The film is not just a satire but borders towards farce – Abhishek
What happens when a politically conscious person ventures into the world of cinema? We get hilarious movies like Tere Bin Laden and its soon-to-release sequel Tere Bin Laden 2. The man behind these films is Director Abhishek Sharma who believes in the language of satire. In a humorous chat with Pandolin, the filmmaker reveals how he conceived this spin – off and why he thinks that being a director is the second best job after being God.
You are said to have a very good sense of humour with a great comic timing. How did you come up with the concept of this sequel?
I was never making a sequel; I personally hate sequels. It’s a money making thing, which suits producers. But when Osama Bin Laden died is when the game became interesting. You can always think of making something on Bin Laden or any character when he’s alive but when he dies in such a dramatic manner, it’s funny. The way America said that they killed Bin Laden was very funny – their silent choppers were sent, Pakistan did not have a clue though he was at Abbottabad in the centre of the country, and they did not even take a photo or video of his corpse and just threw it in the sea. So they killed somebody who was the most wanted guy but did not share anything about him! The way the whole thing came out was very funny. So all these things inspired me to make a film and ask these questions in a humorous way.
I call this film a spin – off and not a sequel because it’s actually connected to the first film but not in continuity. So the angle is very special and unique. And it’s one of the most original sequels you’ll ever see. It also has the kind of structure which has never been tried anywhere in the world. That’s why I’m very excited and let’s hope people also like it.
So would it be correct to say that you have an affinity towards satirical films?
I think satire for me is not a genre; it is more of a language. This is how I am. Many people come and discuss serious things with me but when I’m giving them advice, it becomes funny. Because I see things like that. So I’m being true to myself and enjoying it. Tomorrow, if I’m in a dark phase and want to do a dark Guru Dutt kind of film, I will do it. But as of now, this is what comes naturally to me.
When you made the first film – Tere Bin Laden – did you expect it to be such a big hit?
I expected it to be liked by the people because it was something very original. But so much appreciation, to be honest, was not expected. When I went to the theatre, people were laughing. And they were laughing at things that I had not thought they would laugh on. That’s why there’s a little pressure this time because I want them to react like that this time too. They want me to make them laugh and even I want them to laugh. So we have tried that and have enough craziness in the film to create it. The initial screenings have been very good and the trailer has been appreciated. So hopefully people will like it.
What was the kind of research that you did before starting Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive?
I did a PhD during the first film (laughs). So this time I did my Masters in the Abbottabad mission, on the mansion and other things. And I think that we are more accurate than Zero Dark Thirty when it came to the Abbottabad mission. Even though it’s a comedy, I take it very seriously. So my assistants and my HODs have worked very hard. We have been accurate to it as much as we could.
How did you zero in on TV host and actor Manish Paul as the lead?
This story is about Mr. Sharma played by Manish Paul. And Manish is apt for the character. His comic timing is something which I really associate with. This film is bordering towards farce and is not just a satire. And in such a case, you need an actor who has no inhibitions, who can go completely with the flow. And this is a passionate filmmaker’s role and we needed someone who would do it. So someone as mad and as energised as Manish was perfect for it.
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So do we see some part of you in Manish’s character?
Yes. Except the part that his father is a halwai. My father is an airforce officer and he will kill me (laughs). And the funny thing is that the film is such that everybody on the sets knew that Manish’s character is based on me – like a fictional character of me. So it’s not like a biopic on me; it’s just his traits, his name and that he has made a film on Bin Laden. Those are some things that are connected, but I do see a lot of myself in that character.
Did you have someone other than Manish in mind for Mr.Sharma’s character?
Yes, myself! But you know I couldn’t have acted (laughs). I didn’t want to act so that’s why Manish. He is amazing and I think that he has not got his due till now. Like Sikander Kher, who is playing the antagonist in the film, is also brilliant. So I think even he will get his due with this film. Manish’s comic timing is unique and people love him; the film hasn’t released yet and he’s already a star. He is the host of India because he has that loveable humour – even if he’s making fun of you, you still love him. The world of this film is also like that. Even though we’re making fun of Obama but we are sure that even if they were to see the film, they would like it. People from Pakistan loved the first film (Tere Bin Laden). So I think it’s the kind of humour which is not offensive to anyone and Manish is very good at it.
This is a very difficult character. In fact, when we were writing it we thought that we’d take two characters because there’s a white guy and a punjabi guy. For me it was inconceivable that any actor could pull these two roles and getting these two peculiar accents was impossible. But I know Sikander and he’s a very funny guy and he had never done a comedy, so I decided to give him a shot. I called him for the audition and he was brilliant. So we signed him and he is one of the surprise factors in this film. People expect certain things from Manish and Pradhuman (Singh), but Sikander is somebody who is going to surprise you.
What’s next in the pipeline for you?
I have signed two films. One of them is called Hume Aitraaz hai, which has already been announced. It’s on intolerance and is a funny film on what is happening around us. Then there’s one more film that I can’t talk much about. But it has a satirical angle to it and is an amazing story.
-Dhruvanka Medhekar. Transcribed by Kiran Dave.