The crux of all rom-coms is a ‘Happy Ending’ and we started with that – Raj Nidimoru
They have gone beyond standard conventions and proved that humor can be witty and that following your heart isn’t such a bad thing after all. After winning over audiences with India’s first zom-com (zombie comedy), Go Goa Gone, directors Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K. (Raj & DK) are back with an unique take on rom-coms.
Raj, one half of this brilliant duo, gives Pandolin an insight into the making of Happy Ending and what differentiates this film from the regular lot.
How did Happy Ending happen?
We were doing Go Goa Gone with Saif and I think our sense of humor and sensibilities were something that he was very impressed with and could connect with as well. And we said it would be great to do a full feature and that too ASAP. We happened to tell him about the concept of Happy Ending and he was totally in for it. Though we had other plans after Go Goa Gone, it’s always great to have a very enthusiastic and passionate actor who is so involved in a project. The whole project becomes more personal. So that way we pretty much started with the pre-production of Happy Ending even before Go Goa Gone had released.
This is your second collaboration with Saif Ali Khan. What is your director-producer and director-actor equation like?
It’s more of a director-actor equation for us. The producer part of it is really rolled into the actor’s part for him (Saif). There is a lot of creative input and discussion and I get a lot of late night messages, a lot of ideas (laughs). It is always great to have an actor who is owning it, feeling it his own. That way he is very involved right from the inception to the end. But at the same time he is a director’s actor and I get exactly what I want with him, there is no fuss.
Happy Ending is a light-hearted take on romantic comedies in Bollywood. How did this become the subject of your film?
Romantic comedies are a very exploited genre; there isn’t much you can do in it. For us as filmmakers it is not an exciting concept to do just another rom-com. Boy and girl meet, fall in love etc., the regular template. We thought that there is this whole standard template that is followed, but what if we play off of that? The crux of all rom-coms is boy meets girl, boy likes girl, usually boy screws up, he realizes, chases the girl and gets her back and it’s a ‘happy ending’. So the heart of it all is a ‘happy ending’ and we started with that and the fact that life sometimes imitates a romantic comedy or a love story. That was the idea.
What is the treatment adopted for this film?
We wanted to keep it very causal yet very self-aware that we are making a romantic comedy, a film that is for the greater public, and at the same time retain the sensibilities we come from. We thought that we should be truthful to the way we write and direct, our humor, the way we underplay certain things and underline certain strong emotions; that will resonate with the public too. I don’t need to worry about making it loud to put a point across. We wanted to make it a bigger funnier mainstream film, keeping our signature style in place.
Considering that your films don’t fall into any one particular genre, does it make things easier or more challenging?
More than anything it is exciting because each film is an exciting adventure. If I was churning out films in the same genre, I would be doing a business and that would be boring. The reason we got out of our previous lives was that it was monotonous. And at the same time we always look at ourselves as audiences first, what would we like to see? It is more fun for us to work on different subjects. It’s not an easy territory and we need to find a nice angle every single time to do something fresh within that genre.
How much of your personalities are reflected in your films?
I think a lot of our personalities are reflected in our films. There are always two ways of looking at things. Usually when you meet somebody you can show them in a very dramatic manner or you could see the light-heartedness and sense of humor in the whole thing. And in real life that is more apt than a dramatic nature in various situations. We are not the loud, cracking-jokes-all-the-time kind, but there is always this observational comedy going on in real life also. It is more fun to step back, look at things in a light-hearted manner and joke about it as there are enough problems going on in life anyway.
Is there a specific method that you’ll follow to prepare your actors for a character?
I think the biggest task for us is to impress them the kind of film we are making. I think half of the job is done when the script is being read. We put pretty much everything in it. When they (actors) read it, they get the point that this is the kind of cinema we are making and is this what they would be interested in. If they are, usually they get very excited with their character and the way it is treated. So I think the biggest selling point is the script, where you are aware of the kind of film you are going to be part of. Beyond that the physical appearances – how to do the hair, what to wear etc. is all easier because you know the kind of film you are doing. With our team, we really don’t get into much confrontation, usually people know what the character would be like and they stick to it. We are working with really smart actors, they have done various kinds of cinema and they get what we are saying.
You’ll have directed Govinda in what is his second innings of sorts in the industry. Tell us about the experience.
We never expected him to agree to this film but when he did it became his comeback film. We tend to slot people in certain boxes and say that he can do only a particular type of role. But I think a lot of us, even actors, people who have done a lot of things in life, are willing to experiment. Even though this was not his kind of cinema, Govinda approached it and while we were narrating it to him, within a few minutes itself he was laughing and wanted to do this character. He didn’t even want to know the rest of it. Even as he was shooting, he was quite excited about the way this film was being shot as compared to other films.
We wanted somebody to play a superstar, larger than life, who comes in and says this is how it’s done and this is how I want it. You need that authority and need to make Saif look like a writer who goes, “Shit what am I doing?” That authority and image is what we were looking for and Govinda was always our top choice.
How significant is the role of music in your films, considering your films always have great songs?
I’m in love with this album. Rarely do you get an album where every single song is a gem. I come from a musical family and music is very important as it always conveys emotions better. I usually don’t consider what’s going around and then demand things. It’s more like what music I am in love with and what we (Music composer, DK & Sachin- Jigar) collectively come up with and say, “This is the kind of music we want”. We even come in with inputs like; I’d like a guitar dominated background score because it is a romantic film with a light-hearted nature. We make the music we want to make. I love a nice ballad, a nice earthy song and I love a witty song. Like ‘Paaji tussi’, I feel that people will see the wit in it. I would love a ‘Khooni Monday’ or ‘babaji ki booti’, everything has a relevance to the film and they are witty.
Sachin and Jigar do all the hard work, most of the ideas are from them; we just try to inspire them. We have a good partnership; they let us get our hands dirty down to the layers in the song and are always game for inputs.
How would you define your growth/transition from your first film Flavours (which was an indie film) to Happy Ending?
I’m quite content with the path we chose. It’s been a journey of two non-filmi guys siting somewhere across the world and saying let’s figure how to make a movie, how to write together and raise money and make our own film. From there we have taken one step at a time and have always looked at a bigger screen, a bigger canvas because that’s where I get to show the film to a larger number of people. At the same time I believe that we can get some fresh content, and we’ll try to give something new each time so that we are also happy. It’s a great journey to do it all by yourself.
One reason why people should watch Happy Ending?
I think it’s a film where they wouldn’t feel dumb in the first place. You get to laugh, watch something fresh and funny and it is in the category of entertainment but done in a sensible manner. And the way Saif, Ilena and everyone has acted; it is a treat to watch them. It’s one of those films where in a lighthearted film you get to watch great performances. And it’s paisa vasool, you have Govinda, great music and it’s complete entertainment.