Actor-turned-director Parmeet Sethi refutes allegations of creative interference from producer Aditya Chopra and actor, Shahid Kapoor. Says Badmaash Company is his ‘own’ film.
You made your acting debut with Yash Raj Films’ Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and now you will be making your directorial debut with Badmaash Company, being produced by the same banner. How does it feel?
I feel like I’ve come back home and found my true calling. I’ve always wanted to be a director, but then got sidetracked into acting. Then, one day, I told myself, ‘If I don’t make a movie now, it will be too late.” I went to my wife and told her that she’d have to bear with me because I might not bring home any money for the next two years. And Archana’s (Puran-Singh) straight-from-the-heart response was, “Go, live your dream.”
I then sat down to write a script. It took six months. I called up a few actors who didn’t bother to even respond but Adi (Aditya Chopra) agreed to meet me. I took my script to him and he okayed it without a single change. I was ecstatic. But then, the political scenario changed and my thriller was put on hold. My money was fast running out and my frustration was bubbling over when Adi suggested I write another script. This one just took six days. I got Adi’s okay in two hours. That film was Badmaash Company. It’s taken three years to turn from an actor to a director.
Badmaash Company, the title is new, right?
(Laughs) Yeah, we got it only we had finished shooting the film and were getting desperate because we couldn’t promote it without a title. Adi had suggested Badmaash, I had come up with a title that had Company in it. We combined the two and… epiphany!
And how much of it is Aditya Chopra’s?
As I said, he made no changes in my script. And on the sets too, there was no interference of any kind. All the shots were what I’d imagined in my head and not a single one was re-shot. Adi just gave me the budget and infrastructure I needed.
Is Shahid Kapoor an actor-turned-director?
(Chuckles) No, he isn’t. But he’s one of the sharpest actors I’ve come across in my 15 years in the film industry. I just had to look at him, and he knew what he wanted. And being an actor, I knew when he was faking it, and as soon as he knew I’d caught on, he’d smile and say, “Okay, one more.” He never said “no”. And though he usually never praises his directors, one of his buddies told me that he has a lot of good things to say about me.
Don’t the box office failures of his last two films — Dil Bole Hadippa and Chance Pe Dance — make you apprehensive?
Why should they? Even the biggest superstars have survived five-10 flops, and in Shahid’s case, it’s just two. He’s too good an actor to let them impede his progress. Besides, such ups and downs don’t affect a Yash Raj production. My film will get the kind of placement others can only dream of, I’m sure of that.
Shahid was your choice, but apparently Anushka Sharma came on Aditya Chopra’s recommendation. True?
Yeah, Adi was the one who suggested her name and to be honest, I was a little hesitant initially because the movie did not need a salwar-kameez girl like Rab Ne Bana De Jodi (2008). But Adi pushed me into meeting her and once I did, I knew I had my Bulbul.
She surprised me with her spontaneity. She’d come to the sets unrehearsed and say, “Tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” And she did. The only thing I needed to do was make her less polite and more aggressive on screen.
Your lead pair are apparently ‘good friends’ even off camera...
That, I honestly can’t comment on because I never went out with them after ‘packing-up.’ I was too busy thinking about the next day’s shoot. This was my whole life, I couldn’t mess up the chance I had got.
What kind of reactions has the film received?
Encouraging. Which is why I am looking forward to watching it with the audience to see if they react to it the way I want them to. My younger son, Ayushmaan, is waiting to see the final print, with music and effects. The elder one, Aryamaan, has seen it with his mom. He came prepared to lie about liking it, but ended up finding it really cool, like an American flick. “Dad, it’s the best Hindi film I’ve seen,” he said. That gives me hope!