He needed to reach the right platform.. and he has with the critically-feted Ek Chalis ki Last Local. Director Sanjay Khanduri talks to Hiren Kotwani
Where do you go now?
Towards quality cinema which takes me a notch ahead from where I started.. so that I can meet the expectations my friends have from me.
Who are your friends?
All those who have supported me. Friends have names too. You won't know them, they're strugglers.. one is a writer, another an actor, most of them are struggling. And of course, there are my parents back home in Delhi's Lajpat Nagar. Eight years ago, I'd just run away from home, packed my bags for Bombay I still feel guilty . about that.
Is that the most sinful thing that you've ever done?
Absolutely otherwise here it was .. just a struggle to be heard and make a movie.
Are you saying you're a 29 year old virgin? And that too after showing a mafia don who goes gaga about a young man and handcuffs him to bed.
(Laughs) I'm not saying that I'm pure as driven snow..but no, there has been no Mangesh Chhilke-like don who went gaga over me.
No gay passes have been made at you. That happens to every guy some time or the other, it could happen while travelling in a train, it could even be a handshake at a party.. nothing serious.
<b1>Isn't Ek Chalis Ki Last Local based on events that actually happened to you?
Only the beginning portion. I missed the last train one night. I was working in Crest Communications. I'd gone to see a film at Sterling cinema.
A havaldar told me I shouldn't hang around at the station for the first train in the morning. Outside, I saw a bunch of guys trying to get a cab. I joined them by putting in my share of the cab's fare and reached home. In the case of the call centre employee, Nilesh Rastogi, in the movie, I prolonged the situation..what if I hadn't got home that night?
How long did it take you to write the film?
I wrote the story in four months.. scripting took a year and a half. Earlier, I was to direct a a smallbudget film for Zee.. but things didn't work out.
I wrote the script, keeping in mind the reality that as a newcomer I'd have to come up with something that is high on content and low on budget. The idea about a guy making Rs 2.5 crore in two and a half hours got me going.
During your days of struggle, who was the nicest person you met?
A journalist called Ranjeet. He was the first person to give me shelter here. I needed a place to spend the night and got to know him through a common friend. He let me stay at his place for a couple of nights..
So you like journos?
I do like and respect them. It was through a journo that I got a job in Crest Communications.
And who's the worst person you've met?
No one specific. But when I was working as a trainee, I was made to swab the floors of the office.
Who made you do this?
You're being politically correct.. unlike your film.
Honestly, I'm quite a contrast to my film. You can say I'm a bore but I promise you that my films won't ever be boring.
Name three films you like.
Maine Pyar Kiya, Satya and Munnabhai MBBS.
What about the Quentin Tarantino influence on your film.. like a man's ear being blown off?
It was the genre I was dealing with.. it's a bit like Tarantino. Shooting off the ear fitted into the screenplay. I can assure you that my story is original.
I believe you once assisted Subhash Ghai. I assisted him during Taal . Then why did you stop working with him?
There was a gap between Taal and his next production. Meanwhile, I got an opportunity to work with Kundan Shah.
Your film is a bit lengthy and starts slowly. Couldn't you have avoided this?
I wanted people to understand the character of Nilesh. I also wanted an element of poetry in Nilesh's relationship with Madhu, the girl who meets him on the road. I agree the film goes into a roller-coaster ride really in the second half.
Apparently, Riteish Deshmukh was the first choice for the role of Nilesh. Where did you get that from?
Riteish is a good friend. I would have loved to cast him. He's a good actor and would have done an equally good job.
Abhay handled it well. You need to understand Abhay.. he has an opinion on most things which need to be sorted. It's fair enough if an actor has questions and needs justifications to do certain scenes in a certain manner.
Didn't you ever feel like shutting him up?
No, he was all there. He agreed to do the provocative scene with Mangesh Chhilke.. other actors might not have..
<b3>What has been the reaction to that scene?
More than anyone else, I was worried about what would my parents say after all the good values they have taught me, I came up with something as super gross as this.
I was two drinks down when they were watching the film. I was scared to sit with them, so I sat with Abhay and Neha. After returning home, my parents talked all night about the movie. They took it in the right stride.. maybe they're more mature than I am.
Why did it take nearly three years to complete the film?
Yeah, it was delayed by about a year and a half not because of anyone but natural calamities. First the Bombay rains, and then the actor's dates which had to be rescheduled.
What if you walked out of the door and found Mangesh Chhilke waiting for you?
I'd give him a big hug. He's the Amitabh Bachchan of my film. I knew he would take my film to a different level. I hope you won't get me into any trouble.. I've a film lined up for Mr Bachchan.