Barfi! turns 5: Did you know Ranbir shot high on bhang and Priyanka cried on Day 1?
Anurag Basu was all set to can the first shot for Barfi! but Priyanka Chopra was taking time to come out of the vanity van. When a worried Basu went in to find out what had happened, he saw Priyanka crying. “PC (Priyanka Chopra) said, ‘I am not sure dada whether I will be able to pull it off or not. How do we do it?’ and I just said ‘let’s give it a shot’,” remembers Anurag. The scene being shot was that of Priyanka getting seizures in her house and Ranbir Kapoor coming to calm her down. Next, they were supposed to shoot the song, Saawali Si Raat.
“I usually start with the toughest shot so I know what triggered PC’s reaction but then it came out so well,” says Anurag. As the film completes five years today (on September 14), Anurag opens up about many more behind-the- scenes stories that you probably didn’t know:
1. The whole unit played cricket and enjoyed regular adda session before shooting of the film started.
2. For most of the shooting in Kolkata, Anurag followed guerilla style shooting. One such shoot session at the flower market near Howrah Bridge became quite scary. During the morning, the area is usually choc-a-bloc and Ranbir and PC had to walk through it for the scene. They had walked around 50-60 metres when they got recognised and people started gathering. The situation soon started going out of control and the crew had to chase away the crowd.
3. Unlike what people think, Priyanka and Ranbir didn’t undergo workshops to do the film. They were totally chilled out on the sets. Just a little practice before facing the camera was good enough, says the director.
4. Some portions of the film were shot in Pollachi, a small town in Coimbatore district. There was no proper hotel there, so the crew checked into a “shady hotel” and the actors were put up at a five star accommodation in Coimbatore. But both Priyanka and Ranbir refused to stay there and decided to stay with the crew, who then had to actually clean rooms to make them good enough for the actors.
5. While canning the trolley shot in Darjeeling , it so happened that Priyanka’s trolley was supposed to stop just before the running train passes by. But the time management went wrong and the trolley wasn’t stopping. A panicked Priyanka started shouting. Anurag and one of his assistant directors had to actually lie down on the track to stop it.
6. Believe it or not, neither the cast nor the crew have memory of the scenes they shot on Holi. Thanks to bhang. Yes, you read it right. Anurag says most of his crew wasn’t keen on shooting that day, so he had to bribe them saying that if they shoot, he will treat them to bhang. So when the cast and crew arrived on the sets, there were bottles of bhang already kept ready, and soon they started having it. Everyone from Anurag, to his cameraman to Ranbir got sloshed, yet they shot for the scene. This incident happened in Film City, Mumbai and they were shooting for the scene where Ranbir is in jail and Ileana is talking to Saurabh Shukla about his bail. Anurag shares that he and Ranbir drove back home in a trance after shooting. Later, when he checked if they had shot the scene properly or not, he was relieved that things went fine.
7. Anurag says he wrote Barfi’s character with Ranbir in mind and Priyanka came on board because he felt no one would be a better Jhilmil than her. He even chose Ileana for Shruti out of strong gut feeling. According to Anurag, though Ileana had this bold avatar in South Indian films, he felt her face has the innocence that Shruti’s character demanded.
8. The film, as per Anurag, is a marriage of two to three ideas, but the most prominent came from the NGO that Anurag and his wife Tani are associated with. It works for special kids. In the third floor of the building where this NGO used to run, there was a high school (10 to 12 standard) for the aurally challenged. There Anurag witnessed this beautiful friendship between one of the students named Razia and the peon Mortaza. Whenever Razia used to get her fits, no one except Mortaza could control it. The director shares that he used to enjoy watching them talking to each other. The students of the NGO and the school feel that Barfi is the story of Mortaza and Razia.
9. Though Priyanka met Razia to understand her character, Ranbir never got the opportunity to meet Mortaza.
10. Anurag confesses that he is a self-critical person. When he saw Barfi! a week later, he felt that there are few small mistakes like the kidnapping angle could have been smoother as it stops the narrative at many points in the film.
11. Priyanka and Ileana message Anurag every year on September 14, but the director says that he and Ranbir never remember the film’s anniversary. In fact, last year Priyanka wrote a sweet message to Anurag when the film completed four years.
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