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    “Traditionally infidelity brings with it a negative messaging” – Onir

    [Interview by Joginder Tuteja]
    Monday, August 21, 2006
    In a string of releases that coming weeks are about to throw, there is one film that is standing out amongst the crowd. Is it just the look factor or an assemble starcast that is responsible for that? Or is it plain expectation factor that is associated from the film’s director Onir who gave a sensitive ‘My Brother Nikhil’ last year.

    We get into an EXCLUSIVE 3 part conversation with Onir to know more about ‘Bas Ek Pal’ that is slated for release in a few weeks from now.

    First thing that everyone would want to know about the film. Why a title like 'Bas Ek Pal'?

    There are couple of reasons behind naming the film as 'Bas Ek Pal'. First and foremost the film revolves around one single incident that changes the lives of the five prime protagonists of the film that are played by Sanjay Suri, Jimmy Shergill, Juhi Chawla, Urmila Matondkar and Rehan Engineer. Other reason is that throughout the film; each of the 5 characters is shown looking for that 'one moment of happiness'.

    How did the film happen?

    In fact the script of the film was written way back in 2002 and at that time it was called 'Ek Pal Ke Liye'. Me and Sanjay Suri were looking for a producer at that time but then since I didn't have a film against my name ['My Brother Nikhil' released later in 2005], no one was willing to take a risk with me.

    There were apprehensions about giving me the kind of budget that the film warranted and what was ironic was that the same people were willing to back bad scripts just because the film was to be directed by an established director.

    Thankfully after 'My Brother Nikhil', accessibility to the actors became easier and also my friend Shailesh [who is the co-producer of the film] recommended if we make 'Ek Pal Ke Liye'. I wasn't too sure if he was serious and only when he really insisted that this should be made possible was when I really started believing the proposal. See, the kind of director I am I always want my own space while making a film and hence be creatively satisfied. Lack of any of these two things would really give me an environment where I am comfortable. Hence I wanted to be doubly sure.

    Nevertheless, we then came up with a new title 'Bas Ek Pal', which in the hindsight I feel is much more relevant, and hence the movie was born!

    You mentioned that the film warranted a certain budget. Would you want to reveal that?

    Ya, certainly! See if we do not really count the publicity costs, the film has been made in approximately 3.75 crores, which I believe is a reasonable figure for a film with so many actors. Also, I always want to ensure that the budget doesn't cross the red line because then it doesn't help anybody.

    A film's budget should always be driven by the script and it would be a wrong thinking if I say that since 'Bas Ek Pal' is bigger than 'My Brother Nikhil' in terms of budget, my third film would be made on an even larger scale. That should never be the case!

    Any genre in which the film can be classified?

    Not exactly! It is a film about urban relationships. Yes, the way film has been formatted you may call it a thriller but then again it is not a whodunit or something like that!

    Film's promos indicate that 'Bas Ek Pal' is centered on infidelity. Is that the case?

    No, I won't say that the film revolves around infidelity. That somehow gives negative connotations because traditionally infidelity as a term brings with it a negative messaging. Now my film does have a thread about infidelity but by no means can I classify it as a negative trait when looked as a part of the script. Hence an aversion to labeling the film to be centered on infidelity.

    How did you manage to get such a unique and interesting starcast in place?

    Inside me I was sure that I had a strong script in hand. Also the characterizations were such that I wanted a cast which is not bigger than the film. I was looking for a set of actors who would be interesting in working with me without really doing me a favor and then should be overall charged and enthusiastic about the script.

    Coming to each of the actors, having Sanjay on board went without saying because he was the one who was me with me from the very inception of the script years back. In fact he is the one who is instrumental in getting me into films. So Sanjay was a quick decision.

    In case of Jimmy, I had narrated the script to him way back in 2002 and he was kicked about the idea even then. We were in touch and hence when the film was finally ready to become a reality, he was roped in.

    With both Sanjay and Jimmy, the scenario is that they may not be superstars but they are very good actors who know what they are doing. Both of them have so much more to give to the industry than they have actually got a chance to do so far!

    How about the others?

    Well, Juhi is not just a very good actor but also a very nice human being. For me it is quite important that I share a good relationship with the people I work in my film. Juhi is a person who brings so much warmth with her that it is imperative one works with her again. After 'My Brother Nikhil', I thought of Juhi to play an important character that is on an edge and has a lot of gray shades to her. Now it was quite challenging to cast Juhi in such a role because she had never done something like this before.

    I was quite apprehensive whether she would agree to being a part of the film or not. When I met her I handed over the script and when she returned back I was pleasantly surprised to see her liking the different layers of her characters and nodding in the affirmative. I also wish to add that she is an actor who comes across so dignified on screen that nothing that she does can look cheap on her!

    For the character that Urmila plays in the film, we wanted someone who can demonstrate traits like being vibrant, extrovert and at the same time being confident about her sexuality. The character is shown to be one who openly flouts her sexuality with a carefree attitude to match and how some incidents in her life make her become much more responsible and convert from a girl-woman to a woman. With an ideal combination of glamour and good acting skills, Urmila was a natural choice and in no time she was on board.

    Rehan was difficult to cast because the character demanded a boy-man who was childlike on one hand and also quite aggressive on the other. I didn't want someone to be overtly macho and wanted him to look vulnerable as well as scary alternatively!

    This is how the overall cast fell into place. Having said that the good part about casting all the actors for 'Bas Ek Pal' was that no one refused to be a part of the film after reading the script.

    To be continued


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