After waiting for months and a few private screenings, Sulemani Keeda finally releases on December 5th 2014. In an exclusive chat first time writer-director Amit Masurkar reveals to us the unusual things he did to put together his first project.

Sulemani Keeda- Mainak & Dulal

Usually love stories are considered the safest bet when one is starting off in the Hindi film industry. Did you not ever think of opting for a more commercially viable script instead of Sulemani Keeda?

I don’t believe in safety. You should do what you believe in, only then it is honest. If I made another romantic film which just comes and goes, no one is bothered. Who wants to watch a regular love story, unless you have something new to say! I believe that if I make a film it has to be something different and something I believe in. Otherwise there is no point wasting one and a half to two years of my life on a film. I can’t invest my life in a film which is like any other film. I would rather make a film which is interesting that may or may not do well. That way, at least I know I am happy making it.

One of the reasons you chose to make Sulemani Keeda is recreating the life of the hub of Hindi films, right?

Yes, what interested me most is that a lot of young people come from all over India to Mumbai, especially Andheri (West), to write for movies. It’s a small area but filled with people with big dreams. All the content which is produced in Hindi cinema, around 75 per cent, comes from this one square kilometer area. Since my film is about two screenwriting partners, the suburb where all such activities happen is an integral part of the film. But we shot extensively in Bandra (another suburb in Mumbai). So you’ll see a lot of this city in this movie.

How did you decide the cast for the film? 

I had seen Aditi Vasudev in an interview with Komal Nahta (trade analyst). She was really good. And I wanted her to be herself which is why we approached her. I knew that Naveen Kasturia and Mayank Tewari, who are writers in real life too, had a keeda to act. So I got them onboard. Most of the cast are friends or friends of friends of friends. Everyone who acted in the movie wanted to act. They took it up as a challenge. Barring a few people that were doing other things. For instance, Oona from Poona in the film is a producer at Viacom 18. I just asked her to do it. Karan Mirchandani, who plays Gonzo, is into engineering business. These were people who were interested in the acting and were happy to be part of the project.

Sulemani Keeda- Naveen Kasturia, Aditi Vasudev

Can you tell us about the locations used for Sulemani Keeda?

Every location is real. The screenwriter’s house which we shot in belongs to Mayank. He is a writer and his house is full of books, files and paper. We couldn’t find a lovelier location than that. The other locations were mostly known places, like we shot in my building compound, at my producer’s house, in my uncle’s compound, my producer’s friend’s house etc. All these locations were secured through our circle of friends. Otherwise we shot at some famous eating joints like Crepe station, iBar, etc. and paid them a small amount. We shot at Crossword bookstore in exchange of showing their logo in the film. That’s how we secured most of the locations. The farmhouse shown in the film also belongs to Arjun Bajaj, the man who owns Out Of The Blue restaurant.

What look and style brief did you give your DOP Surjo?

There are some absurd characters in the film but Surjo and I wanted the film to look real, so we decided against using artificial lights. Most of the film has been shot in available light – even night scenes. We rarely shot for more than 8-10 hours a day. While shooting day scenes, Surjo would pick the time according to the sun’s position. My actors would be prepared to give their shot at the exact moment when he felt the light was right.

Also, what I like is long takes. So we decided we won’t shoot anything unnecessary. Second thing we did was shoot this film on an eye level, except a couple of scenes where it is required to be up or down. We also decided that there would be no gimmicks in shot taking. We didn’t have access to cranes or tracks so we didn’t even try to indigenously try to make something as a substitute. We just shot it straight on sticks. Style wise we were looking at a very straight-forward and gimmick free editing. We wanted all the fun to be in the characters and dialogues.

What about the costumes in the film?

Actors wore their own clothes! Though, couple of friends helped us out. Tanya Sharma, who is a fashion designer, designed african print shirt that Gonzo wears in the film. That was the only piece of clothing that was specifically made for the film. Aditi is such a tomboy that she didn’t have a single dress. She needed a dress for a scene so we just went into Zara and brought the dress for her.

My assistant Omar Paul was in charge of costume continuity. He chose what the actors were going to wear and kept it with us till the shoot was over. That’s why the costumes look real, they are not ironed unnecessarily. I think I will do that even if I have the budget for costumes. I feel it makes the actors more comfortable.

This film was ready a while ago. Did you start working on another project post that?

I was directing some stuff for Channel V in the interim. I have three film projects in various stages.

– Rachana Parekh and Priyanka Jain