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Bejoy Nambiar on ‘Dange’ and ’Por’ and the challenges of making a bilingual with different casts

A still from ’Por’ and Bejoy Nambiar
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Those who have followed filmmaker Bejoy Nambiar’s body of work would be surprised to know that his caller tune is ‘Madurai Veeran Thane’ from Dhool (2003). “It’s been there for 12-13 years now. I’ve not changed it at all. I’m a fan of all kinds of cinema. I gravitate towards the kind of films I do which are realistic yet entertaining,” says Bejoy. As a filmmaker who has done silent films, short films, anthologies, web series and feature films in multiple languages, Bejoy has stressed, even in a previous interaction with us, how it’s not the medium but the story that decides what and how it gets made.

“What matters the most is how exciting the story I want to narrate is. I always wanted to do a college film and I even did a show for MTV regarding a college festival. That didn’t hit the mark in terms of what we wanted to do.” Bejoy’s upcoming film, Dange (in Hindi) and Por (in Tamil) started when a cousin of his narrated a true story about a college cultural festival in which a small incident turned into a brawl that in turn became a riot involving 400 students. “I found that to be interesting and every time I narrated it to someone else, I realised how it would make for a fascinating film.”

ALSO READ: ‘Dange’ and ‘Por’ teasers: Ehan Bhat takes on Harshvardhan Rane; Kalidas Jayaram locks horns with Arjun Das

The trailer of Dange and Por gives a vibe similar to that of the ‘World of Shekhar’ segment from his anthology film Soloand the filmmaker says the similar backdrop might probably be the reason for it. “The zone is the same, considering both happen in a college, but I was not trying to mimic it in any way. The new film has a different approach even in terms of music. It’s got all the elements that are a part of a college film — the rivalries, romances and the cultural festivals,” says Bejoy who prefers pulling plots from the lives of people. “It could be from mine, others, something I read, or, in this case, something I was told. I’m constantly looking for such stories. Directors steal a lot from what happens around them and I’m no different,” he adds.

It’s apparent from Bejoy’s filmography that he’s drawn to multi-starrers. “I like to populate my film with interesting characters and I think that happens organically. When I’m writing a college film, I don’t want it to be isolated just between two people; it needs to be a world on its own, filled with different, fleshed-out characters. Some of them might not be on screen for a long time but we wanted the audience to know who they are so it gives a full-bodied experience,” he says.

Ehan Bhat and Harshvardhan Rane in a still from ‘Dange’

Ehan Bhat and Harshvardhan Rane in a still from ‘Dange’
| Photo Credit:

Shot simultaneously, Dange stars Harshvardhan Rane, Ehan Bhat, Nikita Dutta and TJ Bhanu while Por, apart from retaining TJ Bhanu, also stars Arjun Das, Kalidas Jayaram and Sanchana Natarajan. If doing a bilingual is tricky, doing one with a different set of actors comes with unique challenges, says Bejoy. “Not only is the lead cast different, but so is the supporting cast. I gave an upfront heads-up to all the crew members on how we planned for our everyday work but also to be ready to find a rhythm as we went. The actors and the crew cooperated with me a lot, which was paramount given how every scene had almost 100 people.”

Given how an actor from one version might be shooting for a scene the other would have to do next, you get curious to understand how their creative processes work. “Initially, the actors stayed back and looked at the other version’s scenes but after a while, they decided among themselves to not do that. They didn’t want to get influenced by how the other actor was doing a particular scene. I would also alternate on which language’s shot I am going to start with daily so that no one gets stuck in a routine.”

ALSO READ: Amitabh Bachchan is ridiculously humble: Bejoy Nambiar

The director says doing a film in multiple languages with different actors gives an authentic experience when compared to dubbing a film in various languages. “I want the film to reach the right audience. I will also be not able to mount a film of this scale in one language; because of it now being two films, which means I get different ways to monetise it, I get the budget this story needs.” This means that Bejoy needs to be on top of the game in all the languages to know which actors to pick. “It’s not easy to cast for a dual-hero subject. I had to justify the budget while mounting it on a bigger canvas than what I usually do. I’m an avid movie buff and I watch films from the languages which is probably why I keep track of what’s happening. That’s how I got cinematographer Jimshi Khalid on board; I liked his work in Thallumaala.”

For a filmmaker who has done films in Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi, it’s once again the story that decides which language it is going to be made in. “Once I lock the story, then comes the question of which place would be the best to set it up, and then comes the casting.”

Having made some strides on OTT, Bejoy’s upcoming film will be his first theatrical release in seven years. “OTT is still in the evolving stage right now and we are navigating both mediums by getting to tell interesting stories. The theatre-going audience, especially in Hindi, has gone down drastically and I hope that changes. Both mediums have their own set of audiences and give space for creators and talents to come out,” he says.

Interestingly, the director is also assisting the veteran filmmaker Mani Ratnam with his film Thug Life, starring Kamal Haasan, and the conversation naturally veers towards it. “We have just started working on it. It’s a kick-ass project with Kamal sir and Dulquer Salmaan (with whom he collaborated on Solo). What else can I ask for?”

Dange and Por are slated to hit theatres on March 1

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