Not many know that Harsh Chhaya has worked behind the camera before joining films. After being in front of the camera for more than two decades, the actor is making his directorial debut with a family entertainer Khajoor Pe Atke, which has created a lot of buzz because of its trailer. Ask him if he was always inclined towards direction and he replies, “I am professionally trained from Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI). I have worked for five to six years behind the camera but I always wanted to be an actor as I have been acting since my childhood. Now I thought was the right time to get back to writing and direction because I am not acting much. I am not doing much television because I don’t agree to most of the things happening on TV.”
“I have been writing for seven-eight years. This is the fourth script that is made into a film. The earlier scripts didn’t work out,” he quips.
But isn’t it difficult to stay away from the camera as an actor? “It’s a personal choice and for me, I love acting so much that I don’t want to do work that is not substantial. I had reached a point where I had decided that I will have one meal a day but will not do menial work. It’s not about money. I have not become an actor to pay my EMIs but because I want to act,” he replies.
Talking about Khajoor Pe Atke, Harsh says that the story is inspired by incidents he has witnessed in his family and around him. “I have been observing things happening within my family, friends and neighbourhood. The story highlights the uncertainty that relatives go through when someone close to them is admitted into a hospital. The family is not sure if the person will survive. While relatives visit the family in trouble, they do not know what to do because of the uncertainty of the situation,” says the director. “They are in a dilemma about waiting at the hospital — what if they leave and the person dies, the money they would spend to visit again etc,” he elaborates.
Harsh says that these are serious issues and typical middle-class problems. But with a bird’s eye view, it looks funny and somewhat bizarre. “In fact, some conversations in the film are exactly what I have witnessed in real life. The material was all around me and I just had to write it,” he says.
He definitely had the choice of handling the story in a particular mood but Harsh chose the funny way, which he says is because he had been through the situation. “I wasn’t making fun of anybody or looking down upon anyone. If someone tells me that I have to immediately visit an ailing relative or family member, I won’t be able to do so because I might not have that much cash. The idea was to look and laugh at your own self,” he explains.
Among the important aspect of the film are its characters that we see in the trailer. “The characters were most important because I did not want to depend on slapstick humour. So I looked around myself and got all these people with peculiar behavioural traits. Also, it was important that I got different kinds of personalities because in every family you will notice people like these. The characters were consciously designed and I had to work on them well,” says Harsh.
Harsh had told his producer that he didn’t need big stars but good actors. “When you get good actors, everything else falls into place.”
The movie stars an ensemble cast of Manoj Pahwa, Vinay Pathak, Seema Pahwa, Dolly Ahluwalia, Sanah Kapoor and others. “Without good actors, the story would have fallen flat so I wanted certain actors who would bring their own experiences to the set. The performances were real and very every day,” says Harsh, adding, “I have taken these characters from Simpsons who are real but bizarre, so the performances did not look like buffoonery. They were walking a thin line.”
Produced by Welcome Friends Production and presented by S.O.I.E, Khajoor Pe Atke releases today (May 18).