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Bejoy’s David

With Shaitan, he made the audience sit up and take notice. This weekend, Bejoy Nambiar, once an assistant director to Mani Ratnam, weaves a tale of three men with three stories but one name in David. A t2 chat…

How did David happen?

After Shaitan, I had been working on a couple of stories. Then I read about an incident in the papers that really sparked off the idea of David. As I was building on this story, another story, which I was working on simultaneously, blended into this one. I had this one big idea of making a film on three different characters in three different spaces in time, but with the same name.

It must have been a challenge to tell three stories in one film?

I wouldn’t have been able to make the film if I didn’t adopt the three-films-in-one approach. I treated all the three films as different threads and that approach made things easier rather than me trying to do it all together. There is Neil’s (Nitin Mukesh) David who is a gangster in London of 1975; then there is Vinay Virmani’s David who is a budding musician in Mumbai of 1999; and Vikram’s David who is a fisherman in Goa (2010). It was very strenuous because it felt like I was shooting three films back-to-back.

At any point did you feel you were taking on too much?

At every point (laughs)! The stress was all the more because I was also writing and producing. David is also a bilingual… I have shot it in Hindi and Tamil and that was another challenge to contend with. We took just 75 days to shoot both and so you can imagine the pace at which we worked.

The learning has been immense just in terms of the number of people — from the cast to the musicians to the technicians — who have collaborated on this project. It was a very enriching experience.

You have a massive cast…

I do all my casting myself. When I am writing a film, I think of certain actors who fit those parts. For David, I managed to get 90 per cent of the actors I wanted. The one thing I always had in mind while choosing my actors for David was that I wanted to cast against the grain. Besides Neil, Tabu and a few others, I never really wanted established faces.

What did Neil, Vinay and Vikram bring to their respective Davids?

All of them have delivered beyond my expectations. I feel that Neil is a tremendously underrated actor and I am confident that David will showcase him like no film has done. Vikram has always been one of my favourite actors and he was my first choice for the role of fisherman David. For Vinay’s David we had to audition quite a few actors and we were immediately struck by his blend of intensity and vulnerability.

Technically, David seems to be a notch higher than what we have seen in recent films…

Once I decided to do the three-films-in-one format, I wanted to technically establish that they were different stories. So, we shot one story in black-and-white, one in the monsoon and one in sunny Goa. Then I got three different cinematographers to shoot the three stories. We wanted to keep amping the idea that this is a film about three different people. And from whatever feedback I have got, people have told me that it’s quite refreshing to see a today’s film in black-and-white.

Is David a fitting follow-up to Shaitan?

Honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted any other film to be my second. As a filmmaker, David has taken me up a number of notches, both in storytelling and technique. It’s miles away from what Shaitan was. It’s actually a very ambitious film and I am very anxious to see how our audience reacts to it. If David works then we will know that the Hindi film viewer is open to more such experiments in future.

You waited years to make Shaitan. Was it easier with David?

When Shaitan made a mark, I thought that I would easily get funding for David, but that wasn’t the case. In fact, the struggle was even more to get the film off the ground. The wait was long because I didn’t want to compromise on the scale and budget that this film deserved. Hopefully, the next one won’t be as tough.


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