INTERVIEW

Dysfunctional is the new normal, says ‘Kapoor & Sons’ director

It’s all about questioning your parents in Shakun Batra’s new movie.

When the trailer gets such praise, what will the main attraction be like? Kapoor & Sons is Vancouver Film School graduate Shakun Batra’s sophomore effort after Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu in 2012. The March 18 release is the latest dysfunctional family drama, in which Fawad Khan and Sidharth Malhotra play brothers who fall for Alia Bhatt’s character. Excerpts from an interview.

How do you make yet another film about a dysfunctional family?

Actually I think dysfunctional is the new normal. Previously there was a way in which we represented a family in film. But once we grow up and break out, we understand better what families are really about. I love Hannah and Her Sisters and reunion films, which are loaded with secrets from the past, and what happens to these unresolved issues when they resurface. The idea is that there is no way you can change your family. You must learn to accept people for who they are and find a common ground before it’s too late.

The family drama used to be the most common genre in Hindi cinema, but we hardly see such films any more. Why do you think that is?

I think we had probably reached the saturation point of being too sugary. Then the rom-com and action films took over. We had stopped doing contemporary family dramas, besides the occasional Dil Dhadakne Do. I picked this genre because people were saying it’s time to do a big, commercial film, with big names and numbers. But what if I wanted to go big in depth, character and psyche? I wanted to go where the story was more important than the gloss, glamour and scale. I was not a 100 percent satisfied with Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu. I was sincere, but the film lacked maturity.

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You seem to have scaled down from your debut, which was shot in Las Vegas, to set the new movie closer home (Coonoor and Mumbai).

That’s true, but this is more character driven and more emotionally challenging than Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu was. My first film had two main characters in different locations and took damn long to make. Kapoor & Sons was green-lit in February last year and we release this month. My new film was more controlled in terms of shooting, but choreographing the chaos of the family was the fun part; dealing with madness in a confined space.

How do you downplay gloss and glamour when it’s a Dharma production?

When I finally got my ensemble cast together, I tried to make them normal in denims and tees. But yes, this is a Dharma movie, and I was caught between the commercial Dharma and the grunge I was after. The result is part eye candy and part real.

Why cast Rishi Kapoor as an 85-year-old patriarch and put him through prosthetics?

I needed him to play a character between 85 and 90 years. I could not risk actually casting someone that age and Rishi Kapoor doesn’t look that old. Greg Cannom happened to be in India working on the make-up for Fan, so we approached him and he came on board to work on Dadu’s character. Rishi Kapoor himself was very kicked and patiently sat four hours a day in the make-up chair.

Based on the trailer and songs, Alia Bhatt looks she’s repeating her manic pixie dream girl act.

It might feel like that based on what you have seen so far, but she’s not actually playing a chatterbox manic pixie dream girl. She’s a girl with a real problem. You would need to see the film to see her graph. She has brought a great deal to the part. If I ever had a muse, it would be Alia.

And the rest of the cast?

They are all very smart people. Sidharth has not played a character closer to his real persona before – someone with a sense of humour and lightness. He could make Arjun his own and I think that’s why he appears more sure-footed. Alia and I did [the internet spoof] Genius of the Year, so I know her from then and that gave us a dialogue. I heard about Fawad after Khoobsurat. Karan’s mother [producer Karan Johar] is a big fan of his TV serials. I had not seen any of his work but when he read the script, his approach and ideas were exactly what I wanted.

What are your cinematic influences?

I am a big fan of Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, of films like Little Miss Sunshine and The Royal Tenenbaums, but I don’t think I have their tonality. I am trying to find my own.

Director Shakun Batra.
Director Shakun Batra.
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