Saurabh Shukla and Kunal Kapoor are two actors who have tried to redefine cinema time and again. With their latest release Kaun Kitney Paani Mein, the talented actors have attempted to bring something new to the screen yet again. Catch them both in a conversation with Pandolin where they talk about their movie and much more!

Saurabh Shukla (second from right) and Kunal Kapoor (extreme right) at the Jagran Film Festival

Saurabh Shukla (second from right) and Kunal Kapoor (extreme right) at the Jagran Film Festival

Kunal Kapoor

You will be seen in a movie after a long time. Tell us about it?

It is very rarely that you come across a script that has something important to say and is entertaining at the same time. Usually one outraises the other. I think this is one of the unique scripts that balances the two, which is why I liked it a lot and I think it is talking about something really important which is water. In fact, when I read this script, I was shocked. It’s something Madhab (Director) has grown up around and it’s very personal to him. He comes from a place where water is the currency, which you can see in the film. Bags of water are used as currency because that’s how much of a shortage of water there is. We don’t realize it when we are in cities. So he has taken something deeply personal to him, but decided to say it in an entertaining way. Saurabh Shukla plays my father and the relationship that we share is a very unique sort of father – son relationship because it is very emotionally manipulative. At the same time there is love of course but there is this thing of almost using his son to get what he wants to get.

You have played very urban roles till date, even in Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, you were very urban even though it was a regional set up. All your roles have been very character driven too. What attracts you to these characters in comparison to your contemporaries?

I think what is interesting to me is to enter a world which I have never been in before. You know, we all come from Bombay, have grown up in Juhu, went to schools and colleges there and lead a life which is regular and sort of urban. What is most fascinating to me is to discover worlds that I have no idea about. So if it’s Aslam from Rang De Basanti, I get a chance to go live in Chandni Chowk and see what life there is about. When it is Kaun Kitney Paani Mein I get a chance to go to Orissa and to understand the politics of water. For me that is always going to be interesting and I think this comes from something Raghuveer Yadav once said to me, “Everybody lives their own life, but an actor is a unique person because he lives multiple lives.” So I think the opportunity to live multiple lives and multiple mindsets is very exciting for me. Though it is tough because if I have to play something closer to myself, it is obviously a lot easier, but this is slightly more challenging and a lot more satisfying.

How did you feel about premiering your film at the Jagran Film Festival?

Well, it’s exciting actually. It was the first time we were showing the film to anybody and were waiting to see what people think about it. It’s a great place to start off to because it is a really interesting mix of people and was great to get reactions from them.


Saurabh Shukla and Kunal Kapoor in a still from the film

Saurabh Shukla and Kunal Kapoor in a still from the film

Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana became a cult after three weeks of its release when it was aired on television and was appreciated later on. Why do you think did it take so long for it to be appreciated?

I think we got a little unlucky with the release that we got. In today’s time, the timing is really important, the sort of the promotion that goes into a film and the release that you get is really important. We sort of got sandwiched – we released a week before Jab Tak Hai Jaan and Son of Sardar, which were battling for screen space and I think one week after was Chakravyuh followed by Student of the Year and James Bond. So there was just so much happening around. This sort of a small film needs time to grow, it needs a couple of weeks to catch up with people and I don’t think we got that time.

You’ve been part of a Yashraj film and off late you’ve been doing independent films. Is it a conscious pathway? 

No, I don’t think there is any conscious decision I just know what I want to do and don’t want to do. Unfortunately, in the last couple of years I haven’t got enough of what I want to do. I am very clear about the sort of stuff that I will do and I’m okay with anything that falls into that space, whether it is independent cinema, a short film, a play or a huge 100 crore film, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s something that I look forward to doing.


What is on the agenda for this year and next year?

Currently I am writing something. Story writing is something that comes naturally to me, I have been doing it since the time I was an assistant director 15 years back. So, I have jotted down a lot of stories and things I want to write. I read like crazy, from graphic novels to anything I can. The only thing I really enjoy is telling stories and I felt it’s about time that I develop all the things that I was doing into stories. The first step towards that was Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana. Sam (Director Sameer Sharma) and I were friends for years and we got together and created a basic structure for Luv Shuv…. For me that was a chance to really do something and tell a story in a way that you want to tell it and that was very exciting. And now I am going forward, there are three films that I am working on and two of them are on the verge of production.

Do you want to ultimately direct your own stories?

That is still long off, let’s see.

Saurabh Shukla

Saurabh Shukla

Saurabh Shukla

Let’s start by talking about your film releasing in a film festival.

It was a very special screening because it was the very first audience appearance of the film. We were obviously a bit scared, a bit excited. It was like meeting a new girlfriend (laughs).

Over the years you have played varied kinds of characters. How do you come up with these adaptive characters and come about them, is it more of the director or you?

No, I have never tried to consciously get that. I have written a couple of scripts and have collaborated on largely all the films I’ve written. People ask me who wrote the dialogue, who wrote the screenplay, or who wrote that scene, but it doesn’t work that way. In a marriage you cannot say that I made the breakfast and you made the dinner. It is a process where you don’t know who provides what, but it is this energy which happens because of the team and obviously the director guides you. You are as good as your director, so if you have a better director, you are a better actor. Also, I have been lucky since my first film which was Bandit Queen. I met directors who trusted me and asked me what I can add to the role. There is a participation of the actor in the movie and in the filmmaking process and that is the greatest thing that has happened to me. I started working with Shekhar (Kapur), then Sudhir Mishra, Ram Gopal Varma, Kamal Hassan etc. and they have all given me space to work and that is why I think I could do and become whatever I am now.

You wrote and acted in Satya, which some believe changed the face of Indian Cinema. And the current crop of filmmakers is a reaction to the same. How do you think things changed between 70s, 80s, 90s and post Satya?

For some strange reason the late 70s and the decade till the late 80s was when the cinema was really dumb down. You can do another article on that, I have a theory for it. But before that we had great cinema, great content. We had some very radical films and stories; in fact, some stories were so radical that even today we are unable to push that boundary. So, Satya happened, but before that there was a film I did with Sudir (Mishra) – Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin and Ram Gopal Varma said it was that film that inspired him to make Satya. So people have been trying, it’s just luck. One thing clicks like Satya did and went into the psyche of the masses.


So, you think that all these independent films are a reaction to Satya?

No, I mean it is very gratifying if you are saying that, but I don’t believe that. I think everybody wanted to do good work always. But yes, we all get inspired; if one work that we believe in works with the masses, then you also get excited and want to do something. So I think we react to each other. In that sense, yes, Satya might have been a starting point.