When her mother, veteran actor Rakhee, kissed her on the forehead after watching Sam Bahadur, director Meghna Gulzar could see the pride in her eyes. The film, based on Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, has been in her mind since 2016. The research took her team to his family, to books on him, and to footage involving him. The actual shooting took seven months, across 13 cities, with five months of preparation for the lead actor Vicky Kaushal. Gulzar couldn’t be happier with the result, especially since the Manekshaw family loved it. The film involved fabricating armoury and weapons and featured actual soldiers so the crew wouldn’t make any mistakes. The Army was completely cooperative because he remains an icon. Gulzar thinks there was a higher power involved in making the movie come alive— she studied in a Parsi school, Avabai Petit; her father-in-law served in the 1971 war; and the Manekshaws opened their hearts to her, especially with details of his beloved wife Siloo. “The human lens to me was very important,” says Gulzar. “How he was in and out of uniform. Also, his relationship with Indira Gandhi, who was much younger than she is remembered in public memory.” She adds, “This was a much younger Mrs Gandhi who was just coming into her own. You see her asking difficult questions and him giving her difficult answers, with no loss of mutual respect.” Gulzar has worked hard on the film, as has her team, and says the worst kind of film to be made is an inconsequential film. “It needs to have some iota of consequence, otherwise what’s the point?” It is also the first of her films her son, now almost 14, saw on the day of release. “He saw a film that explained my absence,” she says. “It made everything worthwhile.” The film Sam Bahadur has been life-altering for her, not merely in terms of advancing her craft, but also in imbibing his principles. After all, not everyone can make a war film which essentially talks about peace, decency, and goodness in the age of excess.
Cooking a Film
When he saw Parvathy Thiruvothu in Take Off (2017), he told her he wanted to work with her. Ditto for Bangladeshi actor Jaya Ahsan, whom he first saw in Bishorjan (2017). “I like to marinate a story,” says Aniruddha “Tony” Roy Chowdhury, director of the forthcoming Zee5 film Kadak Singh. His lead actor feels the same. Pankaj Tripathi is a great foodie and over several meals, some of which he cooked himself, they collaborated on Kadak Singh. “Khana peena hota rahega, time milega toh film banayenge (We’ll eat and drink, and of we have time, we will also make the film),” says Chowdhury. He had a similar foodie relationship with the young Sanjana Sanghi in the film. “We bonded over Bengali food,” he says, which they shared at Mumbai’s Oh! Calcutta restaurant. “I am very suspicious of people who don’t eat or love good food,” adds Chowdhury who is in no hurry to make movies. “I like to take events from my life and the environment around me,” he says, speaking of Kadak Singh’s backdrop of the chit fund investigations in West Bengal. A film happens, one cannot make it happen, he says. The director of the hard-hitting Pink (2016) says any work of art, if it carries belief, will resonate with people. “I keep my feet on the ground,” he says, so Mother Earth can transit herself through him. “I am not interested in being an achiever, only a participant,” he says. He lives in Mumbai, but rushes to Kolkata whenever he feels a “Kolkata deficiency in my blood.”
Scene and Heard
Michael Douglas, who was in India for the International Film Festival of India, revived memories of Racing the Monsoon, a film he was supposed to do in India in 2005. The sequel to Romancing the Stone (1984) and The Jewel of the Nile (1985), it was supposed to be set on an Indian train and star Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. It was to be shot in Aamby Valley near Mumbai at a luxury resort created by the Sahara Group, then at the height of its power. In 2008, the film was revived again, this time co-starring his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones. Douglas and Zeta-Jones had said then that they would relocate to India for the period of the shoot with their children. The $30 million film was supposed to be financed by Sahara One Motion Pictures and Percept Picture Company with Douglas’ production company Further Films.