Meet the Man Whose Debut Film Is Premiering at Busan Film Festival

Hardik Mehta’s ‘Kaamyaab’ is an ode to Bollywood’s ignored “side heroes”. 

Indian Cinema
5 min read
Hardik Mehta is making his feature film debut with <i>Kaamyaab</i>.&nbsp;

It’s not often that a debut directorial gets a Busan premiere. And for writer-director Hardik Mehta, who waited for four long years to see his first feature film Kaamyaab to materialise, it’s perhaps a vindication of sorts. The film, starring Sanjay Mishra and Deepak Dobriyal, will have its world premiere under the ‘A Window On Asian Cinema’ section at the 23rd Busan International Film Festival on 5th October.

Kaamyaab revolves around a seasoned character actor who decides to come out of retirement and begins a quest for that elusive 500th role, for which he shall be remembered forever.

The poster of <i>Kaamyaab</i>.
The poster of Kaamyaab.
(Photo courtesy: Drishyam Films)
For Hardik, the film is about paying a tribute to the super talented yet mostly ignored “side heroes” of Bollywood - character actors who “make the hero look good”.

Kaamyaab talks about our own cinema,” says the young writer-director, whose short documentary Amdavad Ma Famous (now on Netflix) won him a National Award.

It’s a high for Drishyam Films (DF) too, whose Dhanak (directed by Nagesh Kukunoor) also made its Asia premiere at Busan 2015. Says DF founder and producer Manish Mundra, “Our philosophy... is to give young directors and talent a platform to create world-class cinema. We believe in the film (Kaamyaab) and it’s great to see it getting its due."

The Quint caught up with Hardik Mehta to talk about Kaamyaab, working with Sanjay Mishra and cracking the box office riddle.

Writer-director Hardik Mehta.&nbsp;
Writer-director Hardik Mehta. 
(Photo courtesy: Drishyam Films)

Congratulations for Busan! What was your first reaction when you heard the news?

Hardik Mehta: I was very surprised with the selection. But that’s the thing about global film festivals; you might never know what they pick. Also it reinstates our faith in making the film the way we want to make, and not make it in a way that appeases the festival audience so we can get selected there. Kaamyaab is as Indian a film as it can be. After all, it is about Hindi cinema’s “side actor” who has always made the hero look good!

What inspired Kaamyaab? Why did you want to make your feature debut with this film?

HM: Did you know that the iconic dialogue “Hum jahan khade hote hai line wahin se shuru hoti hai” – was not spoken by Amitabh Bachchan in the film Kaalia? The dialogue was of actor Bob Christo. He speaks it first in jail and then Bachchan follows it with a retort and eventually announces: “Hum bhi jahaan khade hote hai, line waheen se shuru hoti hai”. When I first got to know this trivia, I was so fascinated. Imagine one of the best dialogues of an Indian film came from a character actor and not the hero!

The idea for the film originally came from old film posters. Growing up we used to see lots of side actors who were often the ‘villain ke aadmi’ on the posters. And then our cinema became so indulgent with stars and heroes’ faces, all of these faces suddenly went out of the poster. Everything about Hindi cinema became about a HERO! And that made me curious, that when did this transition happen? When did Johnny Lever sir leave the posters while still being in the film? Thus I thought it’s very important for Kaamyaab to get made.
The director on the sets.&nbsp;
The director on the sets. 
(Photo courtesy: Drishyam Films)

Why did you zero in on Sanjay Mishra for the lead? What can we expect from him as ‘Sudhir’, and what would you say you have learnt from him on the sets?

HM: I always wanted the audience to feel as if they are watching an actual character actor’s journey and also at the same time they should not miss ‘a hero’ in the film.

Sanjay sir himself has been part of a huge number of good and not-so-good films, so he brought so much of texture, humour and pathos to the film. It almost made it semi-autobiographical in its nature. He was involved with all the looks that we did on him. He would add elements like a smoke pipe, like a horseshoe moustache, like the pointed heel shoes and so many elements that elevated the film.

Although he is 57-58, he has the energy of a 25-year-old and what else can a filmmaker ask for from his actor?

Hardik Mehta with Amit Joshi (left) and Vikramaditya Motwane (centre).&nbsp;
Hardik Mehta with Amit Joshi (left) and Vikramaditya Motwane (centre). 
(Photo courtesy: Facebook)

You have earlier worked closely with Vikramaditya Motwane. What were the biggest challenges and highs while directing your first feature film?

HM: Vikramditya Motwane is one of the finest filmmakers of our country. While closely working on Lootera (as script supervisor) and Trapped (co-writer), I learnt how he gave the actor their space and yet how he managed to capture the emotion in the best possible way. One of the big learnings that I got from Vikram was never to give up. I wrote Kaamyaab in 2014 and I just never gave up on it. And it’s now ready in 2018!

The biggest high on this film was having Drishyam Films and Eros as co-producers. I couldn’t believe that such a reputed production house and a big studio is finally financing my dream, which also means the film will release very soon. Another big high was when Sanjay Mishra and Deepak Dobriyal were cast for Kaamyaab. They both are such fine actors who the Indian audiences haven’t seen together in quite some time.

Festival films generally fail to hit it off with the masses in India. Is it something that’s on your mind?

HM: Absolutely wrong perception. It’s the kind of myth that should be choked to death and buried in a place where no one can find it! Newton earned Rs 25 crore and went to some of the best film festivals of the world. Gangs of Wasseypur went to Cannes but earned great box office revenue. Even Masaan had a good run at the box office even though it released right in between Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Baahubali.

The so-called masses of this country are very educated when it comes to their cinema. They can see from very far what would be a good film even though it might be low on budget. And being at a film festival is a great privilege where you are rubbing shoulders with some of the best in the world. So this perception that festival films are not liked by masses is not correct.

Our film Kaamyaab is about a side actor of the Hindi cinema who always played the doctor, the inspector, the dacoit, the lawyer – and we all know how much while growing up we have enjoyed their roles and spoken those cliché dialogues - “Inhe dawa ki nahi dua ki zaroorat hai”, “kanoon ne tumhe chaaron taraf se gher liya hai”, “Rajesh mere dost, tum marr nahi sakte”. So I am sure that when Kaamyaab comes out, there will be an audience that will love this film. After all, it’s talking about our own cinema.

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