It’s not every day that you witness a relationship so extraordinary between a protégé and a mentor. For screenwriter Juhi Chaturvedi, director Shoojit Sircar is the final word on all matters of storytelling.
Testimony to this is the fact that all her work, thus far, has been exclusively penned for Sircar. “I like the fact that he pierces through your writing and tells you if it is bul***it.
He’s judging it from a place of awareness, which is what makes me his student for life,” she says.
For him, on the other hand, Chaturvedi’s writing is compelling, modern and forward-looking—everything he values in a script.
Together they have created some of the most acclaimed films of recent times, including Vicky Donor, Piku, October, and now Gulabo Sitabo, that released on June 12, on Amazon Prime. Here’s a quick chat on the new project.
Gulabo Sitabo’s Amazon release, as opposed to a theatrical release, has created a huge buzz. What made you take this decision?
Shoojit: Taking the plunge only seemed right. Anyway, I believe that when a film is made, its destiny is already decided. Nothing is bigger than that, not me, not anybody. If it has to do well, it will do well irrespective of the platform. The current times demand all of us to adapt to changes quickly. We can’t sit at home. It’s my job to put the film in front of the audience using whatever means are available to me. Therefore, I had been discussing with digital platforms like Amazon and Netflix for a long time. It finally materialised with Amazon Prime.
What’s the wait been like for you? Do you think an OTT release will grab more eyeballs?
Juhi: It’s been a two-year wait for me as a writer. I believe that if the product is complete, it should hit theatres immediately. But that wasn’t possible. The only way to survive is to go with the flow. With an OTT release, I am sure more people will see it.
The quirky title of Gulabo Sitabo has generated a lot of excitement among movie buffs. How
did it come about?
Juhi: It’s something Shoojit coined. I had a different title but he felt this one had a quirkier ring. Gulabo Sitabo has been derived from the puppet theatre art form popular in UP. Gulabo is the overworked spouse while Sitabo is his mistress. It highlights the equation between Mirza and Banke (played by Big B and Ayushmann).
You spent the formative years of your life in Lucknow. What was it like going back and shooting there?
Juhi: Since I left Lucknow in 1996, this was the first time I stayed and roamed around the city. There are places from the city that I had mentioned in the script and wanted to show Shoojit exactly what they were like. Interestingly, I managed to revisit all of them, some being my absolute favourite. Even if I had a window free from work, I would just run away. It was so cathartic.
It must have been invigorating to work with talents such as Ayushmann Khurrana and Amitabh Bachchan. Please share what it was like.
Shoojit: Amitabh is like a small child, always excited about getting a new toy (films). He’s ready to experiment with any role at the drop of a hat. Challenges fuel his creativity. As for Ayushmann, we worked together on Vicky Donor last. It took us a little time to get back into our old groove. He is a lovely person and there is a lot of mutual respect because we started our journey together almost around the same time. The biggest challenge for me was to get both of them in front of the camera and make them perform together. Amitabh’s presence can sometimes overpower others. It took a little time to get used to but eventually it was great fun.
Finally, are you both a bundle of nerves or relaxed and looking forward to the release set in a few days?
Shoojit: It’s all about creating good cinema. That’s what we’ve always strived to do.
The excitement is inevitable. There are moments when you wonder what’s going to happen but the best will happen, I am sure.
“Amitabh’s presence can be overpowering. It takes some time to adjust.”Shoojit Sircar Director