Filmmaker Amar Kaushik couldn’t be happier. His directorial debut Stree was the surprise success of 2018, and now Bala is hit-machine Ayushmann Khurrana’s career’s biggest opener too.
“I feel humbled and relieved. All of us in the team worked really hard to ensure that the film dealt with a serious subject without getting too dark or preachy. We could have tripped over at any point. But the tone held,” says Amar, who has served as assistant to Rajkumar Gupta and Onir.
“I feel I’ve trained under the best. The two things that I feel are essential to my cinema are realism and humour; I can’t direct films that are not rooted to reality. I have lived in Kanpur and many of the experiences that Ayushmann’s character goes through in Kanpur are my own. At the same time, whether it is a horror-comedy like Stree or Bala, humour has to be constantly present in my films,” he adds.
The director gives a lot of credit to his writer Niren Bhatt and his amazing cast for the authenticity that sounds across the film. “For every character, we got an actor who had just the face we needed. For example, Dheerendra Gautam, who plays Ayushmann’s brother, is a local Kanpur boy with no acting experience. He is a rapper, and we just felt he would be right,” he reveals.
Amar says the film was planned with Ayushmann in the lead. “It was Ayushmann from the start. His dedication was exemplary. He lost a whole lot of weight because we wanted certain awkwardness in his body language as well. When he came on the sets, we didn’t see Ayushmann, we saw only Bala.”
When asked about the rise of the working class hero, the filmmaker opines: “I think the era of the relatable hero, that Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna popularised, is back.”
While critics and audiences have given the film a thumbs up, Amar’s daughter had a unique opinion. “Well, my daughter fell asleep halfway through the film,” Amar laughs.