We are lucky that we are experiencing the dawn of a new era in Bollywood. Larger-than-life movies are getting replaced by slice-of-life films, star presence is being ignored over sensible content, heavy dramatic dialogues over simple relatable lines- all this feels so fresh and exciting. And adding to this very wave of change is the much-awaited movie, RIBBON.
RIBBON is a dream project of its debutante director Rakhee Sandilya, whose craft in the trailer, has already created a lot of buzz online. The movie stars critically-acclaimed actress Kalki Koechlin and popular star of the web-series world Sumeet Vyas.
Ourtitbits recently got the opportunity to know a bit more about Rakhee and her RIBBON. Here is the excerpt- unedited and unfiltered- just for you, along with some precious exclusive behind-the-scene pictures:
Ourtitbits: The world is talking about RIBBON and Rakhee Sandilya, the director. But we yet to know Rakhee Sandilya as a person. Tell us more about you, your journey till here and what pulled you towards direction and movies.
Rakhee: Hahaha…I can’t still believe it, I am overwhelmed with the love coming to us. Thank you so much for appreciating our trailer. I am originally a documentary filmmaker and earlier, I have directed a documentary on the lives and journey of surrogate mothers titled “MY BABY NOT MINE,” which was commissioned to me under the new filmmaker category by Films Division, Mumbai. I have also directed a show for Epic Channel called “Heritage India” and prior to this, I worked as a chief AD in a Hindi Feature Film “Main Aur Mr. RIIGHT,” directed by my very dear friend Adeeb Rais. I have directed a couple of Ad films between.
Basically, I have enjoyed story writing ever since I was a child. I have written heartfelt stories, which made my father happy, while growing up. He persuaded me to write and eventually, I became expressive through my stories and poems. Later on, I got to know the strength of visual storytelling and hence was very drawn towards exploring this medium and finding my own language with my own conviction.
Ourtitbits: Sep. 21 hit us like a bolt! While we were bowled over by Kalki Koechlin’s announcement “Noo, can’t calm down, main pregnant hoo” and Sumeet Vyas’ helplessness over it, (not to miss that peppy track “Charkha Ghoom Raha Hai,” ) we had endless discussions on why RIBBON is named ribbon. Please shed some light on why the movie is named “RIBBON” and end this suspense once and for all.
Rakhee: Frankly speaking, do you really wanna know? Actually, me and Rajeev Upadhyay wrote the first draft of the screenplay but we had no title. Although, I am someone who always thinks of the title first because I just love it… But, this time around I was just not getting a good title for my film. While working on the story I just didn’t step out of my house for 10 days. I was going through too many emotional highs and lows, there was a constant conflict between my own personalities and that of Sahana Mehra played by Kalki Koechlin. During this entire phase, I was very nostalgic about my childhood and I would remember how as a kid, my mom would fasten my hair with Ribbon and by evening how messy my hair would become.
So, I felt there is a strong connection of our lives with Ribbon where our parents secure our marriage like a tight knot of Ribbon but only the couples know how many times the knot loosens and what effort we put in together to keep that knot tight. Precisely, relationships are also very much like the two ends of Ribbon which we keep tying and securing it for life…! So, yeah, we found the title RIBBON.
Ourtitbits: Is it true that RIBBON is written with Kalki in mind? If yes, why?
Rakhee: I and Rajeev were developing the character of Sahana Mehra and when we were halfway through our screenplay, we realized that we needed someone who looks confident and modern but then she should also be vulnerable and docile.
I had watched Kalki’s superb performance in “Margarita with a Straw” and I had seen how beautifully she explores the vulnerability of Laila. I immediately thought that only Kalki can give shades to the layered characterization of Sahana and then I was fixed. I am very closed when it comes to making decisions. Once I have decided, I am stuck and like a child, I am glued with my thoughts!
Ourtitbits: We all love Mickey from “Permanent Roommates.” Was Sumeet Vyas also the first choice for RIBBON? Why?
Rakhee: I really wanted someone who looks very next door sort of a guy as Karan Mehra reason being that my film is very real and relatable. I was very anxious, as it was difficult for me to figure out who would play Karan. My friend Neha Singh, who is the Casting Director of Ribbon, suggested me to meet Sumeet Vyas. I called him, but he was shooting in Rajasthan.
After a week we met at his place and had chai. I loved the way he came across as a person. We spoke about the story and he completely understood where I am coming from and he related with it immediately. As we spoke, I kept analyzing him in my mind and visually, I figured out that he would be a perfect Karan in my story. He had said yes! When I left his house I was very convinced with Sumeet.
Ourtitbits: “Unplanned pregnancy” usually is a nightmare for modern day couple. What gave birth to this story?
Rakhee: All thanks to my friends! I have seen a friend of mine going through the unplanned pregnancy and then not willing to abort the child. It’s complicated in our society and there are too many things involved with every decision that you take. Sometimes a small issue between a couple turns into a huge thing because of the way our families react to it.
We are going through a massive transition where we are becoming more and more aware of our own self but at the same time the Indian values hang like a ghost and keep reminding us that we cannot be so selfish to this level. This constant battle is a real challenge of our modern age and for women in particular.
Ourtitbits: In many of the RIBBON shots, we see a cute little one in the frame. How good or how tough was it to shoot with a baby? And yes, who handled her better- Kalki or Sumeet?
We had altogether 4 babies to play the character of Aashi, Kalki’s onscreen daughter in the film. One baby was only two weeks old. She was so tiny that it was difficult to hold her, but Kalki handled it very well. She was like a real mother to the babies, she would sing French songs to them and make them sleep or help them feed, etc.
Kalki has that maternal instinct and she would be a great mother. She learned everything right from changing nappies to breastfeeding or even how to make the babies burp. Sumeet was good and he was also hands-on whenever needed to take care of the babies. They were so natural with the babies that it made the shoot seamless and I got to shoot the scene beautifully.
Ourtitbits: There are many youngsters out there with dreams in their eyes. What is that one advice you will give to them who want to be a director?
Rakhee: I really don’t know about giving advice because here everyone’s journey is very different and we cannot follow the same path. But, yes, one thing I always say to myself, I refuse to die if I don’t tell this story. So yeah, I feel everyone who wants to be a director there is a definite reason and that person has to find that specific reason to make the journey joyful.
Ortitbits: Name 3 Hollywood and 3 Bollywood movies that have influenced you as a director.
Rakhee: I am in love with Dardenne Brothers, Belgian filmmakers, who make simple films, but it is so layered that it stays with you for few days. I love all his films, I can watch it numerous times.
I am so fond of Wong Kar-wai and Kim Ki-duk. They are very poetic and deep; every visual has its own interpretation and that’s what I love about the films. I also love the Mike Leigh’s work. There are so many great directors. Ya, it would be unfair if I don’t mention Stanley Kubrick and Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Speaking about Bollywood, I have an extreme love and devotion towards Guru Dutt Saab and his films. They are so relevant in today’s times. I love the way he had used lighting and camera work in his films. “Pyaasa” is an all-time favorite film. I have grown up seeing this film. “Kagaaz Ke Phool” is another beautiful film by him. There was a time when I read every article and books written in the name of Guru Dutt Saab.
Also, I like Aparna Sen’s films a lot. I can never forget some of the characters of her films.
Ourtitbits: RIBBON seems to be a sure shot hit. But we want more. What’s next in the pipeline?
Rakhee: Another film is in the process. I am writing that with Rajeev. That’s what we do- either we watch films or make films or just write stories. I love it. You may call me obsessed, but I am like that.
Your obsession is evidently turning out good for Bollywood and for the audience, Rakhee Sandilya! Keep it burning and refueling always.
For us, the wait for RIBBON seems to have become more torturous now as the movie is set to release on Nov. 3. As for now, relive the magic once again here: