Sabki Bajegi Band is not intended to malign or offend anyone – Anirudh Chawla & Yusuf Shaikh
At the outset of the release of India’s first reality film, Sabki Bajegi Band, we get RJ-turned Director, Anirudh Chawla, and seasoned producer, Yusuf Shaikh, to talk about the content of this controversial comedy.
Where did you get this germ to make a movie like Sabki Bajegi Band (SBB)?
Anirudh Chawla (AC): I had this very popular show called Uncensored on 92.7 FM (radio channel), which was originally aired at night. It revolved around sexuality and relationships where people I didn’t know openly talked to me about their personal matters on the show. So, I began wondering that it would be interesting to know what Bollywood people, who tend to have a certain clean image, would be like in private. As I have a lot of friends from the media and Bollywood, I thought of inviting them over for a party and capturing them through hidden cameras. I wanted to see how they behaved when they didn’t have a camera thrust in their face. The idea was never to offend or malign anyone, I didn’t even know what I would do with the footage. But I saw (in the footage) that they talk so openly. And, like a Naarad Muni, I had instigated them to talk about everything, from sexual desires to affairs to relationships to casting couch to orgies. To hear all this from a Bollywood person makes it that much more sensational.
I then thought of making it as a reality film which has never been explored. I told the people captured in the video that I want to release it. Some of them, who are cool about their personal lives, were okay with me releasing the footage, while some, who lead traditional personal lives, didn’t want it out. I realised I can’t show some and not show some. So I decided to recreate the whole set-up like you watch in those crime shows. I changed the names, dramatized it and recreated that one night in a film. Thoda sa fictionalize karna pada, but it is still very close to reality. The essence and dialogues are almost the same, obviously a little bit more was added to make it more sensational. Technically also we kept it real, we shot with handy-cams so it appears as if it’s in your face. I wanted it to look like a documentary and not like a film. When you see the film you will recognize the people.
How did producer Yusuf Shaikh come on board as a producer? Did you approach other producers too?
AC: I met a lot of people and there was a lot of fear. Everybody loved the idea but nobody was willing to make it because it was something unique. The idea of a reality film only boggles. Every first film of any genre will be remembered. You will remember a Jism or a Murder. Emraan Hashmi has done many such films but the audience will only remember his first few. So I shared the idea with Yusuf who is a friend. He has done films like Page 3, Malamaal Weekly, Phir Milenge, which are all concept-driven films. I felt he would understand. He is not a typical filmi guy who has an image to worry about. If I would go to a corporate, they would worry about upsetting their actor friends. He didn’t have anything to lose and is a brave producer. Also, the issue is not about who has said it, it’s about the problem related to casting couch or affairs or double standards or hypocrisy.
Mr. Shaikh, what was your first reaction when Anirudh approached you with this film idea?
Yusuf Shaikh (YS): I have been working in the industry for the last 25 years and have only chased ideas that are big or subjects that are unique. I am always on the look-out for concepts that are unique and which can be put in the commercial zone. I don’t believe in chasing big stars to make routine cinema. I completely believe in pushing the envelope with ideas that the youth and audience want to see.
SBB is your first film as a solo producer. Wouldn’t you have preferred a safer subject like a comedy or love story?
YS: One, I believe there is no safe bet. Two, now the audience wants to watch something different. As a distributor and marketing guy I am constantly researching on what people want. And I believe that to make a small-film without a big star cast it should have two-three ingredients. The youth wants to see something different and something that exposes certain realities. There is a nature of being a voyeur, snooping through internet or where ever. Then they have a need for humour all the time. When you say something in a humorous way it reaches out faster. And it should have an aspirational quality. The youth wants to be like the stars and get into their minds all the time. Why do people read gossip columns? So, when I heard the story’s subject I knew it could be an interesting watching.
Didn’t you’ll want known actors purely for commercial reasons?
YS: If you see the subject it doesn’t require big names. Yes, star actors have a fan following but they wouldn’t fit in it. Actors come with their idea of a role, have an image and other star trappings. That was not the plan of this film. In this film everyone had to be natural. The movie isn’t your typical, camera – action – cut film. Here, the camera keeps rolling. It’s real banter and not completely choreographed.
AC: The point was to take people who don’t have a known image and come from a theatre background as a lot of shots are in one take. They had to say the lines in one go. I didn’t want stars as they would hesitate to take names of people because they are friends with them. There are references to popular people and I didn’t want to change the conversations. Otherwise there would be nothing left to show in the film.
So, did you get actors who looked similar to the people in the real footage?
AC: We brought in theatre actors as they fitted the parts but the challenge was that each of the characters is a known personality, so we had to find somebody who physically, to some extent, but essentially matched the real person in terms of basic personality and body language.
How many days did you take to write and shoot the film?
AC: We shot the film in exactly 17 days, on real locations. It was made under a tight budget. Yusuf and I make a great team because we understand the economics of the trade. A film could earn 10-crores and be a super-hit and a film that would make 100-crores could still be a flop. Most of your big budget films are not real hits. Our idea was to make it in a small-budget so we can take risks. That’s how Dibaker Banerjee’s Love Sex aur Dhokha was made. It wasn’t promoted and didn’t have known actors. I used that film as my yardstick, it was made without big names, got released, accepted and appreciated, then why not our film? It allows us to make such films without a fear factor. I wrote the film in 20 days as I had the footage. I just had to figure how much to keep, not keep and manipulate for a film.
Did you face problems with the Censor Board because of controversial and sensational content of the film?
YS: It got rejected and almost banned by one committee of the Censor Board. So, we kept waiting till a revising committee came in place. From that also some of them were dead against releasing the film. But, because of the voting system, it got cleared. Majority of the committee members felt the film had to release. I have never been to a Censor screening where the discussion post the film goes on for two hours. But, touchwood, it was a mature committee that felt the movie should pass without a cut. They made a few requests which we accepted.
Akshay Kumar’s Gabbar Is Back releases on the same date. Do you fear that it could hamper SBB’s business?
YS: Honestly, not at all. I don’t have anything against Gabbar… or Akshay, but I think the audience is looking for something new. It is the same story that has come out in 50,000 films. The people behind it are my friends but still… And, we are completely different from them. We are giving the audience something they may like. They are free to choose.
AC: I think Gabbar… should be more afraid of us. Akshay Kumar’s Baby released with Sonam Kapoor’s Dolly Ki Doli and I am sure Akshay must be cursing Sonam because it took away 20 crores from his film’s kitty. Also, we have the benefit of a long weekend holiday. If a big film will benefit 10 times, our film will also benefit from it, na? It comes down to economics. The people who have to make 100 crores have to worry about big collections.For someone whose film is a hit even if it makes 10 crores, it isn’t a problem.
What was the biggest challenge you faced to make Sabki Bajegi Band?
YS: My director and I differed on how real to keep it… But the bigger issue was how to put together all the material in one and half to two hours. There were so many cameras and people. Also, one needs to introduce each character and give their background for the audience to understand and connect with them. So, saying it all in a film was our biggest challenge.
Don’t you worry about upsetting some big names?
YS: One thing I was very clear is that nothing we are saying is offensive. If there are things that aren’t out in the open, we haven’t revealed the names. If we have a name associated with a scandal in the film it has been covered by one of the gossip magazines. It’s not our creation. We are going with reality and whatever information is in public domain.