Interview: Shakun Batra on ‘Kapoor and Sons’

March 17, 2016

Shakun Batra‘s first film was an unusual romance – one in which the boy and girl didn’t end up together. Four years later, Batra is back with “Kapoor and Sons“, a family drama with Sidharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt and Fawad Khan in lead roles.

Handout still from “Kapoor and Sons”Batra spoke to Reuters about the film, the influence of Woody Allen and Wes Anderson on his film-making and why he cast Rishi Kapoor, 63, as a 90-year-old.

Does the publicity blitz for your film add to your nerves, because there is so much hype?
(Laughs) I wish they would release the film right now … this way or that way. It’s not about the publicity, but it’s just that you’ve worked on something for so long that the thought of putting it out there is nerve-racking.

Your first film didn’t end the way most Bollywood films end. Do you want to veer away from traditional storytelling methods in your films?
There are certain kind of stories I connect with and a certain kind of storytelling that I enjoy. It is not a conscious decision to stay away from a certain kind of storytelling. Like a lot of people asked me about “Kapoor and Sons” and why I was making a film about a dysfunctional family. But I don’t know what they are talking about. This is how families are to me. Dysfunctional is just a word that gives it a genre and makes it more marketable. Families do fight, they do get on each other’s nerves.

When I was watching films in the 90’s, the films were full of families who were hugging each other, going on picnics together and playing antakshari (a singing game), and I realized my family is nothing like this. Till the time I saw “Monsoon Wedding.” That’s what felt like a real family. In the same day, sharing a lovely moment to hitting someone by the end of the day. When I made this film, it’s an attempt to showcase my point of view. I am not trying to be rebellious for the sake of it.

Handout poster from “Kapoor and Sons”But we were the audiences for these films, which all did really well. How come we accepted those saccharine sweet families then?
No. It’s just that we weren’t the ones making films. As you grow up, you develop a taste and you discover what you love. I could have enjoyed those films back in the day, but it is not something that connected with me. Till the time I saw “Monsoon Wedding” and saw Woody Allen films is when I realized what movies can do.

Aside from Woody Allen, any influences closer home?
Like I said, “Monsoon Wedding” was a milestone film when it came to making family dramas. Also “Dil Chahta Hai”. These films did more than just entertain, there were trying to put a voice out there. Movies like “Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander” and “Mr India”. It would be difficult to pick directors, but films are easy to pick.

Have your influences affected your style of film-making?
When I made my first film, I was so obsessed with Wes Anderson – his style, his shot-taking, his tonality. The quirks that came with his characters  – it was all so well thought out. But in this film, I am going completely the other way. This is not designed at all. I didn’t want it to feel designed. In this one, it was all about hiding the design. You have to be the fly on the wall. Your craft cannot be seen.

Can you elaborate on that?
When you are showcasing a real family, I didn’t want to distract you from them by showing you that the camera is there. It was very important that the audience feels they are another person in the room. Magic only works when you cannot see it.

Handout still from “Kapoor and Sons”What are you working on next?
Hopefully not wasting time. It took me four years to make this. It took me a whole year to write it, then another year to cast it. I am just hoping this time, the turnaround will be quicker.

Last question. Why didn’t you cast an older actor instead of casting Rishi Kapoor and putting him in prosthetic make-up as the grandfather in the film?
Two things. One, this part is so pivotal to the film, that unless I found the most convincing actor for it, I wouldn’t have been able to pull it off. Secondly, this character needs a bit of charm and craziness and Rishi Sir had that. And I don’t know, if I got a 85-year-old and something happened to him in the middle of the shoot? I would have had to go back and shoot all over again (laughs).

(Editing by Tony Tharakan; Follow Shilpa on Twitter @shilpajay and Tony @TonyTharakan. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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