Posted by Fenil Seta
National Award-winning director Hansal Mehta’s frequent collaborator, editor-writer Apurva Asrani, admits that it’s time to say goodbye
Roshmila Bhattacharya (MUMBAI MIRROR; May 9, 2017)
Manoj Bajpayee introduced them in 1998. Apurva Asrani had just edited Satya and Manoj asked him to cut the promos of Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar with him in the lead and Hansal as the director. In 2001, when Apurva won a National Award for Best Editor, they collaborated again on Chhal, a stylised gangster film.
Over 16 years, they have worked together on many projects, including the National Awardwinning Shahid and the acclaimed Aligarh. But just when everyone thought this partnership would withstand every storm, comes the news that the Kangana Ranaut-starrer Simran could mark the end of a creatively stimulating journey. The ripples were felt when Hansal informed Mirror (April 26) that his leading lady would be getting writing credit for Simran with Apurva, followed by a tweet reinforcing this, “Kangana has collaborated on story and dialogue as clarified earlier.” That prompts the first query:
Apurva, is your partnership with Hansal Mehta on course or under threat?
I think all partnerships reach a saturation point and it’s best to break away before the love turns sour. Hansal and I have stood together during very challenging times. But today, the challenges are fewer, the ambitions are greater and he is a name to reckon with. I have also found my voice as a storyteller, and it’s time to explore new collaborations.
Have there been any serious disagreements in the past?
We have fought, walked out, slammed doors, raised voices, but known that it was because we both loved the film. There was always trust behind the fights, and that helped us shape more honest products. I’m not a “yes” man, I’m not doing the job for a salary, for me it’s about honest filmmaking, and that always brought us back together, before it was too late.
In the past has there ever been a need for an actor to embellish your scripts?
Of course. I’d be disappointed if we got actors who just parroted their lines and went home. I write screenplays with space for the actor to find himself in it. In Shahid, where I was additional screenplay writer with Sameer Singh, Raj (Rajkummar Rao) improvised a lot. It was fun to discover his new layers on the edit. Aligarh was taken to new heights because of what Bajpayee brought to it. He added lines and suggested scenes which I was happy to incorporate. These are secure, generous actors who have the utmost respect for the script. They know that they are improvising on original material that someone painstakingly created over a year or two. They know that true stories and real people from the writer’s life have been poured into the script. They understand the meaning of team work.
During Simran why were you not in the US during the shoot? Were you connected with Hansal through skype or mail?
Usually, if I’m editing a film, I stay away from the set so I can be objective when the material comes to me. But on Simran I was keen to be on set. It is a big film and I wanted to be there for Hansal as an extra pair of hands. I kept reaching out to him, but he said it was all under control.
Just how close are you to this script?
I gave two years of my life to write Simran. I refused directors I adore because I was giving the film my 100 per cent. I feel invested because Praful (Kangana’s character in Simran) is an oddball character like me. When I moved abroad at 21 to study, I dressed funny and spoke in an odd accent. I was a misfit but wanted to fit in. Praful comes from that space. She likes to gamble with life. That comes from my brother, Ricky, who assisted me on the script. He can play Poker for hours, clean the table with a straight face. Praful is a divorcee, yet doesn’t let a patriarchal society hold her back. That comes from my sister Malvika. Then, there’s graph Kangana has found to make Praful her own. She is a mix of so many interesting people from our worlds.
Since you are also the editor how much has the original script changed to justify ‘additional story and dialogue credit’ for Kangana? Was it too intense and needed to be lightened up?
The story and screenplay are almost exactly what I registered with the Film Writers’ Association (FWA). Hansal had sent me a news article about a woman in the US who had crossed the line of the law. I loved it, but I didn’t want us to make another dark and gritty film after Aligarh. So we stripped the original story of its baggage and found the playfulness in it. I love storytelling through songs, have produced and directed the Tera Mera Pyar videos for Kumar Sanu and Shreya Ghoshal. I’ve written four songs.
About the additional dialogue credit, Kangana totally deserves it. She improvised on many of the dialogues and did a remarkable job. She has brought a Chaplinesque performance style to my scenes reminiscent of Sridevi in her prime. When I saw in the rushes how she had interpreted her character and influenced the other actors, I was sure that she would make a terrific director one day.
I’d often joke with Hansal that you can’t call Kangana a co-writer as she has never actually collaborated with the writer. Her improvisations happened on set, so she deserves to be called a co-director.
Was Hansal under any kind of pressure to sacrifice you?
A lot of pressures come with making a big film, and sadly, some loyal people are written off as collateral damage. We just have to move on and wait for our turn.
Should you feel you are being short-changed will you seek legal help?
Everything is on paper and crystal clear. Scripts have been registered and additional credits signed off. Now we just need to hold hands one last time to see our baby through. I have faith that Simran will do very well.
Is this tiff permanent? Would you partner with another director or is it time to go solo?
A tiff makes it sound bitter and I want no bitterness to surround our lovely film. We have parted ways after six beautiful collaborations. I now look forward to writing for others and also directing my own material.
Just how important a role has Hansal played in your film journey and vice versa?
He is an indelible part of my journey. I will always hold Shahid and Aligarh as milestone films in my career. It is because he believed in me that I started writing again. About my contribution to his journey, he’d be the best person to answer that. But I will add that I’ve stood by him like a rock when things were tough or uncertain.
Is there a possibility of a reconciliation?
There is some hurt over the way things were announced without consulting me. I didn’t know that Hansal had promised Kangana part of the writing credit till I had finished the edit. By the time I got to know, the announcement had been made. About a reconciliation, never say never. But I’m about to go on the sets as a director soon, I’d rather put all my energies into that. I wish Hansal all the best. I’m sure when Simran is a success, we will have a drink to celebrate.
This entry was posted on October 4, 2009 at 12:14 pm, and is filed under Aligarh, Apurva Asrani, Apurva Asrani interview, Hansal Mehta, Interviews, Kangana Ranaut, Manoj Bajpayee, Rajkummar Rao, Shahid, Simran . Follow any responses to this post through RSS. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.