Ahead of his third movie, Udta Punjab, Abhishek Chaubey talks about lessons from Vishal Bhardwaj on the importance of script.
ABHISHEK Chaubey has completed a course in filmmaking in Mumbai, but his real education in writing and direction came during his decade-long association with filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj. Their collaborations include Chaubey’s directorial debut, Ishqiya, followed by Dedh Ishqiya. The 39-year-old’s third feature film, Udta Punjab, releases this month (June 17, censor board clearance permitting). Starring Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Alia Bhatt and Diljit Dosanjh, the film is a multi-track narrative that looks at substance abuse.
After working with Vishal Bhardwaj for over 10 years, how has your first film without him been?
It’s very early to say. What I can say is that I wanted to become a filmmaker when I was a pre-teen. I was a film buff and I had some understanding of what I wanted to do. But working with Vishal really made me a filmmaker. There is no end to what I have learnt from him. He mentored me. I was always looking at direction, but he would say you must first learn to write, to understand a script. I had no ambition to write, but he pushed me.
How has the collaboration with the new composer, Amit Trivedi, been?
It’s been wonderful working with Amit. With Vishal it was very easy for me because he was my co-writer and, while writing, we would conceive the music that would work for the situation. And then there was Gulzar saab. So it was very easy for me with these senior people taking care of me. But this time I had to play the director who wants a certain kind of music, so it took some time for me understand myself. Also this music is not easy to crack, but I am very happy with the result.
What did it take to put together this A-list cast?
Shahid came first. I know him from Kaminey. I gave him an idea about his character and the film. He was tremendously excited and came on board immediately. He suggested Alia while they were working on Shandaar. I needed some convincing about her, but eventually I could see her commitment to the part. Diljit came last and he was a brainwave. He’s exactly the character that was written. We chased Kareena for a while and when she read the script, she came on board. It’s really about these four people and their stories.
— Udita Jhunjhunwala