‘I was very scared as I was a first-time director.
‘Janhvi is a star and a star kid. But the moment she asked me if she was capable of playing the role, we became equals.’
Your first is always special.
It may not be perfect but it will always be close to your heart
Director Siddharth Sen too had dreams about his first film; that it would be rooted in his own script.
Fate, however, had made another decision for him.
And his debut as director — starring Janhvi Kapoor, Deepak Dobriyal, Mita Vashisht and Sushant Singh — turned out to be the remake of Nayanthara’s Tamil film, Koamaavu Kolika.
But Sen decided the film would have his stamp, his flavour.
So he tweaked the story, cast Janhvi Kapoor as a Bihari girl and made Good Luck Jerry.
It is, he tells Patcy N/Rediff.com, a decision he does not regret.
Part I: ‘You cannot compare Janhvi with Nayanthara’
How did you convince Janhvi to play a Bihari?
When I narrated the script to her, she was very excited. Then she asked me, ‘Will I be able to play it?’
I was happy to know she was sceptical because that made us equals.
I was very scared as I was a first-time director. She is a star and a star kid. But the moment she asked me if she was capable of playing the role, we became equals.
She attended a Bihari diction class for a month and half.
She did workshops.
She would do readings with me.
I would share random location pictures and she would react.
We started bonding.
We shot Janhvi’s home in a place called Bassi Pathana in Patiala. It is a beautiful location.
Just before the shoot, I told her, ‘You can go to your vanity but I would like you to be on the sets as much as possible because that will help you understand this world.’ After 15 minutes, I saw her sitting on the footpath, reading the script.
I thought it would be a one-time thing but she almost lived on the set.
I have seen her sleeping on the monitor table.
She would play carrom.
She would do card tricks.
She would eat ice cream on the street.
Talented actors like Sushant Singh and Mita Vashisht had very little to do in the film.
Mita ma’am, who played Janhvi’s mother, is there throughout the film because it’s a story about a daughter saving her mother.
This film has an ensemble cast.
I am grateful that Sushant sir came for such a role. It’s almost a cameo.
We wanted two different worlds.
One world belongs to Jerry and the three men, Deepak Dobriyal, Neeraj Sood and Shivam Gaur.
The other is the gangsters’ world, where I wanted everybody to be fresh, except the head, and that was Sushant sir.
I did not want to introduce that character.
Deepak Dobriyal is fantastic in the film.
I wanted a character who was a little off and who was in love with Janhvi. I wanted them to look like opposites, like an odd couple.
Deepak Dobriyal has given us an iconic character.
Aanand (L Rai, the producer) sir told me that after playing Papi (in Tanu Weds Manu), he did not want to do comedy roles. So we were sceptical about approaching him.
But during the pandemic, he thought people would want to laugh and be happy so he selected Rinku’s character.
He liked it because it was over the top.
The whole charisma of that character, who believes that Jerry — who doesn’t even say hi to him — is in love with him made him cracked!
I enjoyed the first half but I thought the second half could have been better. Also, you can’t really see the change in Janhvi’s graph from a bechari girl to a sly fox.
I like your honesty. There are other people who have given me the same response.
People have liked it too so, as a maker, I am trying to figure it out.
It’s my first film but I’m not here to defend it.
I am getting messages on social media that people are crazy about the second half but feel the first half was slow.
We had four screenings — one for the media, two for the industry and one for producers and directors.
The directors were in love with the first half. They even liked the first part of the second half, till the mime scene. They were not keen on the Dumb Charades scene.
The producers were in love with the second half.
Some found the climax disappointing.
Tell us about yourself.
I am from Jharkhand, Bihar.
I was a mediocre student with a very ordinary childhood.
I never thought of becoming a director.
My brother told me I was a smooth talker, so I should get into journalism. That’s why I went to Delhi to study mass communication.
Journalism is a different ballgame altogether.
I was stuck in my mass communication course till cinema and advertising were introduced; that’s when I started enjoying my studies.
I made a short film which did well at festivals.
I got an offer to work with Madhur Bhandarkar on his film, Fashion. But I couldn’t do it because I had started working on Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! with Dibaker Banerjee.
After the film, I shifted to Mumbai.
It was extremely difficult.
Today, the digital world has given people so much work. In those days, we would three-four months of work and eight-nine months of no work.
Six of us lived in one house. We would watch films in cheap theatres.
The first four years, I never went back home. Every time I planned to go home, somebody would call and offer me a project. So I would cancel my tickets, but the project would not happen or somebody else would get it.
Please go on.
What helped us survive was our attitude. We had fun while we struggled.
I never asked for money from home because, growing up, I always heard, ‘Paise nahin hai’ from my parents. So it was difficult to ask for money. Later, I came to know that my father worked for the central government office, so he had money.
My then girlfriend — we are married now — supported me a lot.
My brother became my parent after a point; he was a flight engineer. He shifted to Mumbai for me.
I assisted on films like Acid Factory, Agneepath, Heartless, Children of War, Budhia Singh: Born to Run…
Seven years ago, I decided I wanted to direct a film. I did not share my dream with anyone because the moment you say you want to direct, work stops coming your way and you are left with no money.
Instead, I started writing.
A company called Rangrezz allowed me to direct three episode of their show The Great Escape, which was telecast on Epic Channel.
People loved my work and I started getting offers to direct ads.
That’s how I ended up directing 50 odd advertisements, like the Kolkata Knight Riders anthem with Shah Rukh Khan and the Indian Soccer League Anthem.
Because of the ads, producers started calling me to direct their films. But I would say no because I wanted to direct my own script.
Aanand sir is a very smart person. He makes you fall in love with him. You get mesmerised and then you listen to him.
That’s why I agreed to direct Good Luck Jerry.
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