'There is no gay bashing'

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By Director Tarun Mansukhani on male bonding What did you like/ dislike about Dostana? Tell t2@abpmail.com Jigar Shah Bollywood News Service
  • Published 20.11.08

What were the first reactions when you told producer Karan Johar and actors Abhishek and John that Dostana was about two “gay” characters?

When I told Karan the story about three friends who share an apartment, two of whom lie that they are a gay couple to get the place, he burst out laughing. When I told Abhishek about his gay character, he said “Cool”. I thought John would be apprehensive but when I narrated the story, he stared at me for a few seconds and then he too burst out laughing. He half-said, half-asked: “Abhishek and I as a gay couple? You have no idea how funny it will be.”

How did Karan decide to give you a break as a director?

During the shooting of Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, I got talking to Abhishek and told him that I wanted to make a movie about three friends. Once the shooting of KANK got over, Karan came up to me and said: “I think you are ready to direct a film.” He told me that I should write a script and if he liked it, he would produce the film. It took me a good eight months. But Karan was very happy with the script and asked me about my dream cast. I said: Abhishek and John. Karan responded: “Yeah. They will be superb. Both are macho looking. Why don’t you talk to them?’

How did the gay element come into a film that purportedly began as a film about friendship and love?

When I started to write the film, I was very clear that I wanted to write a film on friendship because I have been in a boarding school and I have friends who have been very close to me. We have made innumerable films on friendship in the past, we have made films on live–in relationships, marriages, divorces, so I thought to myself “What new concept can I bring to the table?” Sexuality was invariably something that we had not touched upon till yet. I also realise that when you preach via cinema nobody wants to hear it. So I embarked upon a romantic comedy. The film has a message, if you get it, great. If you don’t, no problem, sit back, relax and enjoy the film.

We guess Kirron Kher relates the message in the film?

She plays Abhishek’s mom. A thet Punjabi mother who discovers that her son is supposedly gay. She contributes to the fun element. But she is also a very progressive character in the film. She is the social comment in the film. I had worked with Kirronji in KANK. She treats me like her son. When I asked, her, “Ma’am dus din ka shoot hai. Kya aap karengi?”, she said: “I had taken it for granted that I will be doing your film!”

John is known to hit the gym after shooting while Abhishek loves to binge.

Well, John convinced Abhishek to go to the gym with him. He put him on a strict diet of grilled fish and spinach. I did the binging for all of us.

Have you made gays the butt of ridicule in the film?

There is no gay-bashing. I am apprehensive about the way gay characters are shown in our films... they are shown as caricatures. I wanted to make sure that none of my characters came across as caricatures.

We’ve heard John kept slipping out of Shilpa’s grip during the Shut up and bounce song because he had applied far too much sun-block...

We were shooting in the sun all the time. We knew that by the end of day we would look darker. To maintain the continuity, all the actors had applied sun-block liberally. Since John was wearing the skimpiest of clothes, he had applied it the most and every time Shilpa tried to put her hand on his arm, it would slip.

The music of the film is truly bouncy...

Vishal and Shekhar are friends. I have known them for three years. I can tell them to get lost without worrying if I have bruised their ego. Every time they would come up with a tune, I would be lying supine on their sofa, half-asleep and mutter “Rubbish! Bounce!” They got so fed up they nicknamed me “Boun-sukhani”. And, one day, Eureka! — this led to the song ‘Shut up and bounce’.

What if you get lost in the crowd of big names like producer Karan and actors John, Abhishek and Priyanka?

I’m accustomed to it. I’m just 5’4”. I have to strain my neck when I have to direct these actors. But short people do stand out.

Karan’s production house Dharma is like my family. If the film doesn’t do well everyone will point at Karan because they don’t know me and if it does well, they will find me.