My family couldn't believe I was doing film with Shraddha: Stree helmer Amar Kaushik

In an exclusive chat with Deccan Chronicle, the debutant director opened up on his journey on the horror comedy.

Mumbai: Two popular names, Shraddha Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao, a well-known banner, Dinesh Vijan’s Maddock Films, and script by directors, Raj and DK, Amar Kaushik couldn't have asked for a better debut.

Sharing how his dream of becoming a director got fulfilled, in an exclusive interview with Deccan Chronicle, he says, “I worked with Raj and DK on ‘Go Goa Gone’. I was writing a script and planning to direct my own film, but things weren’t working out. Raj and DK are actually like family to me, and they wanted me to hear this story and shared its one-liner. I thought it was very interesting. They asked if I wanted to direct it. I said, ‘Of course.’ It’s a risky genre, but I was keen to take that risk and not debut with a romantic film. They said, ‘This is your story, make it the way you want to.’ Then we fleshed out the screenplay, and I set it where and how I wanted it to be.”

However, ‘Stree’ is not Kaushik’s first venture as a filmmaker; previously, he has also directed a short film ‘Aaba’, which was acclaimed at several international festivals.

But he disagrees that a commercial movie, more so a comedy, can’t get same kind of recognition a ‘niche’ film often receives. “Such films also get recognition, like ‘Dangal’ has gone all around the world and even ‘Newton.’ Like when I made ‘Aaba’, it wasn’t a festival film for me. There is an approach to narrating the story. 'Stree' has got commercial due to the entry of stars, but my honesty has been the same for both my ventures,” he states.

‘Aaba’ was backed by two notable names, Raj Kumar Gupta and Onir, who, along with Raj and DK, have played a part in shaping the director Amar Kaushik.

Kaushik shares, “I was lucky to be associated with Raj and DK. Raj Kumar Gupta produced my short film ‘Aaba’ after I was associate director on his ‘Aamir’, ‘No One Killed Jessica’ and ‘Ghanchakkar’ and I also assisted Onir. So everyone who I’ve worked with are my mentors and like my family.

“I’m not from a film family; I came from North India, Kanpur, a small town. I never even imagined I’ll go on a film set. I used to think it would be so much fun to do something in . And gradually with hard work, I’ve reached this stage.”

With the games of musical chairs that go on behind casting in films nowadays, were Shraddha and Rajkummar the first choices? He replies, “Rajkummar was always my first choice and he will be so till the time I keep making movies because he’s a fabulous actor. As ‘Aaba’ and his film ‘Newton’ travelled across, we met frequently at festivals, at Berlin, National Awards and we always wanted to collaborate. Even for my previous film, I had approached him and he had agreed.”

However, it was a star-struck kind of moment for the director as far as Shraddha was concerned, “For a first-timer, you’ll think of a star, but you won’t get one. When the makers asked about the actress, I said Shraddha and few other names, but Dinesh Vijan said, ‘The first name you said was Shraddha, let’s approach her.’ And when narrated the script to her, she loved it and said, ‘Let’s do it,’ and she was on board the next day. And I was boosted by her dedication and hard work.

“Initially I was scared thinking she’s such a big star, such a huge fan following, my family couldn’t believe I was doing a film with her. And she was like the star player in your team. And this confidence the actors and producers gave me, played a huge role in making a brilliant film together.”

People have liked the trailer, three dance numbers have generated substantial buzz, but ‘Stree’ team faces a huge obstacle at the box office in the form of ‘Yamla Pagla Deewana Phir Se.’

But Kaushik asserts, “I can’t say how it will do at the box office. I’ve only made a film with honesty. If all films work, it’s good for everyone and the industry, but since it’s my film, I’ll obviously expect audiences to go for ‘Stree.’ Of course, there will be an impact for us at the box office. Sometimes you do feel, ‘Why is there a clash? Why not a solo release?’ But there are so many actors, directors and films, clashes are inevitable.”

With the Deols coming back for the popular franchise and Salman Khan, Rekha and Sonakshi Sinha sizzling in a track, ‘YPD 3’ surely has its ‘Paltda bhari’ (upper hand) over 'Stree.'

However, the director is unfazed, “Every film has its fate. Despite ‘Palda Bhari’, several films get clean bowled on the first ball and the new ones do well. Only the audience can say which film’s ‘Palda is Bhari,” he answers.

The other minor hiccup in front of them could be the censor board, with dialogues like “g**d fati padi hai” (expletive for frightened) at risk of being chopped, but Kaushik hopes it goes through. “It’s more like it just comes out of my mouth when a ghost is in front of you, and you’re helpless. It was not meant to spark a battle with the censor, I don’t think they’ll have issue with it, but even if there is, we are muting it out. Apart from that, there is nothing else, it’s a sweet film. It’s not an adult comedy.”

Films like ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa’, ‘Great Grand Masti’ and the recent ‘Golmaal Again’ aside, horror comedy remains largely unexplored in Hindi films. Can ‘Stree’ be path-breaking for the genre then? “No one makes a film thinking of making it path-breaking, it just gets made that way. If I boast and this doesn’t work, people will say he used to say big things. And genres always open up. When one horror film works, people start making more of it, and that could be the same with horror comedy too. Can’t say if with ‘Stree,’ horror comedy will get more popular. We feel like laughing while watching horror films many times, I just decided to merge it together,” he responds.

“There’s a thin line, I could’ve made it full horror, out-and-out comedy or even drama, but it all depends on what the film needs. And I just stuck to the script of 90 or 100 pages like a bible, and didn’t resort to gimmicks, thinking, ‘Oh, this will work.' It’s my first film, career is on stake, and with entry of stars, gave it my everything.”

Why should audiences go to the theatres to watch ‘Stree’? “I guarantee the audiences will get something new to watch, which is enjoyable and along with it, they’ll also get a message. The tagline ‘Mard Ko Dard Hoga’ carries a deep meaning in it and with the mystery about the Stree in the story, it will be an entertaining watch. There are a lot of new jokes; actually I was worried if all jokes got revealed in the trailer itself. But people who have watched the film, loved it and said it’s even better than the trailer. That has motivated me, and I’m convinced they will surely like the movie,” Kaushik signs off.

‘Stree’ releases in theatres near you on August 31.

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