Tough shooting conditions, financial pressure and distribution setbacks – Dibakar Banerjee, Jaideep Sahni and others recall their long struggle to bring the cult satire to the screen
It was the film that introduced us to the brilliance of Dibakar Banerjee. But Khosla ka Ghosla! (KKG), which completes 10 years on September 22, is a milestone in Hindi cinema for more reasons than one. The National Award winner, written by Jaideep Sahni, follows Kamal Kishore Khosla, an average Delhi-ite who finds himself in a trying situation when he’s compelled to cross swords with one of the city’s most vicious property sharks. Despite the critical acclaim, the makers recall how completing and subsequently, distributing the film was a singularly arduous journey.
In honour of the film’s 10th anniversary, the KKG team looks back at their iconic film and recollects the trials and tribulations that went into its making:
Dibakar: The starting point was, wanting to do a film, which portrayed Delhi as it is. The initial idea came from Savita Raj Hiremath (producer) and Jaideep (writer, lyricist and creative producer).
Jaideep: The soul and spirit of KKG draws from both, Dibakar’s and my experience of growing up in middle-class Delhi. Initially, Savita and I began by wanting to do something around generation gap. Then, it evolved into a father and son story and the rest.
The first half of the film was based on Jaideep’s personal experience.
Jaideep: The plot is inspired by an incident which happened in my family and I always wanted to write a story on it. I was a student when it happened, and it had left an impression on my mind — about how our entire system can so callously and efficiently come together in no time to exploit a common man in trouble. The second half was our fantasy of how things could have transpired had the family taken an alternative route. Incidentally, Boman Irani too witnessed a similar incident during his childhood.
Dibakar: Jaideep was working on the story for a year-and-a-half so we were very clear about the characters. For Khosla’s character, we went to meet Anupam Kher at his office, where we spent more time with him than he initially intended to.
Anupam Kher: I remember I had to go somewhere that day, so I had given Dibakar and Jaideep 20 minutes at my Andheri office. But the meeting went on for two-and-a-half hours and by the end, I was hooked. For me, the film portrays the struggles of a middle-class family against bureaucracy and corruption. And that struggle comes out beautifully in the film. Jaideep and Dibakar had meticulously written each and every scene.
Jaideep: A writing challenge was conceptualising Khurana’s second trip to check out the family’s plot. The first one turned out well, and technically there was no need for a second one. But the Khoslas and their friends were, by now, coming together as a nice well-oiled group and I thought things may start seeming too easy from here on. So something in my gut wanted to up the ante by creating another problem which really tests them.
For Khurana’s character, the KKG team approached several people, including Vinay Pathak.
Vinay: I auditioned for Khurana’s role because Ranvir Shorey was already a part of the team. Boman was finally selected for it but they liked my audition and offered me the small but significant role of Asif Iqbal.
Ranvir: There is a sort of a bromance between Asif Iqbal and Balwant (Ranvir’s character in the film) and their chemistry was natural because of the friendship that Vinay and I share in real life. For Balwant’s role I had auditioned 2-3 times before being finally selected.
Jaideep: Vinay is such an integral part of the film that I had completely forgotten about the part he had auditioned for! Asif Iqbal’s character was partly written as a powerful character who would handhold the Khosla family and the audience through the twists and turns of the notorious real estate trade, and I guess, partly to absolve ourselves from the guilt of seeing that audition and not doing anything with it (laughs).
Savita: We even approached Rishi Kapoor for Khurana’s role. He loved it but commercially, it wasn’t working for him. We then approached Boman who refused it initially.
Boman: A lot of people had raised their eyebrows and said, ‘why did you take this Parsi fellow to play a Delhi guy?’ This made me more determined to make it work. I use to drive around in my car, listening to recordings of interviews with property dealers. The film was made in a very trying circumstances and Anupam Kher played the role of daddy off screen too.
Anupam: This film was made while enduring a lot. We were thrown out of the hotel, there was a taxi strike, limited resources and the Delhi heat. I knew if the team gets scattered, the morale would run low and the team would disintegrate. So I would keep them involved, play games, take them out for dinners. I needed to go beyond my role of an actor.
Tara Sharma: I was at a dinner party where I met a friend of Dibakar’s who told me that he was looking for an actress. The scene which I auditioned for was one where I am upside down (performing yoga), when Cherry (Parvin Dabas) comes to meet me.
Parvin: Initially, Dibakar didn’t want to cast me. His assistant Jatin who knew me from Monsoon Wedding recommended me. Dibakar thought that I wouldn’t be able to do justice to the layered character of Chironjilal, so he didn’t meet me for four months. I later learnt that they were auditioning many people but that didn’t work out.
Even after the KKG team was finalised, investors demanded changes, but the producers stood their ground.
Jaideep: There were a few times when some financiers almost came onboard, but with not so gentle suggestions of changing someone from the cast or crew, or adding an item song or an action revenge sequence. She would discuss it with me, and I would tell her to trust our team. To her credit, she did, even at the cost of losing out on financiers.
Savita: Padmalaya Telefilms of Hyderabad were our first investors and it was such a disaster. Their cheques started bouncing and as a result, I had to shell out cash from my other company.
Boman: There were no vanity vans and after every scene, we would go and stand under a tree. I think the trying circumstances helped the film in many ways; it made our performance tighter without the luxuries. We ran out of film reel on two occasions. In the sequence where a drunk Khurana (Boman) escorts Sethi (Navin Nischol) to the car and sees him off, the whole scene had to be done on a hand held (camera) in a single take as we had just one can of film left.
Dibakar: One scene we skipped because Navin had an asthma attack was the one where Khurana comes to meet Sethi at the hotel for the first time. The scene had Sethi nervously practicing to say ‘hello everybody’ in a soft tone in the washroom. When he comes out and greets everyone in his baritone voice in the following scene, it is evident that Bapu has finally gotten into the ‘role’.
Parvin: While others had lines to convey their feelings and emotions, my character was that of a poker-faced introvert. Dibakar was worried that Chironjilal (Cherry) would come across as a negative character who ignores his family. But his concerns were relaxed when, in a scene, his father (Anupam) falls down and he gives him a hand. I improvised this part when Anupam actually fell down while filming.
Jaideep: After the filming, we were left with no money for post-production and for a while, it seemed like the end. Frustrated and wanting a change of scene, I went on a backpacking trip to Italy. Dibakar called to inform me that Savita had managed to raise some money for the music. We were so worried that we might miss the opportunity, that I started writing the lyrics the very night and faxing them to him and Dhruv (Dhalla) and later Bapi-Tutul, the music composers. So Ye Duniya Oot Patanga and all other songs were written in various budget hostels and hotels in Italy.
Once completed, the film had no buyers for two years.
Dibakar: I was told that the title is very TV and then someone said ‘it is a good film but we can’t distribute it’. They couldn’t figure out how to market a film without any big stars.
Tara: One thing I learnt early in my career was that ‘content is the king but distribution is god’.
Jaideep: People from the industry who saw it kept saying that they ‘got it’ and enjoyed it but they were not sure if others would, and I kept thinking what exactly am I missing, because there couldn’t be a simpler film.
Dibakar: UTV saw merit in the film right from the beginning. They knew it wasn’t expensive but they wanted gauge the risk it involved. I’ve heard rumours that there were two camps within UTV, one backed the film while the other thought it to be a bad investment.
The film opened to positive reviews and collected double its production cost.
Dibakar: It got very good reviews and did fairly well for a film of that size but KKG became what it was through its repeated runs on television and through home entertainment sales.
Jaideep: Over the years, I’ve met teams who made very nice films, who told me that the success of Khosla Ka Ghosla! gave them faith and opened doors for them, which is very kind of them to say.
Anupam: Khosla Ka Ghosla! is and will always be Dibakar and Jaideep’s Saaransh.
(Text Image Courtesy: Tandav Films Entertainment Ltd)