The very name of Shoojit Sircar may not ring a bell. But the very moment we mention his film Vicky Donor, the smile on the audiences' face would be a testimony enough of his exemplary work. For the uninitiated, Sircar started his romance with arts while he was in Delhi by forming his own theatre group there. Besides films, the creativity of this spotless mind can also be seen in the ad commercials of many leading FMCG brands.
This time round, Sircar brings to the audience a real hard hitting and in-your-face story that's woven around the dreaded LTTE in his latest film Madras Cafe, which stars John Abraham with Nargis Fakhri. Satish Sundaresan of Bollywood Hungama caught up with Sircar to find out answers to questions like why he doesn't call John as the 'hero' of the film and many other that gives us a never before insight into the much awaited film.
Shoojit, to start with, did you expect your last venture Vicky Donor to be such a trendsetter and a smash hit?
Frankly speaking, I just did not expect the film to be such a big hit. My only concern was to recover the cost of the film, John, on the other hand, was pretty confident about the success of the film. The film went on to win 3 National awards and many other awards. Trust me, the unprecedented BO success and the never ending accolades for the film have been a real surprise and a bonus for us.
Has the success of Vicky Donor piled the pressure on you to be dazzling now at the BO?
There are pressures indeed from the industry and also from the people. But the fact is that, I don't take all that as a burden. My burden finished totally when my dear film Shoebite just did not release. As of now, I have no expectations and no botherations. I just want to make films honestly and would like to entertain the audiences. Period. If anybody walks with me, I will be happy. If not, then, I will make another film. The going has been as simple and sweet as that! (Smiles)
How did the whole thought of Madras Café conceptualize?
I wanted to do a film on RAW since a long time. If you remember, I had earlier tried a bit in Yahaan as well! In Madras Café, I have placed an Army Officer with the backdrop of Sri Lanka. The whole issue in the film has been tackled from his point of view.
Is there a message that you are planning to give through Madras Cafe?
There is no message as such in the film. Even though Vicky Donor and Yahaan did entertain everyone, the audiences still took home something (message) with them. In Madras Cafe, I have made strong statements like "Criticizing a national policy doesn't make me an anti-national", which happens to be the most profound line in the film.
Buzz is that, with Madras Cafe, you are planning to revisit the peak of the LTTE movement 1984-85 onwards…
Even though my film is a total fiction, there are bound to be references. Besides this, I cannot say anything more at this juncture.
In a nutshell, what's the storyline of Madras Cafe?
As a part of his official assignment, John (who plays a RAW agent) goes to Sri Lanka. It's while doing his job that it dawns on him that this is not a small country as he thought it to be. Rather, this was a strategic country and that there is a bigger plot moving around him.
What is the kind of homework and researches have you done for the film?
My research was all through newspapers, books, and the information that was available on the internet. To add it up, there were also my own life's experiences.
What were the parameters on which you zeroed on Nargis as the heroine?
Let me tell you that there is no hero or heroine in the film. There are only characters in the film. While casting, I thought of many other actresses. But when Nargis' name was brought up, I liked the choice as I had earlier worked with her in an ad film. Since I wanted a foreign journalist with an accent, I thought that she was just the right person for the role.
What were the locations in which you have shot the film?
We have shot the film all over India. What is so wonderful about the film is that, the whole of Sri Lanka has been recreated in India itself! Trust me when I say that Jaffna's recreation has been so realistically done that you will feel that the film is set in Jaffna itself! Besides that, we have shot in US and Europe.
While Yahaan was about Kashmiri separatism, Vicky Donor dealt with a never before aspect of sperm donation. And now Madras Cafe deals with extremism. Where do you get your out of the box ideas from?
As a concerned and conscious citizen, one always reads about these subjects almost every day. The full credit goes to the writers of my films. While in Vicky Donor, it was Juhi Chaturvedi, and in Madras Cafe, it's Somnath Dey and Shubendu Bhattacharya.
Is it true that Madras Cafe will feature the look-alikes of well-known political personalities from the LTTE episodes in Indian history, including LTTE's founder Prabhakaran?
As I said earlier, there will surely be references of the rebel groups. But the fact remains that the film doesn't take any bias sides. This is all that I can tell you at this very moment and juncture. You have to see the film to get the answers to your question (smiles).
Now for the eternal question, why was the film's title changed from Jaffna to Madras Cafe?
Initially, I thought Jaffna was a very apt name. But while working on the script, the title of Madras Cafe came up. And when I heard this title, I strongly felt that this was a more apt name. When lot of people dissuaded me from adopting this title, all that I told them was that once the audiences see the film, the said title will surely blow them away!
Is it true that John, who had earlier lost around 20 kg for Shootout at Wadala, had to lose around 9 kg for Madras Cafe?
It's true that John had to lose weight for my film. All that I told John was to look normal, because the very moment he is seen with bulging biceps, his film's character would get lost in transit.
You have managed a casting coup of sorts by roping in the quiz master Siddhartha Basu, ad gurus Piyush Pandey and Agnello Dias! How?
Mark my words when I say that, post the film's release, Siddhartha Basu will turn out to be a name to watch out for. The same applies for Piyush and Agnello as well! When I saw Agnello, I immediately told him that "You look like a Sri Lankan. Why don't you play this role of a Sri Lankan minister in my film" (laughs).
Was it tough to convince the trio to face the camera as actors?
Since all the three happen to be my close friends, when I told them about their roles, they said "We will try (acting) for your sake, but, are you really sure we will be able to pull it off?" All that I said was to trust me completely and the end result will be more than satisfactory, which is exactly what they did. And the results are there for everyone to see!
In one of your interviews you said, "I consider the script as my star and in Madras Cafe also, John is not the star, it is the story. Only Salman Khan's films do not follow this funda". What did you mean by saying that?
How his (Salman's) films work, I really don't know. What I meant by saying that was that, in my film, while the script is the hero, in a Salman's film, the audiences go to watch Salman Khan, irrespective of the script!
What's the status of Shoebite and Garden House?
The very fact that Shoebite 's not yet released, I feel really sad and depressed, because it has been my closest film till date. Sometimes, I feel that all the journalists should stage a dharna at Ronnie Screwvala's place and tell him to release the film (laughs). All that they (UTV) need to do is that go up to Fox (studios) and shake hands with them. That will help Shoebite see the light of the day. And for Garden House, since the film is a bit complicated, I am still scripting it.
What's happening to the much-talked about Kishore Kumar's biopic?
I am not making that now. It was me who took the project and Kishore Kumar's family to UTV. What happened post that, I just don't know. UTV knows what they have done in the middle, so they will surely have the answer for that.
Lastly, is there anything else that you want to tell our readers about Madras Cafe?
I want to tell to the youth especially, that do not take this as an action Rambo type of film. It's a very entertaining film. If possible, do read about the subject before you watch the film. You will enjoy the film more after that.