The long in the making Indian feature film, a black-comedy-drama, ‘Bombairiya’ follows the story of a woman named Meghna who finds herself getting entangled into an unfortunate series of events. The film has been directed by Pia Sukanya, written and produced by Michael E. Ward (Pia’s husband).The story writers include Ward, Sukanya and film maker Aarti Bagdi.

Starring Radhika Apte, Sidhanth Kapoor, Akshay Oberoi, Adil Hussain, Ravi Kishan and more ace performers, ‘Bombairiya’ is slated for release on 18th January 2019. 

Pia with Ravi Kishan on set

We dug a little deeper into the making of the film, through a conversation with Pia.

Let’s start with your journey from being a playback singer to film maker (and actor) – what’s the story there? 

I never intended to be a playback  I found the interface with the music industry too complicated frankly much preferred performing live, better still in character on the musical stage whether it was West Side Story with Eddie Redmayne at Cambridge or being in Stories In A Song at Prithvi.

I have always loved the combination of singing and acting. I was born with a voice which my parents discovered and nurtured but acting was my own discovery. I worked so hard to get into Cambridge where i got plenty of acting experience and emerged with a masters in social anthropology and a curious hunger to know everything I could about human behaviour.

When I met Michael and started to work with him on the craft of screenplay, it was a natural step to want to combine all of these disciplines and tell a whole story from the director’s point of view.

Would you care to give us an insight into your experience working with the team behind the scenes?

I was enormously supported by heads of department that had made between one and handful of feature films before boarding Bombairiya. They contributed hugely to my vision and gave me their trust even when I didn’t go with a particular approach to the look or cut or sound of the film.

I hope it was my conviction that made them such willing collaborators. Like directing actors I like to hear their take on a particular scene first and then I adjust it to work for my vision.

Adil Hussain and Pia behind the scenes!

 What made you cast the actors for their specific roles?

I wanted this to be a serious comedy by which I mean the characters themselves are not seeing the funny side to what is happening to them and around them. They are taking their day and it’s ups and downs with the serious concentration that we all give to matters that consume us, that absorb us in ourselves. Thus they are all unaware of the bigger picture which only the audience can see.

Radhika’s approach to Meghna and Akshay’s approach to the earnest Abhishek, set the tone for the whole film as they spend the most time in physical proximity. Adil plays a character who is calm powerful and in control at least at the beginning and when he loses that control I did not want him explode but to do the opposite and implode on himself..

Radhika and Pia during the shoot of ‘Bombairiya’

Did you face any kind of fall-outs/challenges while making the film?

The challenges where too numerous to mention. Today my suitcase flew off the luggage rack on the western express highway and it just seemed a normal Bombairiya moment of high crisis as two trucks squashed it under their wheels. All I could think of was did my shampoo bottle explode and ruin my shoes.

It kept reminding me that in every catastrophe a worse one could have happened. The shoot was like that, whether it was losing two locations in one day, facing strike action twice and having to act in my own film or other accidents to which Siddhanth seems to be prone it’s just a life in the day of a film.

What sort of a response do you anticipate from the viewers?

I’m hoping they find it unlike anything they have ever seen in world or Hindi cinema. I don’t like to expect or predict anything as I like to keep myself open and honest and ready to accept a variety of impressions and views.

It’s a film that certainly assumes the audience will bring intelligence and compassion into the cinema and play an active curious role in the events onscreen.

Would you shed some light on what your next project will be?

The way in which I met my husband for whom nothing is too strange too hard or too impossible is ripe territory for a comedy drama called Older White Male which we’d need special permission from my parents to make as they would have starring roles.

I laughed so much making Bombairiya that I think I would like to stay in the natural comedy zone.

It must have been a huge support to have husband on board as a producer. How do you compartmentalise the personal and professional aspects on and off screen?

There is no compartment! We are following our bliss as painful as the journey often is. It’s a compulsion for us both and I think in the depth of comedy there lies the most serious wonderful improbable yet inevitable love.

Is there any interesting anecdote regarding the film that’s special?

We were really stumped to create a piece of music that was unlike anything else in the films amazing score. I wanted it to underpin Meghna’s arrival at a better place in her head and the re-engagement of her heart with other human beings.

Then one day when I was having a particularly stressful time, a VFX producer played me his secret ‘migraine cure’ a guitar solo called Ocean by John Butler with 35 million YouTube views.. I set it to the epilogue of the film and it was transporting and I loved it but never thought I would ever get to have it. That’s when Mr producer made it happen for me again and showed John Butler the piece of the film we wanted it for, and John Butler said yes! Truly miracles happen if you are open to them and that’s what the city of Bombay has taught me which is why I made this film.

The romantic in me has always won over the cynic and I feel that energy is met and returned with interest by other people’s hopeful energy.