‘Period films have rarely been in colour’

Kohli's unending love for love stories
Many may argue that Kunal Kohli likes to stick to love stories, even if it’s a story about a terrorist or a rebel. But then what’s wrong in dedicating one’s career to Bollywood’s favourite genre. “Apart from Sholay, every big Bollywood blockbuster has been a love story,” says the chirpy Kohli defending his choice of films. His latest magnum opus, ‘Teri Meri Kahaani’ starring Shahid Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra seems to be more ambitious if not risky than most of his previous stints. One reason for this would be that it features three love stories set in three different eras. Apart from the limitations of portraying a period, it also means braving the skepticism that most would have for a film that isn’t contemporary or based on present day. If not anything, it can limit the audience to those who appreciate period films. But Kohli is confident that his three love stories would be as identifiable with the youth today as any other. He infact adds that he has dared to showcase the fun and flirty side of each era, something no other period-based drama has managed till date. In a chat with Kunal Guha, he spills the beans.

Why do you think that Hindi films never grow out of love stories? Is it an everlasting genre?
Firstly, it’s not a story about rebirth. People are bored of that. It’s about a story set in three different eras. We’ve hardly had any love stories in recent years. Most of the big hits have been comedies or action films. And in a country where the biggest hits apart from Sholay, have all been love stories, we could sure have some more. Even this year, I think it’s my film and Yashji’s (Yash Chopra) film that would fit into the romance genre.

Shahid charms Priyanka with his shayaris

When you think of three different eras, what were the challenges in adapting each of them?
See firstly, a lot of research went into understanding and creating the look of the period and our set designer took a lot of effort to achieve exactly how a building would look decades ago as compared to how it would look today. Then something I’ve done is to take a period and turn it over its head. So when you think of a period like 1960s, you never think that people can be fun and entertaining at that time. I’ve tried to present a completely new and fresh outlook to these periods where relationships although different were also similar to the ones today. The fact that people would break up quickly and swiftly move on to the next relationship is something that we still see today.

Kohli briefing his lead cast
What was your brief to Shahid and Priyanka for portraying their many roles in ‘Teri Meri Kahaani’?
My brief to Shahid was simple. I just told him to let go. I told him that he’s a great dancer and an entertainer so he should simply let go and do what comes instinctively to him. I did make him watch lots of films starring Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor, Dev Anand etc to help him understand the style and body language but the rest was left to interpretation. I wanted to see how he translates my brief in his own way and was interested in seeing his understanding of the character. For Priyanka, I was just surprised that she hasn’t done a single true love story in her career so I just wanted her to try to do something different. I wanted her to play a girl who is shy and feminine and not the fierce and spunky woman she has successfully played in films like Don. And to her credit, she did manage very well in doing just that.

What are the calculated risks that you took in making this film?
Everything is a risk when you make a film. And I have always been known as a filmmaker who goes against the grain to take risks which I believe will pay off. When I was making ‘Hum Tum’ people told me that it was a film that was just strung together with too many conversations, when I was working on ‘Fanaa’, people told me that too many films have been made on Kashmir and it wasn’t topical. But then I went ahead with them and they did well at the box office. Having said that, I have tried my best to transform something that has never been done – transform an era and make it seem interesting, fun and entertaining so that reduces the risk. When people think of a period film, they associate a lot of things with the film but my film will have none of those things. It will show them a side of people living in different eras and I am confident that the two eras which aren’t based on present day will leave people charmed more than the one based on contemporary times. And I am sure that every guy would want to be like Shahid’s character based in 1960- he is fun, flirtatious and has a shayari for every situation.

The real 'desi girl'
If you believe that you’re going to portray your period-based love stories in a different light, how else would it be different?
It’s been over 60 years since we got our independence from the British and we don’t harbor any ill feelings towards them or have any anti-Brit sentiments, so why not have a little fun. So it’s giving a period a complete different perspective. So while the British ruled over us for years, they even built our nation architecturally so in one way they served us as well (laughs). Apart from that I think that in films we have never shown a lot of colour when we get into a period story. This is very odd since India is a country of colour and every state is known for many colours and that’s exactly what I’ve portrayed in my film.

What is one thing that people expect from a Kunal Kohli film and to what extend do you think you’ve manage to deliver on those expectations?
Firstly, they would expect a story that’s entertaining, good music and great performances. I think we’ve put in our best and expect the audience to love every bit of it. Each person will have one favourite out of the three stories but I don’t mind as long as they love any part of my film.

What is the future of love stories in Bollywood, according to you?
I think what was the fate of films like ‘Mughal-E-Azam’, ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ and the many superhit love stories will be the same for love stories in the future. So future of love stories is surely bright as I see it.  And for me, I love making love stories and will continue to do so.

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