Sandeep Modi’s directorial debut Chumbak is making the right kind of noise before its release on July 27. The Swanand Kirkire, Sahil Jadhav and Sangram Desai-starrer will be screened at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (IFFM) in August.
The film highlights an unusual relationship between two boys played by Sahil and Sangram, and a 45-year-old mentally challenged man Prasanna (played by Swanand). While Sahil develops a bond with him, Sangram hates him from the bottom of his heart.
During their recent visit to ST, Swanand, the writer, actor, singer, screen writer, dialogue writer, lyricist said that Prasanna is his most challenging role. “It’s because of two reasons -- for the first time, I am offered a character who is carrying the film on his shoulder. So when Naren Kumar (producer) and Sandeep called me, I was concerned about a couple of things - Whether I will be able to act and whether I will be able to do justice to the character,” he says.
He further adds, “Earlier, when friends used to offer me a small role, I used to tell them, ‘I am playing this character but it’s your responsibility.’ This time I couldn’t say that because the character was my responsibility -- I knew that the character will give me something really good in return.”
Considering he is playing a mentally challenged person, how did he approach the character as it could go completely wrong? “You are absolutely right -- one has to tread on a very thin line while portraying such a character. For that, Sandeep and I read the script several times, we went to Sion Hospital’s Psychiatry Department and met people there. They shared some traits with us. We watched similar characters in films. Sandeep had developed the character based on a close family member and we met him too,” says Swanand, adding, “I also asked Sandeep how he wanted me to play the character because ultimately he is going to see me on screen. We have taken different takes while shooting and we have approached the character and scenes differently. I would get back to Sandeep after each scene too.”
Swanand says that he was moved by the team behind the film. “I knew Naren since Jolly LLB as I was supposed to write the songs for the film but things did not work out. Then I got a call from him one fine day and I thought he wanted me to collaborate with him again for the second part. But then I met him and Sandeep and organically realised that it was such a honest set up. Naren was putting in all his money where he wanted three of us. He was not thinking about the commercial aspect of the film. He could have got anyone, I mean he knows Akshay Kumar. As for Sandeep, he has assisted Ram Madhvani, who is a dear friend of mine. Ram called me and said, ‘I haven’t read the script but I promise you that Sandeep is a great guy and you will enjoy working with him.’ It was more than enough for me.”
Did he add to the character as a writer? Swanand says, “I shared my inputs here and there. When you become a character, you start losing the overall story and perspective.” To which Sandeep adds, “You can be anything in cinema but your knowledge about cinema comes very handy. The fact is that Swanand sir understood cinema so he added so many smaller nuances to the character which influenced the script.”
The film is being produced by Aruna Bhatia, Naren Kumar and Cape of Good Films. It is being presented by Akshay Kumar.
Chumbak marks the debut of Sahil and Sangram, who come from a completely non-filmy background. Sandeep said that after the two were signed, it was necessary that three pivotal characters develop a bond among themselves. “So 15 days before the shoot, instead of keeping Sahil and Sangram separately in a hotel, we made a makeshift house in our office and made them live together so that they become friends. They lived together throughout the shoot,” he says, adding, “Then Swanand sir suggested, ‘make sure that they are not awed by me’. Usually there are chances of people getting awed by such a personality which could harm the film. So he would come and chat with us for three to four hours. He would talk about his life and share things that he would otherwise share with his friends. What these two realised at that point of time is that he is very much real,” says the young director.
Sahil and Sangram who visited Mumbai for the first time only during the shoot of the film say that the casting directors and the team had beautifully explained them the characters, which kind of helped them a lot. “To understand our respective characters, we interacted with boys who were in that profession and also learnt the Mumbai lingo,” says Sahil.