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Abhishek Kapoor: “Vaani is like an enigma waiting to be explored”

Abhishek Kapoor who has earlier fashioned Rock On, Kai Po Che, Fitoor and Kedarnath is back with his latest Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui which many consider his  best work to date.

In a freewheeling  interview with Subhash  K Jha, Abhishek sheds light on the genesis of  his unusual transgender romance  and its implicit ramifications.

How and when did the idea of Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui(CKA) come to you?

 The germ of the story emerged from a chance meeting with this lady Simran Sahni. She’s a mother to two beautiful twin daughters, both of whom have undergone gender re-assignment  surgeries. The brief chat I had with her about the subject somehow stayed with me and I kept going back to it now and then. Post Kedarnath, that process of incubation seemed to have culminated into the conception of a love story and along with my writers Supratik and Tushar, we began deep-diving into this world.

 It is an audacious unconventional subject on gender reassignment. Didn’t you fear going into a territory never gone into before mainstream Hindi cinema?

 It’s always exciting to push your boundaries as a filmmaker and outdo yourself each time. One shouldn’t let the reductive shackles of what we regard as ‘mainstream cinema’ constrain or dilute one’s creative voice. I want to go all out with every film I make and make the most of that opportunity.

 CKA marks a bold departure not only for Hindi cinema but also for you.. your last film was about a pilgrimage spot…this is quite a distance from that one .Was it difficult covering that distance?

In all my films I’ve refrained from adapting myself to a certain mould and developing a comfort zone for myself. Looking back at the modest work I’ve done so far, I’m glad I could explore the vividly rich Indian diaspora and delve into such distinct worlds and characters. So transitioning from one film to the next is something that’s always been in my DNA as a filmmaker.

Ayushmann Khurrana and Vaani Kapoor are pitch perfect in their parts.How on  earth did you convince them to take on their bold roles specially Vaani,what magic did you use to convince her?

Both Ayushmann and Vaani are actors who are thoroughly dedicated to their craft. It was fascinating to see them explore the finer nuances of the characters and express that which is concealed between the lines. Vaani is like an enigma waiting to be explored and she certainly saw an opportunity with this story to tap into her boundless potential as an actor. Kudos to her for embracing such a challenging part with such poise.

 Everything is just right in CKA. Were you aware that the chemical balance of the storytelling was going to be so right?

 Thanks a lot for saying that. We had spent over two years working on this script. We took several routes with the story and tried to set the premise in different backdrops before we landed up with the present one. But over this course of experimentation, we grew increasingly convinced about the desired treatment and appeal that this story demands. Perhaps, it was this insight that helped us pepper the screenplay with measured elements of romance, humour, drama, and the central theme. Like every other story, this too involved a long process of trial-and-error until it felt just right.

 The response of the  LGBTQ community to your film is crucial. What are your thoughts on this?

 Most certainly. More than anything else, it’s a story that’s bound to resonate with the unheard, discriminated voices who are a victim of the biases ingrained in our society. Besides being a love story, it’s a film that attempts to destigmatize a regressive taboo and acceptance from the communities would be truly validating.

 Tell me about your next project?

I’ve been developing a couple of projects simultaneously but am still in the process of figuring the one that goes on floor the next. Besides directing, as a production house we are also focussing on developing content for the OTT platforms and getting other directors on board who share the same passion for clutter-breaking storytelling.

 You took a leap of faith in making this wonderful film. Any fear of falling , failing? Do you feel Hindi mainstream cinema needs to take such a leap more often?

I think the conviction and firm belief I had about this story superseded any doubts and hesitations. Trans characters have always been reduced to become the butt of all jokes in films and it was high time that we saw them in a new light. Nothing will make me happier than encouraging conversations about the subject through the film. People love watching good stories and as filmmakers it’s on us to leave them with something they can take home with them.

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