For entertainment journalists, the promotional interview is bread and butter – it’s standard and usually without surprises. The artists are there to plug their latest project, which more often than not, we haven’t seen. We try and ask insightful questions. Many journalists resort to game-playing because that might throw up some surprises. We all know what we are there for and we stick to the script. The roundtable format, however, doesn’t play by these rules.
At Film Companion, we call it the Adda – a gathering at which artists exchange ideas. The film industry is small and incestuous and yet, there are people who barely know each other. So it’s always interesting to throw unexpected names together. I remember one conversation we did for my Star World show The Front Row, in which veteran producer Mukesh Bhatt and indie maven Guneet Monga met for the first time. He was so impressed by her that he offered her help on any project that she was working on. Another favorite memory from those days is a conversation we had with Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Farhan Akhtar and Ranveer Singh on acting. At one point, Ranveer enacted Deewar’s iconic ‘Aaj khush toh bhaut hoge tum’ scene while Mr. Bachchan looked on. It was incredible.
Last week, we recorded our largest adda yet – with actors from across India. The names included Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt, Ayushmann Khurrana, Manoj Bajpayee, Parvathy Thiruvothu, Vijay Deverakonda and Vijay Sethupathi. The actors had all made Film Companion’s list of the 100 best performances of the decade. Manoj and Vijay Sethupathi had two films each.
As you can imagine, this was a logistical nightmare – matching dates, flying in artists from outside Mumbai, figuring a location (thankfully Soho House stepped in), camera placements and lighting (it was our first 10-camera shoot) and handling the entourage of each artist (there were around 35 people who came in with 8 actors). The shoot was at 11 pm because that was the only time when schedules matched. Manoj Bajpayee had to drive straight from our shoot to his film’s shoot in Baramati. Parvathy had landed two hours ago from Sri Lanka.
But the cinema gods were smiling on us and thankfully the stars – literally and figuratively – aligned. Deepika was the first to arrive. Vijay Sethupathi was concerned that his English wasn’t good enough but he was an active participant in the conversation. Vijay Deverakonda was wearing shorts so Ranveer insisted that we let him chill. For me, it was a high just to listen to so many different takes on the same art form. The artists had sharp differences but also many things in common. At one point, I was playing school teacher and telling Ranveer and Deepika to pause the PDA.
The magic of the adda is that you can’t predict what will emerge. Which is why, despite the migraine that the logistics create, it continues to be a favorite format. In the PR-run, highly doctored, medianet-heavy entertainment journalism landscape, this is the ultimate breath of fresh air.