How We Made ‘Talvar’: A Producer’s Note (Part 1)
Our film Talvar, directed by Meghna Gulzar, produced by Junglee Pictures and Vishal Bhardwaj, has opened to rave reviews, the box numbers are steady, and it seems like a good time to rewind the reel a bit.
When I joined the Creative & Development team at Junglee Pictures, I realized I was just the fourth person in the team, apart from our CEO, CFO, and office assistant. And on the very first day, I got to read the script of Talvar, written by Vishal Bhardwaj (VB).
Flashabck pe Flashback:
The presser of Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola. I was with CNN-IBN then. I ask a question to VB and he replies a bit agitated, “Tumne toh script padhi hai, tumhe toh pata hi hai sab.”
I am a curious soul by nature. Any news, I need to know it first. I guess it comes with that nose-for-news territory. And more so, if it’s about films. So, which studio green lit which director’s what script and why, are questions that have always been on my radar.
If you have good friends in Versova and Aaram Nagar, it’s easy to get the script of any film. I would always get those ones. First, for academic purpose, what’s so good in it that it got greenlit by a studio. Second, to see if my judgement on the script is right or not. Not to boast, but luckily I have not been on the wrong side so far. VB’s anger was justified, as I had got the script without any permission, read it and had blogged few lines about it, which has bothered the studio. The usual suspect was Anurag Kashyap. He had no role in it but it wasn’t the first time that he got into trouble because of me.
So, from trying to source the scripts to now getting everything on a platter, it was a great opportunity. Since we have always been cribbing about the bad state of Bollywood films, it was also a good opportunity to finally get my hands dirty – to find the answers from other side - was it possible to make better films?
Now there was a new member in the team – Kanika. Me, Kanika and our boss Priti, we all liked the script at first go. I have always believed that when VB is good, he is best. When he is bad, he is better than most in Bollywood, because he is easily one of the best writers we have. But knowing the subject and its reach, the idea was to make it in a tight budget. VB made this happen. The best of the crew which worked with him on Haider, they all came on board for Talvar – including Pankaj (DoP), Subbu-Amitda (Production Designer), Shajith-Sanjay (Sound) and CD/Ghazal/Ankur (ADs).
Honey did some terrific casting. We saw the final auditions, and it was, “lock him, lock her, lock him, lock her.”
The first schedule of about 10 days went smoothly in Mumbai. It was mostly indoor shoots and interior locations. Except the heat, everything else was going smooth. This seemed like a good warm up for our upcoming big second schedule in Delhi and Noida. And BOOM!
INT/EXT. Times Guest House, Delhi/Noida – Evening/Night
One day before our first day of shoot in Delhi, we got to know that none of the 4-5 locations that we had finalized earlier, are working out. Everything seems to be falling flat. (Tip – Delhi Line Producers will always say ho jayega. But never trust them till you have got your shots). Panic. Frantic calls. Is it bad luck? Not a film shoot friendly city? No responsible Line Producers? No solution in sight? Let’s hit the bar and hog some good barra kebabs of Delhi. When nothing works, do that thing which will at least make you happy.“Shoot toh hum kar ke rahenge”, shouted Honey in his boisterous Punjabi tone to cheer up Meghna. We all were busy gulping down our stress over beer, butter chicken and kebabs. There was also discussion on going back to Mumbai and shooting everything there.
Delhi/Noida was our choice because the idea was to make everything look real - house, roof, terrain, neighbourhood, roads, locality. Shoot mostly on real locations except when it’s not possible. And there is big difference between Delhi and Mumbai when you compare its terrain, structures, designs and atmosphere. Everyone started calling everyone possible they knew in Delhi.
Finally, thanks to Honey’s contacts from previous films, we had a few options by late evening. Nothing exactly the way we wanted, but we could manage. When you are shooting a film on a tight budget in just 30-35 days, every day seems like a life and death scenario. The choice was to waste a day or manage somehow. If you have seen the film, the CDI day scene where Ashwin Kumar (Irrfan Khan) is handed over the double murder case, while he is playing snake game on mobile, we shot that on our first day.
A big chunk of the film was shot inside a house. Finding the right house was another hurdle. After much search, we got one. We got the residents staying there to move to a hotel, everything locked, and then the society said no, we can’t shoot. The shoot in the house was to start after a few days of outdoor shoot. Again, we were coming close to the shoot date and had no location in sight. And again, we got lucky at the last moment. We found the house! Alan, our EP, made sure this time that he had got everyone’s signature for approval - the housing society, neighbours, people in same compound.
A crew of about 50 people inside a 2-BHK, locked from all sides, black clothes covering every possible ventilation source, and then the ACs stopped working. This at a time, when Delhi/Noida temperatures hit 40 degrees even during night time. During day time, it felt like all your body-fat would melt in the heat.
“Anacondas! Where are the anacondas?”, is all I heard.
(Somen Mishra works with Junglee Pictures. He was the supervising producer on Talvar.)