The story of Laila Majnu, a classic folklore, has been told many times on celluloid, but debut director Sajid Ali has set his version of the film in today’s times in Kashmir. Slated for September 7 release, Sajid’s Laila Majnu has Avinash Tiwari and Tripti Dimri playing the lead roles.
Avinash, who made his Bollywood debut with Tu Hai Mera Sunday, says playing the role of Majnu has been a very liberating experience for him. “I have been struggling to get the right break in films for the past 15 years. And casting directors Anmol Ahuja and Abhishek Banerjee finalised me for the role after many screen tests. I have been doing theatre since 2003, but the two films I did, did not change things much for me. I was trying my luck all these years.”
Tripti, who will be seen essaying the role of Laila, had made her Bollywood debut as Riya in Poster Boys in 2017. She says the role came to her. “I was working with a modelling agency in Delhi and my manager said, ‘why don’t you audition for this film?’ But then I realised that I had already auditioned for the film in 2016 and I was rejected, and had started working on a YouTube channel thereafter. One day, I just went to see the auditions of Laila Majnu with my roommate and the guy who was taking auditions came and said, ‘Now say your lines quickly’. I told him that I was not there for auditions and that I was rejected before for the same audition. He told me that they were casting all over again. In two years time, I was more comfortable in front of camera and after auditions they said, ‘I was on board’. Later, they auditioned me for seven to eight hours with two scenes.”
Playing Majnu was not at all easy for Avinash as he had to shed a lot of kilos. “Besides, I had
to understand him thoroughly. My take on Majnu was very different. I always felt sad for him. On the contrary, I loved Sajid Ali’s version of Majnu, who is more powerful. When you are free from the trappings of the world, you feel liberated; that is how this Majnu is. The power and freedom that the character gives you is what every youth would love,” he says.
Tripti, who had heard many versions of the Laila Majnu story, was confused whether she would be able to pull it off. “I used to think Laila is calm, composed and lady-like. But when I read director’s version, it was totally the opposite. I had to detach myself from the old Laila. This Laila is a flirt and someone who is the dream girl of all Kashmiri boys. She is aware of it and uses her charm to get her work done. She talks a lot and is always seeking attention.”
Sajid’s elder brother and famous director Imtiaz Ali has written the screenplay of the film. About working with the brothers, Avinash says, “Imtiaz sir gives you a little more freedom, Sajid sees it and implements it.” Tripti agrees: “Both have a unique working style. Imtiaz is very easy going. He will ask you your point of view and then he will explain his view points. But he finds a mid way through both the thoughts. Sajid, on the other hand, is very particular. He knows his story and he wants his actors to be like that. He keeps working on a scene until he is convinced.”Meanwhile, both the actors have signed a three-film deal with the filmmakers, so wait for more surprises.