That brilliant writer of Delhi Belly is at it again. The language of Akshay Verma’s directorial debut Kaalakaandi has stunned shocked and embarrassed many. I remember the then-chairperson of the CBFC Pahlaj Nihalani warning me, “The gaalis that you will hear in this film are what you’ve never heard in your life.”
Akshat laughs, “Thankfully Kaalakaandi has been rescued from being butchered by the censor board. The CBFC had asked for more than 70 cuts, and that was mostly the language that Pahlajji told you about. But that’s how people speak in the milieu that I have gone to. You can’t gag the characters because their style of talking doesn’t suit you.”
So was Akshat trying to live up to the reputation of the colourful quirky colloquial talk that he had cultivated when he wrote Delhi Belly by putting more of the same in his directorial debut?
Akshay laughs, “It’s not as if I consciously got down to doing a film that would have as many gaalis and cuss words as Delhi Bellly. When I wrote Delhi Belly the characters spoke to me and thence to the audience in a certain way. Now in Kaalakaandi they speak a language that we may not accept as normal. But it is perfectly normal to the milieu and context of the film.”
Luckily for Akshat the verbal imbalance recommended by the CBFC was restored by the Tribunal. “They restored all the cuts, and by doing so they restored my faith in the democratic process. They just asked for three nominal verbal cuts which we made happily. The Tribunal understood the desperate essence of the theme,” says the writer-turned director gratefully.
Kaalakaandi is dark comedy about a man who gets to know he has very little time to live. Reasons Akshat, “It’s not easy to laugh about death in our films. Would such a character be bothered with niceties pleasantries and with crossing his Ps and Qs? Desperate situations bring out the real you, I feel.”
And Saif Ali Khan is in a desperate situation himself, what all his recent films bombing at the box office. Akshat feels Kaalakaandi would do the trick for his leading man. “I am so glad we chose Saif for the film. He is extremely effective at bringing out the confusions and the inner chaos of the character. In real life also, Saif doesn’t hesitate in expressing his inner doubts. We are a humanity stricken by uncertainties. I think it’s nice to have these misgivings expressed on screen rather than to have heroes who speak in measured rhetorical tones. Flaws are what make our heroes interesting. And since Saif plays a very flawed character, I feel his character is very interesting.”
For a while it was touch-and-go for Kaalakaandi when the producers contemplated releasing the film on the digital platform. Luckily for Akshat, Saif and all the super-talented actors and technicians, the film now gets a big big-screen release in January.
Sighs Akshat, “You work hard on a film, and on every detail, its sound design, the music mix, the colour correction…After that you cannot have your work placed on a platform that shrinks its qualities. I am just happy that we’re going to be seen on the big screen. Not to undermine the digital platform which works just fine in today’s day and age.”