Rohan Sippy is back with Nautanki Saala which hit the screens recently

Rohan Sippy says that working on the play The President Is Coming and adapting it for celluloid in 2008 was a thrilling experience for him. “Within three years of that, I directed Fashion Broadway (a 30-minute musical) for Chivas Studio 2011. I was in a different zone. I loved the experience. Theatre seemed almost like a cottage industry that thrived on hard work, patience, rehearsals and no glamour. I decided then that my next film would be in this space,” says the director-producer whose film Nautanki Saala released this Friday.

Two years ago, Rohan and Kunal Roy Kapur (actor in Nautanki Saala and director of The President Is Coming) saw a French play together titled Apres Vous. “It was a sitcom set in a Parisian hotel and I loved the concept. But Kunal suggested we change the setting and I thought of placing it in a theatre company. That was the genesis of Nautanki Saala,” he says.

The film revolves around Ram Parmar (Ayushmann Khurrana) who is Ram personified in real life, but plays Raavan on stage. He meets Mandar Lele (Kunal) one night when the latter is about to kill himself out of loneliness. Ram saves him and then takes on the responsibility for his life. This lends itself to hilarious situations with the loser Mandar’s buffoonery on stage and Ram’s on-the-spot improvisations.

Male bonding

Rohan says his three-member team, including the two actors and himself, were on the job since last May. “We rewrote the play last year in May and began rehearsing in July. I know both my actors are great, but the rehearsals helped them master that effortless chemistry you see on screen.” The director seems to have seized the current trend of male bonding evident in several Hindi movies. “Actually, most of our films have the male bonding factor. Take Sholay, Taxi 9211, Bluff Master or Nautanki Saala. I think we excel in portraying this relationship!” he laughs.

Unlike his previous films, where he has cast big stars (Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Bipasha Basu and Priyanka Chopra), Rohan has opted for non-stars in this film. Asked about this, he says, “Look, I love working with stars. I love working. Period. Along with big budgets, which include fancy locales and big names, comes a lot of pressure. This time, the scale is different. I didn’t have to worry about escalating budgets; I just concentrated on making my film. But I can’t say that I won’t work with big stars again.” His friend, actor Abhishek Bachchan is playing a cameo as himself in the film.

The title is also inspired by a famous Amitabh Bachchan-line from his father Ramesh Sippy’s film Sholay. “Yes, I thought it was apt and it’s been an Indian colloquialism ever since Sholay released in the Seventies. It’s as relevant now as then. Initially, I had titled it Dramebaaz. We even have a song in the film by that name. It was Abhishek who suggested we use this title and it was spot on,” he reveals.

Rohan says he will not disappear from the scene now as he is prone to between two films. “I have decided to make more films and actively work on more concepts simultaneously so if one doesn’t take off for whatever reason, there is another one to build on. I have one film in the making now. It isn’t titled Sonali Cable as is being reported. But it is yet another smaller-budget film and we will begin work in mid-April.”