“I always want to tell a story that no one else is telling.”
Declares Onir, the master creator of some of the Bollywood’s finest creations of the present times. Be it “My Brother…Nikhil,” “Bas Ek Pal,” “Shab,” or “I Am,” this class-apart director has done what most of the others usually refrain from- unhesitantly discussing so-called social taboos and exposing illogical stigmas of our society.
However, for Onir, this is not a formula or a modus operandi. It is the way he thinks. In his upcoming movie “Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz,” he is once again set to touch upon another such stigma while exploring the lives of the present youth. All these with lots of love!
Ourtitbits got this amazing opportunity to speak to the national award-winning enigmatic director, wherein he touched upon his journey as a director, his fascination with cinema and his love-filled upcoming movie “Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz.”
“For me, it’s always the story that touches me. Maybe I am a more socially aware as a person but the driving force is to tell a story that no one else is not telling,” said Onir during an exclusive interview. “I feel that what excites me is to find stories that we have not heard before. Also, I explore my own life and grow up as a filmmaker and as a person in the process.
Like in this film, I discovered about leukoderma. The movie also reflects various forms of discrimination that we have. But the center of the focus is love and loneliness one feels in big cities and how social media is becoming a medium to connect.”
Certainly, despite being a very common phenomenon, leukoderma or vitiligo is something that is hardly talked about. But it seems Onir is once again set to break some barrier and bust some myths with his upcoming movie.
So how exactly did “Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz” happen?
“I was in a script mentoring thing for a script lab when this story came to me. And I fell in love with the script. Probably I was also going through the phase of love in my life. Also, I really wanted to do this film because as a filmmaker, I had not done any full-blown romantic film.
I contacted the writer Abhishek Chatterjee and told him I would like to direct this film. And that’s how it started. SaReGaMa also loved the script and since then, it has been a very positive journey.”
Onir is in love! Is that the reason why we are hearing the ageless romantic number “Pehla Nasha” all over again?
“Yes. I was in college when I watched ‘Jo Jeeta Woh Hi Sikander’ first-day first show. ‘Pehla Nasha’ has always been a special song for me. And luckily, when I started my first fully romantic film, SaReGaMa had the rights. The song fits in perfectly as well since the lead character is an RJ who narrates heartbreak stories and plays old Hindi songs in a hit radio show.
This song has become the theme of ‘Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz.’ Also, I did not want to do the remix. The song is so beautiful the way it is. Anyone can relate to it, even now.”
The story is definitely endearing. But what about the cast?
Onir is set to introduce a new face in this movie- Zain Khan Durrani, who is paired with ever charming Geetanjali Thapa of “Liar’s Dice” and “Trapped” fame.
“I had this thing in mind that Zain will be ideal for the male lead. Zain was working with me since 2014 and has trained under me. When I read the script, I could imagine him in the role of RJ Alfaaz as he has that intense look. He was my first choice.
However, since I was not producing the movie, I wanted him to go through the set process. He went through an extensive audition and I felt very proud when the producers himself said that Zain perfectly suited the role.
For the female lead character of Archana Pradhan, I suggested Geetanjali. I wanted someone whom we would show with leukoderma marks. But the amazing part is that Geetanjali has this smile and energy that after a point, you don’t care about the marks. And I wanted exactly that!
Just like in ‘My Brother…Nikhil,’ I needed a sister like Juhi with that innocence.
Not only Geetanjali is a wonderful actress, she also has this warmth in her. In the audition part, everybody came to the conclusion that Geetanjali is the one. And now, after working with her, I can easily say Geetanjali is one of the finest actresses I had ever worked with and one of the nicest person.”
Was the shooting ‘Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz’ a breeze or rocky one?
You will be surprised to know that Zain and Geetanjali did not meet in person throughout the shoot and met for the first time while shooting the last scene for the movie. In the words of Onir:
“I believe in workshops and we did a lot of them. The only thing special about this movie is that I did not want Geetanjali and Zain to meet each other till they shoot for the last scene of the film. So we conducted different workshops for them and even kept them separate during the shoot.
Also, in the scenes where they are talking over the phone, it’s not the assistants but it is Zain and Geetanjali giving cues to each other. I wanted to create fascination for each other’s voice as well as the nervousness of their first meeting.
And the team?
“I also feel proud of my DoP Nusrat F. Jafri, whose this is the first feature film. In fact, we had a women-heavy team- national award-winning editor Irene Dhar Malik, costume designer Pooja Kaur Sethi, art director Sharmishtha- I simply loved the experience of working with these talented women. I feel women have a sensitivity which I wanted to bring into this film.
Also, I was shooting in Kolkatta where I fell in love for the first time. I used to try and shoot at the places where I have some special memories.
Both me and Zain are foodies. Kashmiris and Bengalis have this thing in common- love for food and poetry!”
So much passion! Did you always aspire to make films?
“I was born and brought up in Bhutan. My mother was a big film fan. Every Saturday, she used to drag us along to the theatres. At a very early age, I saw “Junoon” by Shyam Benegal. I did not understand the film totally but the visuals remained with me. And from that time, it remained in my subconsciousness.
My elder sister went on to become a film editor and also a major influence in introducing me to the world of cinema. I came to Kolkatta to study literature and film studies and later went to Germany to study film editing.
I came to Mumbai as an editor, but my goal was always to be a filmmaker. For 10 years, I worked as a scriptwriter, art director and learned different aspects of filmmaking to hone my art. In 1999, I met Sanjay Suri and Raveena Tandon. They both became very good friends and motivated me to write a script.
That’s when I started writing. In fact, “My Brother…Nikhil” was my fifth script.
So, what’s next?
“My next movie is also a love story. It is called ‘Driving Lesson’ with a very unlike cast- Tannishtha Chatterjee and Ashish Bisht of “Shab” fame. Again a very unlikely and a unique love story!”
“Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz” is the story of a chirpy, full-of-life girl who has leukoderma. The movie explores how she comes in contact with an RJ who has his own dark secret of his past. Even without meeting or even seeing each other, the two souls fall in love and creates a beautiful bond in the virtual world.
Will reality hit them like a bolt or will they sail over? All this and much more will be revealed on Feb. 16 when the movie will finally hit cinemas. Until then, watch the trailer below: