Saturday, 23 May 2009

Writers Notedpad Part 3 - Kunal Deshmukh on Tum Mile

By Devansh Patel

One thing is true of all stories. They all have a beginning, middle and end. Film scripts typically run from 100 to 120 pages with each page representing about a minute of screen time. Within these script pages there will be five vital events – The inciting incident, plot point one, midpoint, plot point two and the climax. But for Kunal Deshmukh, the director of the forthcoming film Tum Mile, there is only one vital event taking place in his film – Floods, which goes from bad to worse to worst. Staring Emraan Hashmi and Soha Ali Khan, this Vishesh Bhatt film is the most costliest ever Bhatt camp project with story boarding, sprinklers, four feet tall swimming pool, laminated scripts and a whole lot of back pain coming along with it. In this Bollywood Hungama exclusive Writers Notepad part three, Kunal Deshmukh takes you through the journey of Tum Mile – it's birth, the stars who said 'no' to the film, writer Ankur Tiwari's entry, re-writing the script, the marketing strategy, the challenges while filming and his dream come true which he believes is India's first ever disaster genre flick based on the true story of 26th July floods in Mumbai

26th July 2005 – The birth of Tum Mile.
Tum Mile was a film I wanted to make before Jannat. This was the film that I first scripted. I wanted to debut with Tum Mile. But I'm glad that I did not do that because the kind of film Tum Mile is, I couldn't have pulled it off as my first film. I would've fallen flat on my face. The scale of Tum Mile is unimaginable. Disaster genre in Hollywood is pretty big. You've got your Day After Tomorrow, Twister, Volcano, Dante's Peak, etc. As a person who has grown up on such big scale disaster flicks, I wanted to bring that kind of cinema into Bollywood. When I was an assistant director to Mohit Suri, that's when the Mumbai floods on 26th July 2005 happened. I was stuck in Worli and it took me about six hours to get home. The sight and sounds of that night were bizarre. The city that never slept had come to a grinding halt. 26th July changed me as a person. For a second you have this near death like experience when you see nature come down upon you. That's the day I thought I wanted to script

Stars say 'no' to Tum Mile.
Mr Mahesh Bhatt told me that they were looking at me as a director and wanted me to write a story. That's when I started scripting the flood based film I had thought of based on 26th July 2005. But what I couldn't pull off was the scale of it, knowing that it was my first film and I'll get only a certain budget to make it. I kept trying to write it in a particular way that suits the Vishesh Films banner. I got to a point where they believed in the script and told me to go ahead with it and pitch it to some actors. I met a bunch of actors from Imran Khan to Kunal Kapoor to Kangana Ranaut. They thought it was a great film but did not agree to do it. At one point even Emraan Hashmi said not to it as they all believed I will not be able to pull it off as my first film. So the end result was that I had to give up my dream project.

The dream come true.
I was scripting for five to six months and then three months went into just meeting the actors. I could also see the next film in Vishesh Films taking off and nothing was happening on my script. That's when Jannat happened. Jannat got done and they were behind me to start my second film. The only script I had was this one and I had to hard sell it to them. I even told them that I can go back and re-write it. They said 'yes'. Luckily for me, the actor from my first film, Emraan Hashmi, was now keen to work with me in my second film after I directed him in Janaat. The same guy who said 'no' now says 'yes'. When I started re-scripting Tum Mile, I didn't know how it would shape up. Immediately I met Soha Ali Khan and she too agreed to be a part. The film started off.

Writer Ankur Tiwari's entry
When you say the word 'floods', no one knows how one will create them on celluloid. VFX with water can only be done with wide shots. We had to shoot water live. So the next question was – Do we need to drown the actors in water? We went through a good few months of research and development of how the set is going to look, how we were going to shoot, how would we create the floods and various such questions. At this very time I decided not to write Tum Mile because technically I needed to be really sound. The premise was there, the story was there but the way the story had shaped up was not so good. After one hit down, you get closer to the audience. So after Jannat, I knew what would work with the audience with Tum Mile. Keeping that in mind, I re-looked at my script. So at this point, I needed someone who was better and who could re-do the job for me. Enter Ankur Tiwari, a friend of mine who hasn't worked with the Bhatt camp before. I roped him in to re-write the script.

The marketing of Tum Mile
We've seen water gushing through the lanes and cars being swept across in films like The Day After Tomorrow but how do we do this in Tum Mile was a big question. It's not that we had deep pockets and could've kept on shooting the VFX shot. How do we claim that Tum Mile was going to be the first disaster film? That's going to be the marketing key. At the same time, we do not want to cheat the audience too. We want them to see disaster. Yes, Tum Mile is a love story but it's not about a couple who meets in the floods and them stranded in one room. We've got the sight and sounds of Mumbai, the villain of the film – floods, etc. Putting all this down on paper was difficult but Ankur is an extremely sensible guy who did justice to the script. Now because 26th July was a true story about floods, you can only fictionalise it to a certain extent. Once you say Tum Mile is a story on the 26th July 2005, everything becomes real.

The making of Tum Mile
There are two different time lines happening in Tum Mile. So we are doing a flashback story in a different screenplay format which will be running parallel. So you keep cutting to a happy colourful past and the grim present. That's something new. We've slowly gradually built up the flood. First it looks bad, then it gets worse and worst. We shot half the film in Cape Town and half of it on Mumbai. We had created a huge factory like premise with four feet tall swimming pool. We constructed a water proof set. It was twelve hours of being in the water for thirty days straight. And whatever you do, the water gets dirty. The bunch of things which can go wrong while playing with water cannot be described. Like my back is gone. You're walking with three times the pressure through four feet of water and once you come out, you've got neck to toe problems. Same with the actors. We had to clear the water and show the same street clean and then fill the same street with water and show the mayhem. That's tough. Without water, I can stretch at fifteen to twenty shots a day but when you're in water, you can hardly take about five to ten shots. We had sprinklers which would sprinkle water but where to place them was a task. We had to be very precise and for that we did story boarding. We got miniatures built too and a complete set up. We played with that and then went on the sets. For the Bhatts, this was a never before done experience. What was interesting is the fact that we had laminated scripts and story boards because of the water. It was so damn perfect. Tum Mile is ambitious for any production house. But only someone like the Bhatts could've pulled it off. Even the love story in the film is new. The graph is new and the songs are new. Tum Mile does not work on a financial module of Vishesh Films. They like to make films on a certain budget but this film crosses all norms.

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