The folks from Sathyam Cinemas were pretty sweet to arrange an interview with Nagesh Kukunoor for me sitting in Sydney. Here’s the entire unedited transcript of the chat… The edited version will appear in the next few days.
sudhishkamath: hi nagesh… i loved ur film… im sure that’s pretty obvious with the review… just curious… did u conceive iqbal or did mukta arts ask u to direct an idea they had…how did it all begin?
Nagesh Kukunoor : i had been pitching this idea about a deaf and dumb kid who excels at the sport of malkhamb – a rural sport. No producer showed interest till I changed the sport to cricket.
sudhishkamath: oh… the cricket idea was from mukta?
sudhishkamath: im asking this cuz i read a subhash ghai interview where he said iqbal was conceived before black… he was just looking for a director
Nagesh Kukunoor : No, no. I wrote the script with cricket and then approached mukta.
sudhishkamath: oh… cool… wat did u not want to do with Iqbal, especially keeping in mind the inevitable comparisons with lagaan and black? u seen them? 🙂
Nagesh Kukunoor : What he meant was I had pitched the idea to him way back when. He also said it beacuse comparisons were being drawn to black but we were already shooting shen black opened
sudhishkamath: so u made a list of things that u will not do while treeating disability??
Nagesh Kukunoor : I wanted to write a film about an underdog and a film which treated disability with dignity and this was as far back as 2003
sudhishkamath: ok… thats wonderful… it was high time disability was treated wtih this attitude… the theme of ability foundation’s film festival this year was on Inclusive society
sudhishkamath: ur film wud ve been the most perfect film for the occasion… wat prompted the desire to do something on disability? personal motivation or purely potential for a moving film?
Nagesh Kukunoor : A moving film but the approach was to do something unique…almost experiment with the audience i.e. condition them to treat disability with normalcy. Make the audience forget within the first 5 mins that the lead character is disabled. i.e. a film with a disability not about the disability.
sudhishkamath: ok… have u seen black? did u like it?
Nagesh Kukunoor : did see black but can’t relate to those sensibilities…i wanted a happier space where my characters existed.
sudhishkamath: perfect… it was the most feel good film!
Nagesh Kukunoor : glad you enjoyed it.
sudhishkamath: u seem like u disappove of Hindi films… do u have anything against bollywood or just that u cannot relate to it… bollywood calling clearly showed that u understand and sympathise with the film industy… then how come u still don’t relate to the sensibility?
Nagesh Kukunoor : it is different format of story telling. when you looked at the past works of filmmakers like Hrishikesh Mukherjee – they very much existed in the bollywood space but had different sensibilities. I relate to that – to Shyam Benegal, to Basu Chatterjee, Gulzar, early Yash Chopra, B.R. Chopra lots of such amazing filmmakers
Nagesh Kukunoor : foragot ijay Anand
Nagesh Kukunoor : V was missing from Vijay
sudhishkamath: u havent named any contemporaries?
sudhishkamath: any of ur contemporaries
sudhishkamath: do u see that much of a difference is sensibility between directors of yesterday and today?
Nagesh Kukunoor : I like some of Ramu’s work. Raju Hirani.
sudhishkamath: actually, we can skip that if u want to be diplomatic… 🙂 tell me how different was the script… if it was malkhamb and not cricket?
Nagesh Kukunoor : I think so. We seem to hae a hyper bollywood these days. Forgot Sudhir Mishra
Nagesh Kukunoor : I think it would have reached out to a smaller audience
sudhishkamath: wat is malkhamb… and how did that inspire u?
Nagesh Kukunoor : It is a desi version of gymnastics and a isually incredible sport
sudhishkamath: oh…ok… give me a sneak peak into the mind of a filmmaker… im sure that starts with scripting… how do u write? u have a systematic way of coming up with the plot points first and then flesh out what helps the character arrive there or do u just go with the flow and write from beginning to end?
sudhishkamath: u look at it scientifically or is it a very arty thing?
Nagesh Kukunoor : I give myself a time period – 30 days and then I write. I write everything together, story screenplay dialogs all in one flow. That is the only way I know how. Probably with this sytem is if I get stuck at one point, I have to get unstuck to move forward.
Nagesh Kukunoor : I have to rush to the airport
sudhishkamath: i had a debate on my blog once about Filmmakers: Wankers versus Prostitutes… Wankers bneing the types who do it for their own pleasure irrespective of whether there is an audience of not… 🙂
sudhishkamath: prostitutes being the types who sell themselves to the market
sudhishkamath: what are u?
sudhishkamath: let that be the last question
Nagesh Kukunoor : How about a wanking prostitute?
sudhishkamath: oops…guess i asked an unprintable question… how can we reword that?
Nagesh Kukunoor : Hey you’re the writer
sudhishkamath: ha ha!
sudhishkamath: thanks nagesh!!
Nagesh Kukunoor : You’re welcome. Take care.