Vikas Bahl, co-director of ‘Chillar Party’, speaks at length about Ranbir Kapoor, Salman Khan and the fate of children’s film in India.
In a film industry where children’s films are still a rarity, it’s heartwarming to see a seemingly genuine film like Chillar Party come once in a while. “We didn’t start with an agenda to make a film with kids per se. It is a story which came to us and we liked it”, says Vikas Bahl, the co-director of the film. “Nevertheless, I personally believe that heroism as a child is much powerful as compared to that with adults”.
While shooting with kids is not a child’s play, Vikas says, if planned well it can be a delightful experience. “We had a month-long workshop with kids but we didn’t try to train them, as such, in acting. We just wanted them to be comfortable and natural in front of the camera and gave them basic tips on how to walk up to the mark, how to follow the camera without shifting their eyes and things like that”.
Getting the correct cast for the film was another task. “We auditioned around 8000 kids over a span of two months to get the 10 kids we wanted for our film. We wanted first-timers and most of the kids are not from Mumbai”. And while the filmmaker insists that they have tried to make a fun film, he wouldn’t mind the audiences walking away with a social message conveyed subtly in the film.
Vikas Bahl who has worked as the creative producer on films like Udaan, Dev.D and No One Killed Jessica has written and co-directed the film with Nitesh Tiwari. Perhaps the only other director-duo in Bollywood apart from Abbas-Mustan and Krishna DK-Raj Nidimoru, Vikas says it is only possible if you trust your partner and are not insecure. “Nitesh is confident, secure person and a great writer. So it helped working with him. We had creative differences but only during the writing phase. All of that was sorted and once we started shooting, it was a smooth ride”.
Ask him how Ranbir Kapoor came into the picture and he says, “Ranbir saw the film and liked it. He volunteered to do anything to support this film. I always thought there is a hidden tapoori in Ranbir so we requested him to do an item number. In fact, nowadays even kids have realized how item numbers make a film popular, which is what we have tried to show in the music video”.
However Vikas Bahl says he never dreamt that Salman Khan would be associated with his film that too in the capacity of a producer. “The kids in the film very much carry the attitude of Salman Khan. They are fearless and big-hearted. That’s the reason Salman connected with it so easily”, says Vikas. Ask him about rumours that Salman wanted the Ranbir Kapoor item song to be edited out and he says, “If Salman didn’t want the Ranbir Kapoor item song, it would not have been in the film. It’s as simple as that”.
With names like Salman and Ranbir associated with the project, this modest-budget film has got more face value. “Every film needs a marketing idea which makes it big. We are fortunate that we got Salman and Ranbir to market it for us”, says Vikas candidly.
Ask him if a big-budget children’s film on the scale of Harry Potter is ever possible in India, the filmmaker explains the business of cinema saying, “When Hollywood makes a children-fantasy film, it has audiences from across the world. If we make such a film in India, the audience is only restricted to the Hindi belt. So there is a restriction in terms of the revenue opportunities and thereby the budget of such films is not as huge in India. But I do think things should change in the near future”.
While the film is yet to release, Vikas has already received his best compliment. “On watching the film, Salim (Khan) sir said ‘I wish I had written this film’. That I believe is the biggest compliment”, signs off the filmmaker.