

Absolutely, we look at people who speak Hindi like lower working people or someone who is from village and sort of things. We attribute no intelligence to them; we attribute no sophistication to them. Language is not sophistication, how we behave is sophistication but because we can’t speak in English so it’s like naturally “gavar hoge”. 

“English is not a language but a class” how true do you think is this statement and do you think a language can define ones class? 

I think it’s true, in this country English is a class. I have met people, and while researching in this film who has a master’s degree but because he can’t speak English properly, he is a watchman in a mall in a security guard and people who barely finished collage and they can speak English can get a 30 – 40 thousand job in BPO.  So it is a class, to a large degree especially in a country where we are more and more moving towards service economy. English is become the milestone that we are judge against, a parameter that we are judged against, hence it’s a class. 

What is your perspective on our society and things that should be improved? 

I think the one thing is that we have to understand is that – in any country your children are your greatest assets and we have to invest and make every child believe that they have a chance. A child should be given that opportunity to realize their potential. In future if they become something or not, they do things or not but from childhood they should get the opportunity; and I think a lot of children in the country are denied an opportunity to do something with their lives. 

What message will this film convey? 

The message ‘Hindi Medium’ is giving is that each child should be given the opportunity for best education possible and the child should not be discriminated against, just because the child can’t speak a particular language, or not from a particular economy background, or not a part of this country.  The children are the most valuable asset that anyone can have and it’s our responsibility that all should be given a chance to prove themselves. I think the idea is to understand – what is real in education? Just knowing English is not education, just going to good school is not education, education is far bigger than that, it’s about knowledge, it’s about skills, it’s about values, but I think parents are become too focused on English  medium schools and branded schools rather than what really their children need to know.  That’s what we really want to convey through this film.

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