Creek Row to Lucknow Central

Creek Row boy Ranjit Tiwari makes his directorial debut with Lucknow Central this Friday

  • Published 14.09.17
A moment from Lucknow Central, releasing this Friday

He calls Creek Row home, pigs out on local kochuri-shobji and can’t wait to come back to his city to celebrate his first film as director. Calcutta boy Ranjit Tiwari makes his directorial debut with this Friday’s Lucknow Central, starring Farhan Akhtar and Diana Penty. A t2 chat.

With less than a week to the release of your debut film, what’s the feeling like?

It’s difficult to explain. It’s a natural feeling to be very excited. Also, a little nervous. I have liked the film while making it and when I watched the end product recently. So, hopefully the audience should also like the way I have seen the film and enjoy the two hour-15 minute journey.  

How did the idea of the film come about?

About two or three years ago, I read a newspaper article about convicts forming a prison band in Lucknow Central jail. It was part of the reformation drive set up by the Uttar Pradesh government, that extended to other jails as well. They would all come together and perform on a special day. The band from Lucknow Central jail — called Healing Hearts — did especially well and the superintendent of the jail at that time, V.K. Jain, took special permission to ensure that the band could go out and perform. They became so popular that they were invited to perform at weddings and birthdays. The jail even had to set up a booking counter for them! Even today, they go out and perform.

Recently, Farhan, I and the entire cast went to Lucknow Central jail to interact with the prisoners. It was a very personal visit because the thought of the film originated from them. They sang for us and we also joined in. We had a lot of conversations with them.

Were there any apprehensions when Qaidi Band from Yash Raj Films came out because the basic premise of the two films seems to be the same?

I came to know about Qaidi Band much later, just when I was finishing the shoot of my film. Honestly, what other people are doing is not in my control… it doesn’t bother me that much. For an outsider, the two films may seem similar because of the jail backdrop. But my film is about one man — Kishan Mohan Girhotra, played by Farhan — and his dreams and passions. He aspires to make a career out of music but for circumstances beyond his control, he lands up in jail and he still fights to fulfil his dreams in the most non-ideal situation. It’s a very positive film about human emotions… it’s not a dark film at all. We’ve tried to show that there is a different world inside jail, which can also be happy and fun. You might come out of the theatre with a smile on your face.

Ranjit Tiwari (left) with Farhan Akhtar on the sets

Did the fact that Farhan has a musical connect shape your decision to cast him?

This is a very content-driven film and Farhan is known to do content-heavy films. It’s a very offbeat story, but an
entertaining one. Farhan plays characters — like in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag or even in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara — that make him get into their skin. He’s such a multi-talented guy and a very good human being and I am lucky to have got him in my first film.

Also, I have a very strong supporting cast… Deepak (Dobriyal), Ronit (Roy), Rajesh Sharma is someone who is from Calcutta…. Inaamulhaq, Ravi Kissen…. To have all of them on one canvas and in one frame is something that one can only dream of.

Growing up in Calcutta, was filmmaking something you always aspired to do? 

Not really. My family has a business back in Calcutta and after school (St. James) and college there (The Bhawanipur Education Society College), I realised that I wouldn’t enjoy the 10-to-5 routine. The best thing that worked for me was that as a child, I watched a lot of films — Bengali, Hindi, English — and when I thought of coming to Bombay, the one thing I could connect back to was films. I was fortunate enough to work with Prahlad Kakkar, the adman, but the man who’s helped me to be where I am today is Nikkhil Advani. I assisted him on Patiala House and every film of his after that. He’s held my hand and taught me everything I know of filmmaking. Having been his assistant for eight years, the line between personal and professional has got blurred. And today, he’s producing my first film as director.

So tell us about your Calcutta connection…

I am from Creek Row… my whole family still lives there. My brother has always been a huge support, he always knew I would fulfil my dream. I keep going back to Calcutta once or twice a year. I will go back after the release of Lucknow Central… I want to celebrate with my family.

Though I am a Tiwari, I can speak fluent Bengali. My influences have all been Bengali… my neighbours, my friends. My entire crew on this film is Bengali — my DoP (Tushar Kanti Ray) is a Bengali, my production designers (Subrata Chakraborthy, Amit Ray) are Bengali…. Growing up, I have watched Mrinal Sen and Satyajit Ray films. Uttam Kumar, Soumitra Chatterjee… I loved the Bengali cinema of that time. And yes, I must tell you The Telegraph is the only newspaper my family reads (smiles).    

So are there any Calcutta hangouts you keep going back to?

One hundred per cent! I am possibly the only one who knows all the local kochuri and shobji places around Creek Row and that area! (Laughs) You get the best rosogollas in the smallest of shops there. In central Calcutta, where I grew up, I make sure I go back and eat the roadside food. I love the biryani from Aminia and Arsalan. I make sure that I eat in all those places when I go back. And then, of course, there’s mom’s food… nothing can beat that.

Finally, is it true that you played Akshay Kumar’s body double in Patiala House?

Ya! I used to have a body very similar to Akshay’s and one day, we needed someone to be his body double and Nikkhil suggested my name. Akshay was also happy with that. Also, I am a big cricket fan (Akshay’s character played cricket in the film) and a lot of the cricketing shots were done
through me.

That didn’t trigger off any acting ambitions?

No, no, no! (Laughs) Yes, I did think about it for a while, and then I realised I would be very bad at it! It’s not a journey that I should take at any point of time.  

Priyanka Roy
Did you know Ranjit when he was in Calcutta? What is your message for him? Tell