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Director's Cut

'It is tough to make a film out of a hugely popular book'


FACTS AND FICTION: The story of 'Kai Po Che' revolves around the Gujarat riots and its impact on the camaraderie of the characters

They say that like God, a filmmaker creates his own world and actors or artists become the means to achieve his vision. But there are several directors who started off as actors themselves. The nephew of the '70s matinee idol, Jeetendra, Abhishek Kapoor made his acting debut in a forgettable film, 'Uff! Yeh Mohabbat', in 1996 and waited for a decade to make a thumping comeback as director with the film 'Rock On!'. His next film, 'Kai Po Che', is an adaptation of a Chetan Bhagat novel, 'The 3 Mistakes of My Life'. In an interview with TOI-Crest, Abhishek Kapoor talks about the challenge of the screen adaptation

How different is the film from the novel?

I have maintained the essence of the novel. I made a few additions that were needed to make it work as a film. One has to realise that film as a medium is different from literature. One has to tell a particular story in a given frame of time, which can stretch up to two hours. Besides this, one of the biggest responsibilities I had to take on as a director was to create an engaging narrative that is devoid of the leisure of space and time that one finds in a novel.

What attracted to the novel? And what aspect of it gave you the confidence that it can be made into a film?

After reading the novel, I was very excited about this marriage of fiction with facts, the fact that stories were woven into real events. The Gujarat riots, the backdrop of the story, and its impact on the camaraderie among the characters formed is cardinal to the book. I found this real and believable. It is also a challenge to make it into a film considering the fact that a large number of people have read the novel. For me, though the story was one more version of the Gujarat riots, it was still relatable and engaging. I could see the opportunity to present it in my own style of filmmaking, which should be engaging story-telling.

What are the difficulties involved in adapting a literary work into a film? In the past you have written two original screenplays.

One has to realise that a film is a different beast altogether. When I read the book, it was quite captivating. The book touches upon various aspects of the lives of these three friends in a very deep way. When I began the adaptation, I found that the process of screen adaptation was deep and intense. Knowing the boundaries of filmmaking - in relation to pure literature - I had to fit the story into two hours. It is a nicely written book with interesting characters and each character has a well-defined graph. It took me a very long time to figure out what can stay in the film and what had to be omitted. I worked on the screenplay for two and a half years.

Your directorial debut came ten years after you acted in your first film. When did you realise that you wanted to become a director? And what kept you busy and sane

in the years when you were struggling?

I made my acting debut at a time when the Hindi film industry was making run-of-themill films. There was nothing exciting about those times. The story, narration and characters - almost everything - in those years had nothing new. I did not enjoy the process of acting. I was also too young. I wrote a film. It took me a long time to do that. But when I finished it, I figured that I could direct it. However, I had to struggle a lot to find a producer. I could not find a hero. The film was eventually made and it was called Aryan. If you look at the story of the film, you realise that it is connected to my own life. It is a story of an underdog who makes an attempt to rise above the obstacles created by the story. That was my situation too. I read and was very inspired by the Bhagvad Gita translated by Paramahansa Yogananda. The Gita, and to some extent music, kept my sanity intact.

Hindi cinema is in a very good place now.

There is room for strong and varied themes, especially those pegged to rural India and small towns. Do these appeal to you?

I don't want to restrict myself to a particular theme. For me, it is way a story is told that matters. It should be engaging. I would like to be versatile in the way I deal with themes. That is what excites me as a filmmaker.

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