The director of Wazir gets talking about chess and why he wanted Akhtar in his film
fter writing and directing Shaitan and David, and producing the Hindi remake of Pizza, Bejoy Nambiar was working on a reboot of Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s cult hit Parinda (1989) when he realised it was not going to pan out. He was surprised to see Chopra open up a box of six scripts and ask him to choose one. He picked the English language script, The Fifth Move, adapted it into Hindi and re-titled it Wazir. In between his wedding (with long-time girlfriend, Sheetal Menon) in Kerala, Nambiar did this interview on the Amitabh Bachchan, Farhan Akhtar, Aditi Rao Hydari starring thriller.
How much room did you have to adapt the script since it was already written as an English movie that Chopra had planned to direct?
It was extremely collaborative. I had more than a year to adapt it into Hindi and I used that time to own the script, including writing in a few new scenes. The fact that Vinod could give this script to me was a big deal and a big responsibility, but he gave me the freedom to interpret his vision.
Did the cast come attached or was that collaborative, too?
Amitabh Bachchan was already cast for the English film and he was game for the Hindi version. I was very keen on casting Farhan, especially as this is the first time we will be seeing him in an intense role as a police officer, but I was not sure he would do it. I like him as an actor and director, so I was thrilled when he agreed. The rest of the cast was picked in consultation with my team and Vinod.
Farhan said acting with Bachchan was ‘surreal’. Were you nervous about directing Bachchan?
We had set a date for starting the shoot and I was geared up to that. We came close and then the shoot got rescheduled to 20 days later. That took the stress away, and those 20 days flat-lined me because we used that time for rehearsals.
How accurate are the chess games played by Akhtar and Bachchan?
They both play chess very well and would often correct the mistakes we’d make setting up the board. We made one of our assistant directors, who is very good at it, the chess specialist. In fact, I learnt chess while making the film. We have tried to make sure it is accurate, although chess is only a motif in the film.
Where do you go from here?
I have to open my box and see where I go. There are a couple of scripts I am very set on. I have also directed a one-hour long telefilm called Dobara, for Zee, starring Manav Kaul and Parvathy Omanakuttan.
Wazir releases on January 8.
— Udita Jhunjhunwala