Piyush Jha is one director who likes to experiment with new talents and small actors. His forthcoming film Sikandar too has two children as protagonists and he has been waiting patiently for his film to release. Sikandar was to earlier release on 27 March but could not be released due to the standoff between the multiplexes and producers.
Sikander will now finally hit the screens on 21 August and Jha speaks to Businessofcinema.com about his film.
Tell us about your forthcoming film Sikandar.
The film is a suspense thriller about a boy who wants to play football and he finds a gun on his way to school. He is accompanied by his friend who tells him not to pick up the gun but he does and how events start unfolding after that. He and the girl get caught in a web of conspiracy. The whole suspense is how deep and wide this web goes and this is revealed only at the end of the film. Though there is a reference of terrorism in the background, this is not a film about terrorists.
Why did you choose Kashmir, why not any other part of India?
It could happen anywhere like in Uttar Pradesh, Mumbai or the North East but the film is set in Kashmir only because I found the aspirations of the young Kashmiri children are very similar to any other young child in any other part of the country. I thought it would be interesting to show that there is a young boy who aspires to become a footballer like any other boy in any other part of our country.
Football is just a metaphor… it could be any other game or any other aspiration like a doctor, lawyer or engineer. This young boy wants to follow a path and how this path gets disturbed is what I have shown in the film.
The knowledge about Kashmir is so less because we feel that every young boy walks around carrying an AK-47, which is not at all true. These young kids are very similar to any other kid like for example the Kashmiri boy, Mehrazuddin, who has sung a song for my film is like any normal boy, he likes to watch Harry Potter, he’s a Shah Rukh Khan fan and wants to visit his house, he sings Himesh’s songs like any other kid from any other part of the country.
How did you decide on the cast?
I wanted to cast somebody who looked Kashmiri since the film is set in Kashmir and hence I choose Perzaan. Besides that he’s an actor and he’s exposed and I’ve always liked him since the days of his jalebi ad. He’s lovable and the whole idea was to portray a lovable, innocent looking boy who finds a gun. That was the contrast, it’s about innocence lost and regained.
Ayesha is again a very interesting actor, in Black she did not speak a word but she made a big impact, there is a quality in her face, even when she does not speak much she conveys a lot. That was exactly what I wanted in my character Nasreen.
What about the other actors?
The other actors in the film are Sanjay Suri, R Madhavan and a new actor Arunoday Singh. Sanjay is doing a role, which is very different from the roles he’s done earlier. I told him that I was making a film on Kashmir and I wanted him to read the script. He read the script and said that this was the best story on Kashmir that he had come across. He expressed that he wanted to be a part of the film even if I did not cast him in the movie.
As for Madhavan he said he had always wanted to play an army officer in a film because he was in the NCC. He said he did the film because of that even though he doesn’t have a big role in it.
How did BIG Pictures come in the picture and what’s you equation with Sudhir Mishra?
I was trying for almost two years to make this film but nobody was ready to back it even though they liked the script because it had two children as protagonists. I met Sudhir and told him about it and he suggested that we take the film to BIG Pictures since he had a deal with them. So we went to BIG Pictures with the film and they liked it and that’s how we went ahead with the film.
With Sudhir we don’t have a producer, director kind of equation since he’s a friend.
Do you like to experiment with new actors or do you like working with the experienced ones?
Yes, I like experimenting with new actors. Like Arunoday Singh is new he was introduced to me by Sudhir. Have acted with Ashish Chaudhary in Chalo America. Even Perzaan and Ayesha are new for that matter, it’s their first film as young adults and they are the main protagonists in Sikander.
How important do you think are the big names as far as stars go for a film to succeed at the box office?
Personally I feel that talent, content and actors are more important than big names, but having said that I see around me nowadays that people yearn to be associated with big names, the attraction of people towards big names.
Personally I think that big names do make a certain impact but I don’t know how far I agree to the idea that just having a big name will make a great film. For me the casting has to be right and they have to fit the character.
According to you how has the entertainment industry in our country changed?
There is a huge change in our industry, first being that there is a lot of money in the industry today. New talent is also readily available today and also interesting news ground breaking stories are being accepted by the audience. Even the audience has changed, people are spending so much money in cinemas these days, tickets cost about Rs 250 and more… so they expect something good in return. They want to be fully entertained.
What kind of films do we see you make in future?
I want to make films that are interesting and exciting for the audiences rather than message oriented or as one may say ‘bhashan’ oriented films just for the sake of it. There would be messages in my films but the first thing would be a good film that is interesting for the audience. The film will be delivered to the audience as the genre needs to be delivered. Like for Sikander it’s a suspense thriller, the audience will be intrigued, thrilled and the end will come as a big surprise.
Is your next project going to be produced by BIG pictures?
Well there are discussions going on but nothing is certain as of now.