Director Shoojit Sircar is fresh off the critical success of his latest film October that released last Friday. Featuring Varun Dhawan as a hotel management trainee who gets extremely affected after hearing the news of the accident that has rendered his colleague comatose, the film was especially praised for staying true to its intentions and sustaining its meditative tonality. We asked our Film Club members to send in questions for Sircar, who spoke about not oversimplifying things for the audience and how he ended up casting animation director Gitanjali Rao as Shiuli’s mother Vidya Iyer:
On Whether He Changes The Script To Simplify Concepts For The Audience
When I receive the first draft of the script from Juhi (Chaturvedi, writer), I tend to believe myself – if I can read between the lines and understand, I expect that even the audience will also read between the lines. Am I able to understand the subtlety and the undercurrent of the scene, emotion, shot or even the dialogue? If I feel I can, then I always feel everybody can understand.
On The Relationship Between Dan and Shiuli
Their relationship was always indifferent. He was always irritable. When you’re a gang of trainees together there are some people who are caring, some who aren’t. Some are mature, some don’t care about the world. The entire film doesn’t commit to a love story. It’s just a bonding that happens – like a mother and a child – which is so unconditional. And sometimes for the mother, so thankless a job. ‘Selfless caring’ was the basic one-liner I gave to Juhi.
On Casting Gitanjali Rao As Shiuli’s Mother
She was undoubtedly a find and I used to tell her, “It’ll be very difficult to be an animation director after this film. Because you will be offered with roles and characters.” I had interacted with her 8-9 years back for a small commercial where she appeared just for a few seconds. We began interacting and I thought there was something very vulnerable and beautiful and a lot of depth in her eyes and the way she looks. When I asked her to do this, she said, “Do you think I can act? I said, “Be yourself and the rest will follow.”
While she was shooting the film, she was constantly working on the laptop for her animation film. It’s a full length animation feature film that she was immersed in. She said, “This acting is a quick job for me.” Her main focus was on animation. But she doesn’t know the kind of space she’s created for an artist in this side job of acting.
On Why He Kept Major Plot Points From Lead Varun Dhawan
I just thought we’ll go linear and see where it goes and play around with it. I always wanted him to feel things as they were coming. I left him there to naturally feel the moment and the situations. For example the scene where for the first time he comes to the hospital and sees her operated body in the ICU, in the vegetative state, I made sure he doesn’t know what happens in that scene exactly. He was in his make-up van and I didn’t let him see her.
I fixed my camera and I said, “Just walk in and react naturally and see how it comes out.” What you see is actually the first take where he just naturally comes in and he actually got shocked seeing Banita! That magic on-screen comes when you try organically to shoot the sequence.
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