Writer-director duo Amit Joshi and Aradhana Sah talk about their journey with their debut feature film Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya, the chemistry between lead pair Shahid Kapoor and Kriti Sanon, and working with veteran actor Dharmendra.
The title Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya came much later. Did the film have any working title?
Amit Joshi: No. We were discovering the title because it was a new subject. There was no fixed title when we started shooting. Initially, there were some title ideas but those didn’t seem apt for the story.
Aradhana Sah: Yeah, and when we heard Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya, we thought that it was quirky and had a relatability factor too. More importantly, it has the essence of the film because a robot can only have ‘baatein’ (words). She doesn’t have emotions.
Who came up with the film’s title?
Aradhana Sah: Dinesh Vijan (producer).
Amit Joshi: It just sounded very right for the film. It had some ring to it. All of us decided that this should be the title.
What was the first idea or emotion or a visual that gave rise to the film?
Amit Joshi: Initially, the idea was to create something to do with man versus technology. I shared the idea with Aradhana because I was not able to figure out how to conceive it as a film. I wanted to keep it light-hearted and family-viewing kind of a thing. She suggested that we build it block by block.
Aradhana Sah: When Amit told me that he wanted to write a film about a robot, I thought that it’s a genre that we must explore. Then I started thinking and this thing stuck with me — that we all are in relationships where we want our partner to be a little bit different than what they are. We want something perfect, and that is possible with a robot that you can customise. But in the end, you know that it’s not a real relationship. This film is all about that. When a person finds somebody who can be exactly what he may want in his life, what happens then?
How long did it take you to complete the film from scripting to releasing it?
Aradhana Sah: Four-five years, I think.
Amit Joshi: If I remember correctly, we finished the first draft in September 2019. Eighty-five per cent of what we have in the finished film was there in that first draft. We were raring to go but then Covid happened. We had our journey and we had our hardships. Everything had stopped during the pandemic. After the pandemic, we met Sharada Karki Jalota (chief creative officer at Maddock Films) and it flew from there.
Aradhana Sah: In the very first narration, Sharada loved the script and was there with us as a backbone to this film. It was her conviction in the script as well.
Were Shahid Kapoor and Kriti Sanon your original choices to play the leads? How did they come on board?
Aradhana Sah: I think Dinesh pitched them the idea. They were the first ones that we met with the script and they liked it.
Amit Joshi: Dinu (Dinesh Vijan) met Shahid at a gym and discussed the idea with him. We had completed the scripting and everything was fine. It was a coincidence that they met and Shahid said, ‘Why don’t you let me hear it?’ When we were writing the film, Shahid was one of the most prominent faces that we could see for the role.
Aradhana Sah: But it was a very far-fetched dream.
What were your expectations from Shahid and Kriti? Did they surprise you in any way?
Aradhana Sah: We worked with them too much before we started shooting. We did workshops and discussed every scene in detail. We were on the same page. They asked many questions, which was good for us too.
Amit Joshi: Both of them have a very logical way of thinking. Both are intelligent actors. They have strong viewpoints about certain things.
I want to give credit to Shahid and Kriti for their involvement while we were finalising the shooting draft. We made many changes after hearing their point of view. Aradhana and I would rewrite and narrate it again with something new that we came up with. We had a great synergy between the two actors and the Maddock team.
The chemistry between Shahid and Kriti is palpable. How much of it was written into the script and how much of it was worked upon by the actors?
Aradhana Sah: I think the chemistry was just there. Both are very good-looking people who are open to exploring new things. It was there in the script and it was there between them also. We didn’t have to work hard on their chemistry.
Amit Joshi: When we narrated the script to them, they loved it instantly with perspectives of their own. Both of them wanted to work with each other, so that was a big plus for us. The chemistry was written into the script but when these two faces came into the picture, it got enhanced. The chemistry between Shahid and Kriti was crackling from the first day of shooting.
You also had Dharmendra in your debut film. What is your most memorable incident while shooting the film?
Amit Joshi: There’s a marriage sequence with 300-350 people on set. It was the last day of shooting that particular sequence and we had to finish certain sequences. It was a night shoot. In Jaisalmer, nights are very cold. The vanity vans were parked far and you had to walk a kilometre to come to the set. Because we were running short of time, everyone from Dharamji to Dimple (Kapadia) ma’am was on set.
I told Dharamji to wait in the vanity because of his age and it was very cold but he was excited about shooting and came walking to the set. He said, ‘I’ll wait for my shot, no problem.’ I was looking at this superstar with 60 years of work experience waiting for his shot at 2am in the night. It taught me humility. We ordered hot Maggie. Then, everybody came together and said, ‘We will also have Maggie. Nobody is going to their vanity vans.’
Aradhana Sah: I have immense respect for Dharamji because at his age, he was like a child. When you say action, he completely changes. He wanted to give more than what we asked for. One day we were shooting the sequence where he’s very sick and SIFRA (Kriti Sanon) takes him to a hospital. There is a dog in that scene and Dharamji went, ‘Bhow bhow’. That was really funny.
The film’s music has clicked. How did you work on the soundtrack?
Amit Joshi: I want to give credit to Dinu and Shahid for the music because Shahid had certain preferences in mind. He used to always say that great romantic stories always have great music. He has a very good ear for music, though both of us also have our taste in music. But it’s just like when he played something, we liked it.
When we discussed Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya with Dinu, he said, ‘Yeh toh bannahi chahiye.’ The idea was to have that kind of background music. Tum Se was worked upon by Dinu and Sachin-Jigar and they made us hear it. It took some time for it to register at first, but when we heard it again, it stayed with us. So, the soundtrack of the film is a result of organic teamwork.
Were you nervous as first-time directors?
Aradhana Sah: I think maybe initially, but everybody was very cooperative. We didn’t have to face many difficulties. We have been lucky that way on our first film.
Amit Joshi: I am a confident person, but you have butterflies in your stomach when you are shooting with such a big cast and crew. Our DOP Laxman Utekar sir was holding our hands and guiding us whenever we felt stuck with constructing a scene or a technical thing. I must say that Shahid and Kriti were also very welcoming. They gave us the space to express ourselves. It was a happy and chilled-out set.