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Nagesh: Beyond the walls

With Teen Deewarein, Nagesh Kukunoor has notched up another hit. For there is no way that this thriller will not be a hit.

entertainment Updated: Aug 11, 2003 14:38 IST

What can you say about a filmmaker who has made four feature films in five years but has managed to rope in all the three mega stars - Amitabh Bachchan, Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri - he dreamt of working with when he started out?

That he's ambitious, just plain lucky or impeccably professional? For Nagesh Kukunoor it seems to be a win, win situation anyway given that Teen Deewarein (which finally saw the light of the day at Cinefan 2003 yesterday evening) not only drew the biggest crowd so far at any Cinefan screening this year, it was also was worth the wait. It was to have been released in December last and got delayed because of shoddy planning– the production company couldn't make up their minds on whether to release it internationally or nationally first!

Starring the incomparable Naseeruddin Shah along with mainstream stars Jackie Shroff and Juhi Chawla along with Kukunoor himself, Teen Deewarein has been inspired by Yerawadi prisoners in Pune. Kukunoor as Nagya, Shroff as Jaggu and Shah as Ishaan are serving death sentences for murders. While Nagya believes in the dictum of Satyamev Jayate, Ishaan believes its his destiny (but he likes to keep a door for escape open - quite literally) and Jaggu feels the hanging is deserved, because being behind prison bars is not retribution enough for his crime.

When Chandrika (played by a very restrained and brilliant Chawla) as a documentary filmmaker walks into their lives to find out what goes on in the mind of a killer, she also asks questions to which there aren't any readymade answers. She also ends up getting involved with them one way or another.

Explaining his choice of actors Kukunoor says, "I've had a crush on Juhi every since I saw her in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak so this particular role was written specially with her in mind. More importantly, I feel she is a greatly underutilized actress. As for Jackie he is also committed and I didn't face any problems. On my sets, they had to untrain their mindsets off Bollywood where the norm is when the stars are ready, the shot is ready. Here it was a case of when the shot is ready the stars had better be ready."

For Kukunoor who candidly admits that doesn't want "to get pigeon-holed as a light-headed comic director only," he makes a point deliberately with a bi-lingual thriller like Teen Deewarein. Not only is it differently paced and in both Hindi and English but also keeps one rivetted to the last shot despite becoming predictable in the last 10 minutes.

He takes the genre a step further with his upcoming project, Turn which is a dark thriller - far more so than Teen Deewarein. "While Teen… is a drama about three prisoners, it has its light moments. Turn is much more dark and will be accordingly paced."

The film is about a man and his family, who witness a murder while vacationing in Rajasthan. "They are faced with a choice of making either the 'wrong' or the 'right' turn to escape themselves. With the murderer chasing them across the desert, chaos becomes the buzzword when they take the wrong turn. In other words, make a wrong choice. "It could happen to any of us," says Kukunoor. "In life we're always faced with choices and the film is about making that one 'wrong' move."

In life and work, though, Kukunoor is making the right (if a little out-of-the-box) choices. Take for instance, another of his upcoming projects Tandoor which includes none other than Amitabh Bachchan himself with whom he's likely to face problems of a very different kind.

Bachchan's onscreen persona overshadows any projects that he takes on and the film itself assumes larger-than-life proportions despite being small budget. Kukunoor faces the unenviable task of confining that image by making AB play a chef of Mughlai cuisine.

"Mr. Bachchan will have to be a chef and not just 'act' like one. He will be playing a widower based in New York who falls in love with a lawyer. The food acts as a metaphor throughout. It's what I would label as an old-fashioned, romantic, feel-good movie, with lots of light-hearted moments."

Kukunoor's dream cast (read first choice as he still has to finalise the female lead) includes Susan Sarandon or Francis McDormand as the lawyer opposite Bachchan. "But big Hollywood stars are near impossible to get. Let's see."

Let's see indeed, for Kukunoor is not only a name to reckon with in film circles now, but a man who believes that he'll get what he wants, when he wants. So far, he's managed it and one wouldn't be surprised if he pulls offthe feat - yet again.