Recreating unfortunate events of human history can be disturbing and sensitive, but that is what the makers of the Vir Das and Soha Ali Khan-starrer ‘31st October’ hope to break with their new film. Team Planet radio City caught up with actor Soha Ali Khan and music director Vijay Verma to discuss the trivia about their new film. Read on.
Soha, from the trailer of the film, we can say that the subject is very hard-hitting and difficult. What made you take up this script?
Soha: It is. When I was approached for the script, I knew that it is a very sensitive subject. But I took it up because I love playing realistic characters whether it was ‘Mumbai Meri Jaan’ or ‘Tum Mile’. So, here I am playing Tejinder Kaur, a Sikh woman. While enacting the character you have little idea of how are you bringing the character to the screen. But now that I see it for myself, I can say that, it has come through well.
Normally when actors are approached with such sensitive subjects, there is a lot of speculation on whether audiences will receive it well or not as these subjects have been debated and discussed abouta lot?
Soha: No, am not very scared of controversies because I keep my life pretty simple. But with the advent of social media and people taking offense on every little thing nowadays, you can’t help but be cautious. Recently, when we visited Chandigarh during the promotions of the films, some members of the Sikh community asked us as to why were we opening up old wounds by reminding them of what happened in 1984. But this movie is not about that. One, our youth needs to know about what happened in 1984, because not many of them are aware about it. Two, it will help them know what were the mistakes that happened during those riots which we wish are never repeated again in the history of our society.
Like you said that since the film was being filmed in bits and pieces, how easy or difficult was it for you to maintain the character since it is very essential to the plot while filming such subjects?
Soha: Our producers did a very smart thing. They took us to Ludhiana where the entire film was shot at a stretch and the easier portions were shot here in Mumbai after the Ludhiana schedule was wrapped up. Because the trouble is that there are a lot of distractions in Mumbai. So Ludhiana helped us get into the whole mould and stay put in the characters.
Vijay Sir, how was the experience of making the music for the film?
Vijay: We tried to create music as per the demands of the script. I prefer reading the entire script of the film before creating music. All the songs of the film are beautiful and the lyrics have captured the message of the film.
Normally the producers of the film try to finish the shoot in a single schedule. How did you all manage to film this movie?
Soha: We did want to finish the shoot in one schedule as you put it. But we had to shoot some integral parts of the film in Mumbai. Even though the film’s story is based in Delhi, the city is not what it was in 1984. So we found a small village called Kumrana outside Ludhiana where we shot for an entire month. Then we shot for a fortnight in Mumbai. So the entire shoot took about 45 days. Shooting the actions sequences were a bit difficult as we had to arrange for props for the burnt buses, bloodshed, rubber tyres etc.
A lot of people might have the question in mind that why is the film releasing on 21st October when it is titled as 31st October?
Soha: (Laughs) We actually wanted to release it last year on 31st October 2015 which was a Friday. But the Censor Board took over eight-nine months to give its nod on our film as they wanted 40 cuts. Our producer was perseverant and he repeatedly requested the Board, hence the cuts were brought down to 9.
It is a surprise for us to Vir Das in this role.
Soha: I know, right? But it is not necessary that because he is a stand-up comic, he is joking all the time. I must say that he looked the part completely and even put on a lot of weight for the part. He has shown a lot of commitment to his part.
Vijay Sir, what are your thoughts about the film?
Vijay: All I’ll say it that every Indian citizen should watch this film, because it’s about how a community was treated during sensitive and testing times and how people of other communities came out to help them. So the film represents two perspectives. As countrymen, people must know the story about their own people.
Soha, when you choose a film, what are the bullet points that you must tick off?
Soha: Firstly, the clichéd thing in the world. the script. Secondly, it does not have to be a titular role. It can be a small or simple role but people must remember you for it. After having been in the industry for long, I’ve learnt that the producer is also important. Because you as an actor, will do your work and put in your best, but the film needs to be promoted well, which can be done only by an able producer. Lastly, the director needs to be compelling.
What are your expectations from the film?
Soha: I’ve learnt to put in my best and keep zero expectations. Because the lower you keep them, the lesser are you disappointed. But come to think about it, I don’t see a reason why this film should not work. One, it should be loved by the people and second, I hope it makes money for the producers.
Vijay Sir, what are your favourite tracks from the film?
Vijay: How can you choose between your kids? (laughs). No, I love all of them. But if I have to single out then it is ‘Yakeen’ by Sonu Nigam. Also, there is a beautiful song sung by Ashaji (Bhosle). It is about how a family is losing hope of any kind of survival and the mother is trying to put her scared children to sleep. I have also sung a version of the song which has been retained in the film. It is called ‘Andhere’ and I recommend everyone to listen to it.
Now, that the film is on the verge of release, what is your message to the audience?
Soha: All I will say is stop doing whatever you wish to do on 21st October and go, watch the film (smiles). If you are interested in knowing what happened on that fateful night of 31st October 1984, then please go to your nearest screen.