Each year Bollywood sees a new breed of young and talented directors making their debut. While some manage to strike a chord with their films, others fade away into oblivion. In a few weeks’ time, yet another oven-fresh director Vijay Lalwani is all set to unveil his labour of love Karthik Calling Karthik. The promos of this Farhan–Deepika starrer have generated tremendous curiosity and audiences are looking forward to this romantic thriller with bated breath. Bollywood Hungama‘s Nikhil Ramsubramaniam got in touch with the man behind the scenes- debutant director Vijay Lalwani- and spoke to him about his maiden venture.
Your first baby Karthik Calling Karthik (KCK) is a few weeks away from release, how is the feeling?
I’m still finishing the post, so I’ve had absolutely no time to sit back and think about my condition. Chaos and lack of awareness of what is to follow prevails (smiles).
Everyone is curious to know about your background. So could you brief us on that?
Ever since I can remember, I always wanted to be a story teller, but at 12 I didn’t know that film making could actually be my career, so I decided that Advertising was what I would do when I grow up, since it seemed like the next most creatively challenging and exciting possibility. I did my 11th and 12th in Science at my parents insistence, and decided to rebel and take up Arts later on so I could eventually make it into Advertising. I graduated in Applied Art and decided to head to Mumbai to pursue mainstream Advertising.
I joined Ogilvy & Mather (Mumbai) as an Art Director in 2002. In less than a year, my passion for writing took over. I moved completely to the discipline of writing. I was now officially a copywriter training to be a Creative Director. Was fortunate enough in Advertising and ended up doing 100 TV commercials and various print campaigns, and include major brands such as Sprite, Hide n seek, Milano, Cadbury, Hutch and many more.
I’ve done over 100 TV commercials and various print campaigns including major brands such as Sprite, Hide n Seek, Milano, Cadbury, Hutch and many more
So how did the shift from Advertising to Films take place?
My first love always remained wanting to make movies. As Creative Director, writing always remained the major interest but I wanted to dabble in direction. After successfully directing a few commercials I decided to take the plunge into movie making completely. I further trained in some of the best agencies in the country with some of the sharpest minds. What really helped though is the discipline one gets while being in Advertising. Having to go back to the drawing board a hundred times, dealing with rejection, and dealing with multiple levels to get work done, just end up being assets later in the film writing career. Then be it dialogues, jingles, campaign ideas or commercials, one just gets used to constantly improving /crafting your product. In 2007 I gave up my post as a Senior Creative Director and decided to focus on a Movie Making career as Writer and Director. With the many screenplays I had written over time, 2008 saw the formation of ‘Magic Beans Films’ with my partner Amit Chandrra and our thus began our first film venture Karthik Calling Karthik. We had the fortune/foresight to seek Excel Entertainment as the right partners to do justice to the project.
How would you describe Karthik Calling Karthik (KCK)?
It’s essentially a thriller. Some people are calling it a psychological thriller, and some call it a romantic thriller because there is a very strong romance track in the film that is pretty much the fulcrum of the film. All I would like to say that it’s an imaginative yet relatable human story about ‘change’ in a lovable loser’s life. It’s funny, it’s romantic, and it’s mysterious and won’t allow you to leave your seat. I don’t know if I’ve over described it or confused you further (laughs) KCK, is the story of a lovable loser Karthik, whose life changes with the help of someone who also claims to be Karthik. A thrilling, soulful and romantic journey of this man’s victory against all odds is how I would sum up the film.
KCK is essentially a thriller. Some people are calling it a psychological thriller while some call it a romantic thriller
How and when did the idea of KCK first germinate?
About 3 years ago, I was sitting troubled at a restaurant worrying about certain choices I need to make in my life (personal life/ career/ job opportunities else where/ shifting homes etc)…. Tired of wrestling between choices I said, “Gosh, why can’t I get a call every morning from someone who knows what’s right for me and tells me exactly what to do” and then I paused for a few seconds. “That’s a great idea for a movie” I said, and that’s how the idea for Karthik Calling Karthik was born. I jotted the idea down and over the next few months it simmered at the back of my mind.
Farhan and Deepika make for quite an unconventional on-screen pair. What made you cast them for the lead roles?
Farhan had the intensity and maturity that I required an actor to have to play Karthik. Plus I preferred someone with no baggage which means I wanted someone who didn’t come with a chocolate boy/serious/comedy/action hero image. Farhan is relatively new as an actor so he was ideal. Plus there was an awesome match of sensibilities when we met. We also share a very similar sense of corny, cheesy humour which made it easier for me to like him.
As for Deepika, the character she plays, Shonali, needed to be desirable, aspirational, confident and sexy. Deepika fit the bill perfectly. I always wanted her for the role but never thought she would say YES. Luckily for me, she did. Her character has the best lines in the film. She is the funny one, and the cheeky one. It would be fresh to see her in such an avatar. She too comes with only positive equity and she hasn’t been seen like this ever before. The pairing in my head was very unique and I believed that I would pull it off on screen convincingly. I’m quite happy with the choice.
Farhan and I share a very similar sense of corny, cheesy humour which made it easier for me to like him
Deepika’s new look is fast becoming the talk of the town…Apparently you were the one who wanted her to sport a new hair style. Why so?
Her character Shonali is outgoing, bold and stylish. I always saw the character have shorter hair (as compared to how Deepika looks in real life). A new trendy cut was very important for Deepika to get into a new look. I wanted to present Deepika differently from how she had been seen earlier in previous films. The hair cut was step one for her new look.
I always wanted Deepika’s character Shonali to have short hair. So we went in for a trendy new look
Does the film deal with psychological issues like alter ego / split personality?
I would like the audience to see my next promo before speculating anything. The promo on air is only a teaser. Once the promo is out, a lot will be clearer. But I promise it’s worth the wait.
The music by Shankar Ehsaan Loy has a nice mix of songs….which is your favorite pick and why?
That’s too difficult to say at this point. In fact, at any given point it’s a different favorite track for me. Right now I’ve just finished doing the background music with Midival Punditz and Karsh Kale, so that’s very fresh in my head. I find myself humming themes from the film today.
Where all have you shot the film?
Essentially Mumbai with some Outdoors in Karjat, Lonavla and Cochin,
Describe the most unforgettable moment during the shooting of the film?
Farhan played a prank on me by faking unconsciousness on the set during a scene. I was very worried for him. I kept my calm, but only from the outside. When I found out it was a prank I was very relieved and then I really wanted to strangle him. (Laughs)
Farhan played a prank on me by faking unconsciousness on the set during a scene
KCK is releasing alongside a biggie like Teen Patti on Feb 26th. Don’t you think it would hamper the prospects of the film?
I think if 2 good films are released together both will do well. I have begun to believe that in the long run a film gets what it deserves. It all evens out. Sometimes even when good films don’t do brilliantly on the box office front; they end up becoming cult films. I could be wrong, but I would rather choose to believe that a film gets what it deserves no matter what the competition.
What’s next on your agenda after KCK?
After that I’m gonna go for a short vacation where I intend to write another script to add to my bank of scripts. I find it therapeutic to keep writing. I distress completely.