The Telegraph
Friday , February 15 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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How did the east zone selections of India’s Best Dramebaaz go?

We were up shooting with the kids till 12.30am. I was more nervous than them because I was worried about how to tell them that they were not selected. Most of them were very sporting. They came, performed and left. But some parents were really pushy. We saw a range of acts –– baul to puppetry to magic. A boy who appeared as a tiger refused to get out of character –– he kept growling, jumping and trying to eat everybody even after we told him his act was over!

What made you sign up for this show after Ke Hobe Biggest Fan (Zee Bangla)?

That show gave me the opportunity to meet legends like Soumitra Chatterjee and Manna Dey. I started life as a director on Zee TV’s serial Tara (1993). Since then I have always done films and TV together. I don’t want to miss out on the TV audience.

Your production house, Ishana Movies, is named after your daughter. How old is she now?

Ishana, my elder one, is eight. There are three kids at home. I stay in a joint family with my brother who has a daughter. I know how moody kids can be!

Have you ever worked with kids?

I used to earn my bread and butter in my college days in Mumbai doing workshops for children. As a director, I have not done a children’s film but have worked with them for a day or two, like in Barfi!. I have done more with kids on TV. There was a track with children in Koshish... ek aashaa. There was V3+ for Zee (EL TV, a sister channel). It was a kids’ show. No one knows that Vidya Balan was in it! This was around the time she did Hum Paanch for Zee TV.

What is the status of your Kishore Kumar biopic?

Despite being a fan, there are lots of shades of Kishore Kumar that even I didn’t know about. I have met Rumadi (Guha Thakurta) and Leenadi and Amit Kumar. The script is ready but we haven’t decided on the music. There is such a vast library....

How is life post-Barfi!?

I had decided that I’d start writing immediately after I finish Barfi!. Otherwise, the gap between films gets too much. Two other scripts are lying ready, including the one about Kishore. It helped that Soumik Sen was in the driver’s seat for that and I was providing him with the research inputs. Ranbir (Kapoor) has two films to do before he can give dates for the Kishore biopic and I want to do one film in between….

It is freezing,” scowled a sleeveless kameez-clad Sonali Bendre, hugging herself after emerging onto the windy courtyard of HS Studio in Khardah where shooting was on for India’s Best Dramebaaz. “But they (the production team) won’t let me stay wrapped up in a blanket!”

Despite being a veteran of reality shows, the actress, who will be seen on the big screen after a break in the sequel to Once Upon a Time In Mumbaai, is excited about this children’s talent hunt. “I love working with kids. And this is the first season of an original format so there is scope to experiment,” says the mother of seven-year-old Ranveer.

All around her, kids aged five to 12 are running around dressed in costumes amazing and amusing. Among the 80-odd kids who had made it to the east zone finals from Jharkhand to Patna, Burdwan to New Alipore, one was a pundit, another a fisherwoman, two came as cops and one as a tree. There was also Lalu Prasad and Gabbar Singh merrily playing with each other.

But it was more as a parent and less as a judge that Sonali reacted to the auditions. “Kya pol kholtey hain yeh bachchey ma-baap ki — ‘My parents quarrel all the time, my father is very kanjoos…’!” While her son is busy deciding between a career as an F1 driver and a pilot, Sonali says many kids love the stage. For them the show is a great platform. “We are giving them an opportunity to find themselves. As long as there is no pressure from parents, it should be okay.”

Vivek Oberoi would be the third judge on the show with Anurag and Sonali. Rithvik Dhanjani, the star of Pavitra Rishta, and Govinda’s niece Ragini Khanna are the hosts.