Saturday, 9 May 2009

Writers Notepad 1 - Kamlesh Pandey on Mr India 2

Exclusive by Devansh Patel

OK, what happens to the script after it is complete? You make a blueprint by which words are transformed, by a collaborative effort, into images and sound in film, giving birth to a screenplay. What next? Well, a producer is roped in who gets the director on board, and along with the cast and the crew make a two hour plus movie which reaches out to the world. But let's rewind a bit here.

What is the most important part of a script? It's the first fifteen minutes and/or the first fifteen pages. Your script should snap, crackle, and pop on page one! Start with the story in motion, and that scene should foreshadow the story and the ending, which leads you to the second and the last most important part of the script – The penultimate fifteen minutes and/or the last fifteen pages.

We at Bollywood Hungama have always believed that writing is not like painting where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove, you eliminate in order to make the work visible. Even those pages you remove somehow remain. Some write to earn their living while the others live to write. It's bizarre but it's true, that writing is not a selling tool but it's a telling tool and we strongly support that.
For the first time ever, Bollywood Hungama and its London correspondent, Devansh Patel brings you 'Writers Note Pad' - Four diverse writers and their One ambitious project.
As a four week special, today we bring a writer par excellence - Kamlesh Pandey, who talks about his most ambitious film to arrive in the near future because he believes, “Good writing can change minds, and great writing can change the world.”

Writer/Story: Kamlesh Pandey
Film (tentatively titled): Mr India 2
Producers: Shekhar Kapur / Manmohan Shetty

The Concept:
Shekhar and I have been meeting forever. He has directed many advertisements for me while I was into advertising. Ads like the Lux commercial with Aamir Khan, Chocobix commercial, etc. Now this was more than a decade back. I was writing Shekhar's film called 'Champion' which was going to launch Bobby Deol as an actor. But somehow the project never conceptualised. After that, he went to Hollywood and got busy filming in the West. But every time he used to visit India, we both often met for lunches at my place. After watching Rang De Basanti, he came home one day when we had the delicious Maake Di Roti and Sarson Da Saag. After RDB, he started staying back in India a lot more because his daughter was also growing up. Shekhar has this habit of keeping in touch with what I am doing. Time went by and just six months ago I got a call from Manmohan Shetty's office saying that Shekhar wanted to meet me. I went to meet him and he asked me the golden question, “Would you like to do a sequel to Mr India?”. I replied, “Why not?”. Now not many know that after getting inspired by Sridevi's role in Mr India, I had written Chaalbaaz for Pankaj Parahser.

Casting of Mogambo:
If you go to see, Mr India, back then, was considered to be a super hero film in a way. My first question to Shekhar was, “The soul of Mr India was Amrish Puri. He is the guy who made the film what it is today. Sridevi has always been good. There is no doubt about that. She has been dependable and reliable. But where do we get the soul of the film from?”. I am not going to detail how we've replaced Amrish Puri. Today there is no one of the stature of Amrish. I don't think any media knows how Shekhar explained the role of Mogambo to Amrish Puri. Shekhar told him, “Imagine you're doing King Lear on the stage”. Amrish caught it immediately back then as he had done a lot of theatre in Mumbai and Delhi. The whole flamboyance you see in Mogambo was that of a typical Shakespearean actor. So our worst nightmare was not writing Mr India 2, but to decide who would bring back the same as Amrish Puri did in the sequel. The most obvious option now was to take a big hero today and make him a villain, which is not unusual in today's time.

The Story:
Shekhar believes that the first draft is the best draft because at least there is something to react to on paper. I mean, you cannot react to a blank paper, can you? So I wrote the story and he reacted instantaneously. He then added a few ideas and finally the story was complete. I will not be letting the story out but will brief you a bit on the problem we faced while scripting. Mr India was released in 1987. We are bringing him back after almost 23 years now. So where was he all this while? What did he do? These were the questions which we had to find answers to. By the way, the original Mr India was highly inspired by the old classic Kishore Kumar film 'Mr X in Bombay'. That was the first film in India to bring the invisibility aspect into films. Mr India was a novelty then but now the invisible aspect isn't going to be the USP of Mr India 2. It has to be something else. Speaking of the earlier story of Mr India, more than a super hero film, which it was, it also tackled the issues of common people of India and those issues were very real. So now in the sequel, we need to tackle the real problems what we are facing today.

The Director:
The next big question after the casting of Mogambo was – Who will direct Mr India 2 because Shekhar himself does not want to direct as he is to busy with his dream project, 'Paani'. He really wants to get 'Paani' out of the way. Shekhar's 'Paani' is very much a Mumbai film set out of India. It's a science fiction story located in the future. The film tells the story of a city divided into two. Those few that can afford water, and those that cannot and have to fight for it. And those that can afford it protect it with armed might. It tells the story of one year in the life of this city. From one Harvest festival of Holi to the next. So now you can imagine how busy Mr Kapur is with the film. Shekhar met many directors till he roped in one but at the last moment, he opted out. Can't name him. Now that we had the script and the story in place, I wanted the director in place because it makes sense to do the screenplay along with the director as I didn't want to bother Shekhar all the time. Right now we are without a director and we are desperately looking for one.We have many good directors who are technically very sound but we need someone who has the spirit of directing something like Mr India 2. Shekhar is in search for that spirit.

Anil Kapoor, Satish Kaushik and the Kids:
Anil is very excited to be a part of the sequel to Mr India, and in order to do justice to the sequel, we have also kept some of the characters real and have roped them in from the previous film. Like Satish Kaushik as Calendar, Ahmed Khan, etc. Mr India still exists, Anil Kapoor still exists. His appearance has changed or not, you'll have to wait and watch. What's funny is that he has even got the same cap and the same old coat which still fits him. Anil is the only actor who still looks the same as he used to while he was in Mr India. In the last decade, many people have seen Mr India on television channels and they all must've already set a mental block for the film. So bearing in mind all these things, the characters also have to be designed. Anil has now become fantastic and a brand name after Slumdog Millionaire. My second film as a writer was Tezaab. So we know each other since then. In fact, he was not the hero of Tezaab initially. It was Aditya Panscholi who was to do the lead role. He is definitely going to bring a lot of maturity to the sequel of Mr India 2.

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