The making of NH10 - Navdeep Singh  on why it took him eight years to make the journey from manorama to nh10

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 17.03.15

Anushka Sharma and Neil Bhoopalam in NH10

Your debut film Manorama Six Feet Under was almost eight years ago. Why the long gap?

Fate happened, I guess. I don’t know. It’s a kismet type thing. There were two films in between — Basra, that when into pre-production twice, and Rock The Shaadi (both films starred Abhay Deol) which got stopped 20 days into the shoot. These were soul-destroying experiences... but here we are....

In those periods of ‘soul-destroying experiences’, how did you keep your head above the water?

I learnt to meditate and also do yoga. It really helped me. But the most important thing was to surround yourself with people who are supportive and to immerse yourself in something creative. So, I just worked on a lot of scripts. I have suitcases full of scripts… in case anyone is looking! (Laughs)

Manorama didn’t do that well at the box office, but somewhere along the way it became a cult film. How do you explain this phenomenon?

It had a tiny release… we released with 50 prints. And our marketing and publicity budget was about 
Rs 120! But for some reason it got a bunch of die-hard supporters. It seems to have a really long shelf life. Even now I meet people who have watched it for the first time. 

Coming to NH10, where did the idea come from?

The kind of films that I want to do right now are genre films. I want to attempt genres that haven’t been done at all or in a while here. Manorama was a noir film, Basra was a spy thriller, Rock The Shaadi was a zombie film and NH10 is a road trip gone wrong. This is a very popular genre in the West. I want to do genre films until people allow you to make more personal stories. We decided to do NH10 because it was a fairly cheap movie to make. Also, considering the fact that we had a female protagonist, we thought it would be easy to get an A-list actress.
Is this the same script that Freida Pinto was supposed to do?

Oh ya! But this script had gone to Anushka (Sharma) before it went to Freida. Anushka was on top of my wish list. But she was busy with Bombay Velvet (directed by Anurag Kashyap and co-starring Ranbir Kapoor), so she couldn’t do it. Fortunately for me, when the script went back to her the second time around, she had the time to do the film.

It wasn’t easy for you to get this film off the ground, right?

Ya… even with an A-list actress attached to the film, it’s tough to get people to put money on genre films. This was a big learning for me. Every script my writer Sudip (Sharma) and I have written has faced some problem or the other. Like we have a two-hero project and people said it’s tough to get the right combination of actors and then matching their dates is even more impossible. And then you wish someone had told you all this before you spent six months writing that damn story! Sudip and I are planning on writing a tricks-and-cheats-for-making-a-Bollywood-film book. Like if you have an 18-year-old protagonist in your film… who are you going to cast? 

Manorama was set in Rajasthan, while NH10 plays out a little outside Delhi. What is it about small-town India that fascinates you?

My father was in the Army, so I grew up in small towns. Cities have character.... like Mumbai is very different from Calcutta, but there is a certain homogenous feel to the modern parts of most cities. The highrises of Delhi aren’t very different from the highrises of Jaipur, Bangalore.... You have the same malls with McDonald’s and Benetton. Small towns, on the other hand, have a very distinct character. I like my locations to have characters.
There is so much being written and discussed about the censor board. As a director, how do you view censorship?

I can understand the impulse for censorship in a country like ours where a large percentage of the population is impressionable. A lot of Hindi cinema considers what one would view as stalker-ish behaviour to be romantic persistent rather than sexual harassment. So, I can sort of understand the need for censorship. However, it needs to have a contextual basis. Which is why you need a censor board that is well educated… we need a wise censor board.

Do you know what you are doing after NH10?

Well… there have been a few announcements. One film for Aanand (L. Rai) and another with Anushka’s company but given my previous experiences I am not going to talk about any film until the week of its release! 

Karishma Upadhyay
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