First things first. Can we now call Homi Adajania the latest entrant to New Age Cinema?
[Thinks a little] Hmm, I don't know yaar since I am not a person who really subscribes to labels. Attaching labels is something that is a media thing, you know! I mean what is New Age Cinema? New Age Cinema today could be Old Age Cinema tomorrow! See what I have done is that with the current stuff that we have, I have done something which is out of the box. 'Being Cyrus' has broken certain conventions in terms of narrative style and structure in comparison with what we normally see. And this could be the reason why people say that it's New Age. I don't know yaar, meaning what is New Age Cinema, you know! I hope I have answered your question (laughs) and now you may want to call me whatever based on our own prerogative!
For a person who has been widely appreciated all around, you seem to be pretty modest.
See, I don't mind not being modest. Somehow I know where I come from and I prefer not knowing where am I going. I like to keep something about my life uncertain. Coming to being modest, then well itâ€™s a good virtue [laughs]. I am very well aware about the response the movie has fetched about which I am really thankful for. But more than anything else it sincerely gladdens me because it reaffirms the belief that we have a fantastically evolved audience out here. Now they have appreciated 'Being Cyrus' for what it is. I personally didn't think that the buzz around the film would be so wide spread. This is good for people who want to be creative and want to tell a story in a different way. It has opened up an entirely new gamut. In a way we took a big chance making 'Being Cyrus' because it was so different. Honestly it was made in a certain way to respect an evolved audience's sensibilities. And the fact that now the response has been the way it has been, it really tells you "Good man, you respected them and they are giving you back that respect"! Now that's very satisfying.
So has the audience reaction been consistent across all the major centers it has been released?
No! In fact in Bombay, Pune and Bangalore it has been quite good. I know that in Indore and Hyderabad the reaction has been decent though Calcutta and Chennai have been little low. It is above average in Delhi but not as good as the other centers. In fact what's surprising is that in one part of Delhi it has been rocking while on the other part it has been a bit low, though I don't know why!? I don't know much about this trade thing yaar! In fact someone called me and said that in a particular region the film is a HIT and I asked him what does that mean? He then told me about the calculations by talking about ratio of prints and money and so on and so forth and I could merely say "OK! That's good!"
But your producers and distributors must have been really happy?
Oh yes absolutely. I mean no one was expecting such a huge response. Like till about recently, the movie has been running houseful in Bombay at so many screens. In fact the other night I was walking on the road and a couple of youngsters came and told me that "Hey, are you the director of 'Being Cyrus'? We just saw the film." This was an audience which I was least expecting for my film as they were speaking very broken English. And when I asked how did you like it, they said that "Man, we just loved it". Now this is the good part as whatever they got from the movie they grabbed it! This is quite satisfying as even you didn't foresee this happening. It's a great feeling since 'Being Cyrus' was not the kind of film that could be everyone's cup of tea. I mean there is no film that is everyone's cup of tea. There is no fixed formula otherwise everyone would have been making the same films.
Going off tangent for the moment, since the film was completed some time back, didn't the delay worry you at all?
Ya, the movie was ready in January last year. It didn't worry me though it frustrated me. Then I forgot about it for also since I was traveling for quite some time.
I believe the festivals where the film was shown must have kept you involved to some extent at the least?
To some extent yes, though it was shown exactly at three places. The producer really didn't want to take it through the festival route. It so happened that someone saw the movie and requested us to allow it to be screened at some places. But then when I saw the foreign audience reaction to the movie, there was always a thought that when could I bring the movie back home!? That's something that remained in my head as I wanted to share it with folks here.
How did you go about writing the film? Were there any reference points?
It was a short story written by Kersi Khambata and he told me if I wanted to have a look at it. I looked at it and instantly decided that this is going to be the story of my next film. It was all very instinctive and things really fell in place. So if you ask me that how did you manage to get the cast and how could you get things done and the works, then I would say I didn't have to think twice about it. I wanted a particular cast and went to them and they all agreed one by one. I believe when I narrated the story to them, they could actually see the movie in their head, actually liked what they saw and eventually agreed to be a part of the film.
So was there anyone from the star cast who had reservations/apprehensions about the characters or the script?
[Says firmly] Not at all! [Says after a pause] I think Dimple was the boldest of all. You know actors are very vulnerable about the image their character portrays but Dimple so well portrayed her character of a nagging, irritating woman who could tick off the audience. I actually wanted her to put on some weight for her role. I was aware about the glamorous image she carries but I told her that "Hey, I am sorry but you have to be different here as you need to irritate the audience." And she happily agreed to it. Moreover we also had a couple of workshops where we discussed about what is wanted from each of the characters. Every actor was told about the character was told about the time he/she was born to the present moment, though obviously not everything is visible in the movie. My only challenge as a film maker was that since each character was so extreme, I didn't want them to come across as caricatures.
Simone Singh's selection seemed to be a masterstroke.
Ya, true. And credit for that should go Ambika Hinduja who is the film's producer and also the casting director. She was the one who got me in a meeting with her and then we took her audition and things started falling in place.
Was there anyone else in mind before you met Simone?
[Says after a long pause] There were a couple of other people whom I may rather refrain from naming. But then Ambika understood the importance of the character and wanted to get an actor with the right physicality. She knew that I would be able to get the acting out of the actor but wasn't very happy with my choices of actors due to their physicality. In the end, everything happened for right and I am so glad we got a good set of actors for the film.
The movie was earlier titled 'Akoori' which I believe means scrambled eggs. So how come the film got its new title?
To start with I wanted a fun title for the film. But then the producers had a vey valid argument when they said that they wanted the title to be understandable all over and so can we think of another title! Then after a lot of brainstorming we closed on the title 'Being Cyrus'.
Since the movie is so disturbing with a complex subject, was it really a safe move to make your debut with something like 'Being Cyrus'?
See, I didn't think in those lines. I decided that I want to make movies when I was 21 [I am 34 now] and then I forgot about it. I went and did a lot of other things but when I heard this story, I thought that this is it! Now after the movie is over, I want to make a career out of films. It is such a fascinating process after all!
If one looks at Boman Irani's character, it seems that he has never been so menacing before!
Ya, true he has done a fabulous job. There is so much that goes in his character. See, some people like to turn around and overanalyze their work after it is up on screen. I don't know whether it is right or wrong but it all depends upon you how you want to see the character. 'Being Cyrus' is a film where it stands alone and you watch it for it is. It becomes subjective and it depends upon you how much you want to peel it off as I have given you enough layers for peeling off. It depends whether you want to see the simple broad line or you actually want to go ahead and read between the lines. For me the broad line was the characters were very important. It was about what's not being said rather than what's being said. Then I also wanted some comic elements to be incorporated in the film because if you look at the subject, it is very dark. In the end you empathize with Cyrus when in real life you may actually not because he is such a dark person. And the reason for that is that everything is kept so casual, there is humor in a certain way.
Hearing you it seems that audience may be able to catch finer nuances when they watch 'Being Cyrus' second or the third time. Is it so?
Believe me, there is so much fun when you watch the film again. That's because once you know the plot and hence understand what each of the characters play against each other. Let me give you an example about the scene where Saif meets Simone for the first time. You feel that he is glaring at her because she is one of those pretty young things. But then after you have watched the film you know that he is doing is in fact playing a mind game as he has got one of those rare opportunities when he can dominate the proceedings! And same holds good for all the other characters.
Last 20 minutes of the movie completely catch you unaware
Ya, and in fact it is very funny because my producers were confused and asked me that "Hey Homi, what genre does the film belong to?" And I asked them that why did a film need to belong to a genre? The point was that why can't a film be standalone? Then they asked the same question other way stating that if this film was to be put in a DVD library, which shelf would it go to - thriller, comedy or a drama? My answer to this one that just make three copies of the film and give it to a library!! [Laughs] Now think of it that which genre that 'American Beauty' belong to? If there has to be a genre associated with 'Being Cyrus', I would say the closest it comes to is black comedy, though honestly I didn't intend to make the film as a black comedy!
Coming to background music, I believe Salim-Sulaiman did yet another brilliant job. Isn't it?
Absolutely. They themselves agreed that they had never done something like that before.
So what was the overall sound design like? Was there a concept in mind?
Ya, there was a concept behind it and I actually gave them the references of some stuff that I liked but we knew that it didn't have to be a copy. I didn't want sound to be a medium to elicit a reaction. I didn't want a loud slam somewhere so that people are scared and sh!! like that. I wanted the sound to be exactly different from what actually was happening on the screen. So if there is a real tense moment out there, the sound was meant to be contrasting in nature than something stereotype that one normally sees. For example in a serious scene, the sound of carnival goes on in the background! I wanted to play around with that type of stuff. Every time I thought of doing something, I decided that let me put something totally opposite of that.
When I look at it, the movie comes closer to European cinema than Hollywood.
Ya, I think so!
Any particular portion in the movie that really was challenging for you?
[Says firmly] NO
So you were 100% convinced with the screenplay, what the actors say, what they do and so on and so forth?
True. There was great preparation yaar. I mean I knew exactly what happens where and what time. The schedule was maintained by Kapil Sharma who was the first assistant director of the film. He was unbelievable and knew exactly what shoot happens at which particular location.
From where did the idea of psycho hallucination come up? It was something that really stood out.
You mean the dream world, right? In fact lots of people asked me that why do you want to put that in the film? I really felt that the dream world was the only vehicle by which you could show the inner trauma that Cyrus was going through because he didn't really give anything more than glimpse of what he is going to do next!
So from now, would Homi be known only for making films with dark genre or would he be aiming for something remarkably different?
[Says promptly] Very very different. In fact currently I am working on something that is a love story set in the Goa of pre-60s. It is about dreams and flashbacks and doesn't have a dark angle to it. There are a lot of characters in the village and the film revolves around a postman. The film is still in the scripting stage and the actors would be finalized only later.