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English dreams, Hinglish films...

Looks are deceptive. So is Nagesh Kukunoor. Long hair, funky outfits, accented English. Look a bit more carefully, and you find yourself face to face with a man who has his own dreams, his own rules, his own niche as a filmmaker with a difference, says RANA A. SIDDIQUI... .



BREAKING BARRIERS: Nagesh Kukunoor's appeal is forever widening, his films forever more enthusing. Photos: Sandeep Saxena.

HE IS candid. Brash too. He is knowledgeable. Articulate too. He has his dreams. Keeps some space for them even as he sets about to accomplish the more difficult task of holding his own in the big, bad world of dream merchants. Meet Nagesh Kukunoor, 36, writer, director, actor. And a man who has written his own rules in Indian cinema. He is a storyteller whose stories are our stories, whose stories stream from everyday life of a person caught between two extremes, mainly of values and cultures. His tales are told through tongue-in-cheek dialogue, flavoured with lines of wit and wisdom - be it his debut "Hyderabad Blues" that ran for 31 week in Mumbai, 28 weeks in each in Hyderabad and Bangalore or "Rockford" or "Bollywood Calling". But then, he has earned fame as a director who makes low budget films with comic value. Now comes "Teen Deewarein" his latest venture, this time with an impressive cast by his standards. That is if you know who `starred' in "Rockford" and others. This time, there is a seasoned actor Naseeruddin Shah, Jackie Shroff, Juhi Chawla. There is Nagesh himself too.

"I learnt about people's opinion of my films, strangely they call them comedies! I never wanted to be pigeonholed into a humorous director. So in this film I have put in some intrigue and drama," says Nagesh who had the "the script ready in 2001". And the script was a result of a documentary on two dreaded criminals and Indian prison he saw in 1998 while the convicts were also among the audience. "After the documentary was over, we were made to meet those convicts. I was amazed to see them. They looked simple and innocent and no different from others." And then began Nagesh's in-depth conversation with various prisoners, police and Government officials in jails across the country and finally the Mushirabad Jail in Hyderabad, now slated for demolition, served the backdrop of his film.

Nagesh completed this film in 36 days, two days before the scheduled date for demolition. The film is about life and love in prison told through the craft of Naseer, Jackie and himself. Juhi comes as a documentary maker.


Naseer, he "approached", Jackie and Juhi are "grossly underrated stars capable of doing so much", hence the cast. And he himself? "I play a fool of the lot who keeps saying he is innocent. I include myself in the film only when I know only I can act that I visualise about that character." The film will also showcase Nagesh's poetic ability through Jackie's role. "It is far-fetched from poetry, just some scrabbling," he says.

Why he did not choose Naseer's character in stead? "It would been sheer stupidity. Just like satisfying ego," says Nagesh, his trademark blunt honesty very much evident. And believe you, he cares not for audience while making a film. "My films are a translation of my dreams only. They are not meant to lure audience. Hence, I never have a target audience. It is just that I studied abroad for a good part of career, so English comes naturally. I dream, think and write in English only." And hence he cares not if his films in English with indicative humour do not draw masses from interiors. "I cannot do loud humour to pull masses," he declares.

But there is a subtle humour in his next film "Tandoor", a romantic drama between a widower cook to be played by Amitabh Bachchan and "a white lady lawyer in New York". The film has all that goes into making "Hyderabadi cuisines" because Nagesh is an absolute food lover. The persuasion to this white lady is on.

Well, the director of "Teen Deewarein" should know something about breaking barriers, and findings his ideal woman for "Tandoor".

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