The couple behind the crazy ride

Slice of life: Writer-producer Michael E. Ward with director Pia Sukanya

Slice of life: Writer-producer Michael E. Ward with director Pia Sukanya

A tale of vulnerable characters caught in crazy circumstances , Bombairiya had its world première at the ongoing Diorama International Film Festival at Siri Fort Auditorium recently. The comic thriller stars Radhika Apte, Siddhant Kapoor, Akshay Oberoi, Adil Hussain, and Ravi Kishan. Débutante director Pia Sukanya and writer-producer Michael E. Ward were present on the occasion. They revealed the story behind the making of the film while also recollecting the dramatic turn of events that brought the two of them together, both personally and professionally.

Pia and Michael have been living in Mumbai for over a decade but they first met in England where Pia was acting in a TV series that Michael was running. The duo moved to India in the aftermath of the 2005 London bombings. “Interestingly, Michael, a tea planter’s son, was born in Assam and I was born in England we are married and we work together and so it’s like a mom-and-pop shop,” guffawed Pia while reflecting on their creative collaboration. Pia studied at Delhi’s Sardar Patel Vidyalaya from the age two to eight before moving to New York with her parents. She subsequently went to Cambridge to study social anthropology. During her years in New York, she trained as a singer which paved her way to perform in musicals during which she got to share the stage with the likes of the Oscar-winning English actor Eddie Redmayne.

Bombairiya draws a lot from the couple’s own experiences of living in Mumbai. “It is very much our personalities represented on the screen. Someone, who recently watched one of our trailers, told us that it is adorable yet riveting. Apart from being a very resourceful producer, Michael is also a wonderful writer. And he is not really an outsider looking at India because he really feels like an Indian and even speaks Hindi and writes it as well. Bombariya is really an expression of who we are as a couple,” explained Pia.

The story of Bombairiya is inspired by an actual event that happened to Aarti Bagdi, the couple’s filmmaker friend. “When Aarti came to meet us many years ago, she told me about how her phone had got stolen on the streets. The interesting thing is that the thief didn’t switch it off which left a room for negotiation. So there started one relationship between two strangers, between the girl and the thief. There was another relationship between her and the guy who was helping her to call the thief up through his cellphone. I didn’t stop laughing while she kept narrating the entire chain of events that unfolded on that day. At the end of it, I turned to Michael and told him that we really have a film in our hands,” recollected Pia.

“While it started with that small idea it developed into something much bigger that reflects strongly on the city we live in, our adopted home, Mumbai. It is a very relatable film that’s really funny as well. The central character, essayed by Radhika Apte, is someone who is the last person interested in helping someone else. She is very self-obsessed and doesn’t like people. So her journey may also be seen as one of redemption,” explained Michael. “It is never really fully written until the script meets the director, meets the actor, and meets the location. Everything is a roller coaster. You have to be prepared to adjust accordingly from what you first thought of. For example, while writing the character of a fading movie star we never really thought that anyone would be interested in essaying it then suddenly Ravi Kishan showed his interest as he thought that the pain felt by the character was very much real and not farcical. It may look like a farce to someone watching the story but it was real to him and that’s why Ravi Kishan wanted to play the part in the first place,” revealed Michael who would next be serving as a creative producer on an upcoming international TV series.

Inspired by black comedies like Seven Psychopaths and In Bruges, Bombairiya is a reminder that we are not alone trapped in the madness that seems to surround us. “It is a tale of hope. Let’s put it that way. Everyone gets a taste of this madness. We are in this foolish confusion together. My car broke down around Juhu some years ago and there I was pushing it on my own with traffic coming from four directions and nobody came to help me at all. Suddenly a young man came from nowhere and gathered some help to push my car out of the traffic. In India, even when you are on the road you will find people with human values and that’s less common in the rest of the world in comparison to India,” explained Michael.

Getting actors like Radhika Apte and Adil Hussain on board was never a challenge for Pia and Michael and they attribute it to the script which they perfected after several rewrites. “It was never really a difficult task to get Radhika, Adil and others on board because the script was that good. While Radhika read the full script, we only shared specific parts with Adil who plays a politician kept in a VVIP cell in the film and so he is really blind to what is happening in the outside world. The one thing that particularly appealed to him was that we were going to shoot using sync sound which in itself was a big deal because we were shooting on real locations in Mumbai. Many sound designers and sound recordists told us that it was going to be impossible but we managed to pull it off,” rejoiced Pia.

Content with what they have achieved with Bombairiya in creative terms, both Pia and Michael aren’t intimidated by what awaits their film at the box office. “Those are the dangers we had been aware of since we started the adventure. It’s going to have a global audience quite soon after the experiment at the box-office. We believe that there is still a hunger for cinema in this country. So it’s a risk worth taking. Those who are backing the project are brave people. They are keen to know what we would like to do next,” summed up Michael.

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2022 12:12:00 pm |