There may be strings of familiarity binding them, but theatre and film are dissimilar art forms from the word go. And to be able to successfully portray an identical subject in both is a tall task — one that debutante filmmaker Kunaal Roy Kapur, whose film The President
is Coming releases on November 28, hopes to have accomplished.
“Theatre and film have separate approaches and throw up very different problems. And they’re detached mediums so the solutions are different,” says Kapur.
Conceptualised at the Writers’ Block theatre workshop and festival in Mumbai, The President is Coming was first performed as a play. “I was in the workshop as an actor but people soon realised that I had a knack of coming up with peppy themes. The idea was developed properly and I directed the play, which was highly appreciated,” says Kapur.
Eventually, the idea of turning the production into a film came up. “Rohan Sippy is producing the film and we brainstormed a lot. One of the biggest challenges was that in theatre, you can be more verbose, so I had to find ways of making the script more visual,” says Kapur.
Based on a script about six young Indians who compete with each other to shake hands with former US president George Bush on his visit to India, Kapur’s film uses satire to highlight the absurdity of the theme. “Bush is always a great punching bag because he’s so easy to make fun of. But this film is less about him and more about the people who will go to any lengths to shake hands with him,” shares Kapur.
What is rare and refreshing is that most of the original cast from the play has been retained in the film. “I had an extremely talented cast to begin with and I had spent a lot of time casting them so I found no reason to change the structure. Of course, moulding their theatrical acting into the cinematic format took a lot of discussion and acting workshops,” explains Kapur.
But there are two popular additions to the cast — Shernaz Patel and Konkona Sen Sharma. “They are both very talented. It was Rohan’s idea to get Konkona involved and I was extremely excited because who wouldn’t want Konkona in his film? She came for a reading session and really enjoyed the script. It was great working with her because she makes a director’s life easy. She has great options of her own and when an actor gives you variety, you tend to see things differently, which is useful for the film,” Kapur laughs.
Having stuck to a tight shooting schedule, Kapur seems happy with the film he has made. “We know The President is Coming has a niche audience, it wasn’t meant to be a mainstream film anyway. But considering the different styles people are constantly being exposed to these days, we can surely hope for a good response,” he says. “The President is Coming should start off a long line of things I want to do in the future.”