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A Wednesday revisited

The team of one of the most unforgettable films in years gets together for Café. Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher.. director Neeraj Pandey, Deepal Shaw and producers Anjum Rizvi-Sheetal Bhatia.. to banter with Rachana Dubey.

india Updated: Jan 19, 2009 16:56 IST

The team of one of the most unforgettable films in years gets together for Café. Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher..
director Neeraj Pandey, Deepal Shaw and producers Anjum Rizvi-Sheetal Bhatia.. to banter with Rachana Dubey.

What is each one of you thinking right now?
(Roaring laughter)
Anupam Kher: I’m flying to Kashmir to shoot for Rahul Dholakia’s Lamha.
Naseeruddin Shah: Kher saab it’s pretty cold there. (Looking at me) I am thinking about the shaami kababs waiting for me at home.
Deepal Shaw: I’m thinking about how I’m going to drive my way through the traffic to my home in Navi Mumbai.
Neeraj Pandey: I’m wondering if Naseerbhai and Anupamji will work again with me on my next project.
Anjum Rizvi: I’m wondering how many awards Neeraj will win..

Could you have ever predicted the response to the film?
Naseer: None of us ever had a doubt about the script. From Day One of the shoot, we knew that the film would be received well. I’ve often been disappointed working with seasoned filmmakers but the new ones have an infectious enthusiasm which drives me to deliver my best.
Anupam: I can count it among my best five.

Do you’ll feel movies should be made on the 26/11 attacks?
Neeraj: It’s the wrong question to ask us.
Naseer: We shouldn’t even utter the names of filmmakers who are registering titles for films based on the subject.. whether it’s Ram Gopal Varma or whoever else.
The fact that movies will be made dealing with the different aspects of the attack.. meaning the terrorist’s point of view, that he was on empty stomach for 20 days and wrote his last letters to his mother, has registered in public memory because the press has given it that importance.

Didn’t the attacks trigger negative vibes for A Wednesday?
Anupam: Ironically, the film preempted what happened in November. The common man became the hero. That made the film more relevant but that is no achievement at all in terms of what the city went through.
Naseer: It was good to see the candle marches uniting the citizens but we’ve had enough of those I guess. As for the allegation that the film inspired unrest, I don’t agree with that at all. If a movie could ‘inspire’ so much, then ours would be an utopian society.

Just how much are we inspired by the values and morals talked about in the movies— about the honest cop and the crafty politician who get killed? We are inspired by the Vijay of Deewaar and Gabbar Singh of Sholay. I think the argument doesn’t hold at all. What do you think Neeraj?
Neeraj: The last dialogue between Kher saab and Naseerbhai was the message I wanted to send out. So, I don’t see a problem with that.

Has A Wednesday made a difference to any one of your lives?
I’m being taken more seriously as an actress. The funny part is that I’m offered roles of journalists. A couple of journalists have also suggested I join a news channel. I’m considering a few scripts now. I’ve not signed anything yet. Vikalp and Runway should release this year.
Anupam: There are very few movies which reassure you as an actor, and keep you going for some more years. This film did that for me. My secretary is tired of taking calls from producers who say, “Sirji, ek A Wednesday type ki script hai.” (Chuckles) After donkey’s years, I can possibly play the lead now because this film has placed me in that bracket. Anjum: It was a once in a lifetime project which I can be proud for the rest of my life.
Naseer: I knew I would enjoy the work which is the primary criterion while selecting projects. The box-office doesn’t matter.

What’s your take on awards?
Anupam: Award ceremonies are TV events. They have no credibility.
Naseer: Our awards are the audience reactions in the cinema hall.
Sheetal: Ninety-nine per cent of the shows in cinema halls in India and abroad ended with standing ovations. No trophy can replace that.

Why wasn’t the film taken to festivals and pitched for international awards?
Ours is not a festival film, it’s only for private consumption. (Smiles)
Naseer: Our producers are lazy chaps. They didn’t want to move their butts from their offices to take the film to international festivals. (Smiles) Jokes apart, A Wednesday should have gone to the festivals but it didn’t because the goras have their own preconceived notions. (Making a face) According to the guys at the Toronto Film Festival, our movie didn’t conform to their ideas about India.
Anupam: They can’t stomach the fact that Indians can also make terrific movies on international
subjects like terrorism.
Naseer: It should have been India’s entry to the Oscar Awards in the Best Foreign Film category.. but well, that’s another story.

Monetarily, did the movie recover its cost?
It has not only recovered its cost but is considered one of the commercial hits of 2008.
Sheetal: It has made profits.. both tangible and intangible.

Why was the title changed from Wednesday to A Wednesday?
Neeraj: The project had remained in cold storage for three months. Then, we decided to rename it and eureka, it worked. The title is taken from the Kher saab’s opening lines, “It was a Wednesday.”
Naseeruddin Shah has walked away with all the praise while the appreciation for Anupam Kher has been relatively low.
Naseer: Don’t you know I have extremely sharp PR machinery? I have learnt how to make my way into the reviews. Kher saab is neglected because he’s above it all, he doesn’t understand the nuances of that job. (Laughter)
Anupam: I think Naseer deserved the applause in the reviews. He represents the common man, he’s the element which had to be talked about.
Naseer: I’ll thank Anupam for that but after reading the reviews, I believe there is no difference in the opinion of a rickshaw driver and a critic. They both don’t see the difference between the actor and the character.
Anupam’s character made the film what it is. I’m not being modest but any competent actor could have done my part very easily. It hurts to read the reviews talking only about me and not him. He’s recognised but not appreciated.
Anupam: If it were someone else other than Naseerbhai walking away with all the praise, I would have had serious issues.

Why didn’t Naseeruddin Shah’s character have a name?
Naseer:Mazhab mein kya rakha hai? Why can’t he just be a common man? Some thought that the man was a Parsi bawa because bawas have a problem with spitting on the walls and breaking rules and regulations.
Anupam: Mahendra Singh Dhoni asked me, “Sir, woh aadmi ka naam kya tha.. film mein shaayad miss ho gaya. Director ne to bataya hoga aapko?” Now, isn’t that very innocent of him to think that I would know the character’s name off the record?
Neeraj: The man mattered at the end, not his name and his religion.

What are you guys planning to do together next?
Naseer: We are planning a musical sequel. Deepal will be the item girl. We have two hot-shot heroes, Aamir Khan and Jimmy Sheirgill. Anupam and I will become crooks a la Charles Shobhraj. And Neeraj will direct his first commercial colourful project. (Loud laughter)
Anjum: This time the film won’t be a no-budget film.