Shoojit Sircar definitely believes in shifting gears in Bollywood. So after dabbling with the unorthodox subject of a sperm donor’s love story in Vicky Donor (2012), he’s dived straight into the war-stricken lands of Jaffna with Madras Cafe.
And during both instances, John Abraham has given him company, first as a producer and now donning the dual garb of a producer and actor.
Not a war film
Sircar is clearly in high spirits, something that can be attributed to the encouraging response of his film’s first trailor on Twitter. “ Madras Cafe will spark an interest in Chennai, more so now that the film’s trailor is out.
It’s not the usual war film but more of a spy political thriller,” begins the director, adding that the movie involves three countries and is socially relevant today. Initially titled Jaffna, the movie pans many cities (Mumbai, Kochi and Bangkok) and begins at Madras Cafe. Though John was his first choice for the role of an Intelligence Agent, Sircar maintains that his character and look is very real, not beefy. He’s miffed with rumours that it’s inspired by Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies, with even posters holding a major resemblance. “I expected it. It’s an original subject and I didn’t have any reference point in India for this,” claims Sircar.
Sircar says it took him five years to finish the script and a while to finalise the casting as he was “very particular about the actors”. For the role of an international reporter, he wanted someone who looked the part and spoke American English and after a lot of debate, the onus fell on model-turned-actor Nargis Fakhri. “I know there were lot of speculations about Fakhri’s casting but she really took me by surprise. We took references from a war journalist from Iraq for the role. It will be a relaunch for the actress,”says Sircar.
He’s also roped in a few of his advertising friends to play crucial parts in the film, like Siddharth Basu, Prakash Belawadi, Piyush Pandey (who plays a cabinet minister from India) and Agnello Dias who were all “scared to act.”
According to him, filming Madras Cafe was a memorable journey and he still recalls a “visibly shaken Nargis when she enterered the jungles of South India” and how John knocked off seven kilos at the end of the shoot. Like a true Bengali, Sircar is a fan of Satyajit Ray and has fond memories of his association with Rituparno Ghosh during the filming of Raincoat. “I felt illiterate in front of him. Nobody understands women better than him,” says Sircar. How are the working styles of both industries? “Work gets done faster in Kolkata as we work on small budgets while in Mumbai, where films are riding on crores, it can take more than 60-65 days to complete a film. Besides, in Kolkata you can actually find a lot of characters on the streets,” says the director.
He believes there is a revolution happening in Bollywood with lot of experimential films. “I survive on challenges. Coming from an ad background helps as it teaches you good technique and detailing,” says the director.