Anurag Kashyap‘s romance drama Manmarziyaan is set to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this September. The film, which stars Abhishek Bachchan, Vicky Kaushal and Taapsee Pannu, was on the first list of titles slated to premiere as part of the festival’s Gala and Special Presentation programmes. The section, one of the festival’s 14, highlights high-profile feature films that often include internationally known actors. Some of the other films on the list include the Timothée Chalamet-starrer Beautiful Boy, Nandita Das’ Manto, Damien Chazelle’s First Man and the Bradley Cooper-directed A Star Is Born. It also marks the second time one of Kashyap’s films has headed to TISS – his 2017 sports film Mukkabaaz was screened last year as part of the Special Presentations category. Ahead of Manmarziyaan’s premiere, we revisit what Abhishek Bachchan told us about the film:
On why he picked this film as his comeback
It’s a great story. Aanand L Rai sent me a message and said, ‘I’d like to meet you for a film that I’m producing.’ We set up the meeting, he came and met me; and I’ve known him for very many years. He’s a very loving, gregarious kind. You just feel like hugging him all the time. He said, ‘There’s this film, we’re really excited about it. Don’t ask me anything else, just hear it.’ We set up the meeting and the director couldn’t make it. They said, ‘Is it OK if just the writer comes?’ And in walked Kanika Dhillon, who’s this young, vivacious, full of life, immensely talented, and opinionated (as I make fun of her), young lady. Something about it appealed to me. I had a few notes, which I shared with her, which she very reluctantly agreed to go and review. They came back to me after that meeting, and I said, ‘OK, this is nice, this is working, but I still have one or two apprehensions.’ I said, ‘Look, who’s directing this film? Are you directing it, is Kanika directing? Because I’ve not met the director.’ So he said, ‘No, I want Anurag (Kashyap) to direct this film.’
On working with Anurag Kashyap
I’ve never worked with Anurag, and we’ve had a bit of a patchy past, which thankfully is behind us now. We’ve all grown up and matured since. I was like, ‘OK, he’s a voice, he’s an interesting voice, I’m ready to hear this.’ It also ticked off another box: ‘OK, he’s going to make me really uncomfortable’, and I really wanted to be in that space. Anurag just blew me away. The perspective that he brought on the script just jumped up to me. I said, ‘This is it. I have to do this.’ Because I just loved his vision for the story! Dare I say it was possibly the first time I saw a pure director’s contribution to a script, where Kanika’s written this beautiful script, and Anurag’s just taken it to a different level. I just loved the way he saw my character, and what he wanted to do with it. And that was it, I just knew this had to be it. And then the process started and then the time came upon us when I had to move to Amritsar to shoot the film. The first two-three days, he just narrated the script to me, because he doesn’t like to do readings. He said, ‘No, no, don’t rehearse, because I’ll keep changing everything on set.’ The new me was like, ‘Okay, this is it. He’s going to throw you a curveball and you have to try and hit it out of the park!’ And that was exciting me. It was petrifying as well. And I knew this was exciting, because I wasn’t sleeping at night again!
On his first day back on set
I was speaking to my wife, and she was like, ‘Why are you still awake?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know what he’s going to do tomorrow, I’m really scared.’ And in typical fashion, the first day of shoot we didn’t end up shooting. So, you know, the nerves become even worse! It’s the guillotine just waiting to come down. And the day came upon me, and we were shooting in a hotel. So they gave me a hotel room to get ready. So this photograph, actually (make-up chair), this was the hotel room I was in. And I was sitting at the window, just about to get ready, listening to my music. I was looking at this chair, and I just said, ‘Oh my god, I haven’t sat in one of those in over two years!’ And suddenly it just brought back the last two years – the preparation, and the journey and the ups and the downs.