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Kaushik plans a global film

Saibal Chatterjee digs out the details of his next film, Biharilal Mritak.

india Updated: Apr 25, 2006 21:04 IST

By a sheer quirk of fate, Satish Kaushik is set to have two releases in the same year for the first time ever in his chequered directorial career. The Subhash Ghai-produced comedy, Shaadi Se Pehle, opened a couple of weeks ago, and the long-delayed Milenge Milenge, a film from the Boney Kapoor stable starring Shahid Kapur and Kareena Kapoor, is scheduled to hit the screens in August.

But the one film that the actor-director is really looking forward to is the offbeat, reality-inspired Biharilal Mritak. “The screenplay is ready and I will begin shooting the film in December,” Kaushik reveals. Kaushik’s own company will be producing the film.

The real-life story of Kaushik’s first auteur film is about Lal Bihari, a villager from Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh district who was pronounced dead in the state revenue records and had to struggle long and hard to get back his identity.

Lal Bihari was in Mumbai recently to help Kaushik understand the details of his life better. Although rumours about Pankaj Kapur, an actor Kaushik admires enormously, will be playing Mritak  have been repeatedly scotched, the director insists that he is still in the running, as are a couple of other actors “who are keen to play the role”.

Satish Kaushik is looking forward the reality-inspired Biharilal Mritak. "The screenplay is ready and I will begin shooting the film in December," Kaushik reveals.

With

Mritak

, Kaushik, whose Bollywood hits include films like

Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai

and

Tere Naam

, wants to make an international breakthrough. “I am really keen to fly in technicians, including the cinematographer, from the West to work on Mritak,” he says.

“The film,” he says, “will be no longer than 90 minutes because that is the length that is internationally accepted.”

Although the story of Mritak  is set in Uttar Pradesh, Kaushik intends to shoot the film somewhere in Rajasthan or Haryana. “It is not easy shooting in Uttar Pradesh,” he says. “I need the north Indian winter because I want the woollen-clad look for my characters,” he says.

Kaushik is happy with the way Shaadi Se Pehle has panned out. “The response to the film has been positive,” he asserts. “It has performed strongly in most major territories.”

He describes Shaadi Se Pehle as a gag film. “It is neither slapstick nor situational,” he says. “It’s a film that depends on a string of one-liners.”
Admitting that it isn’t easy sustaining an entire film on the strength of a series of verbal gags, Kaushik says Shaadi Se Pehle, which is a tad over two hours long, would have worked even better had its running time been 90 minutes or so.

Although it may not be all that apparent, Shaadi Se Pehle has strong links with Kaushik’s theatre and television background. Its take-off point is the early 1960s Broadway play Send Me No Flowers. That play has been staged in Hindi – first as Afsos Hum Na Honge and then as Hai Mera Dil - for over two decades. At a point of the Hindi version’s record-breaking run, Kaushik was involved with it in a cameo role of a cemetery supervisor.

Shaadi Se Pehle, Kaushik admits, also draws inspiration from the weekly stand-up comic act that Pankaj Kapur and he presented as part of a popular countdown show on Zee TV in the 1990s. “A part of that spirit of improvisation has gone into Shaadi Se Pehle,” he adds. 

Why is Kaushik looking for a change of pace considering that this career as a commercial Bollywood filmmaker is on an even keel? “I have been working non-stop since I made Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hain in 1999,” he says. “I’ve had one release every year since then. I now want to take some time off and think about my options. I am looking for creative renewal.”