The upcoming Ayushmann Khurrana, Pallavi Sharda and Mithun Chakraborty starrer ‘Hawaizaada’ sees debutante director Vibhu Puri make a transition from assistant director. The film is a story about Shivkar Bapuji Talpade, who is the Indian who constructed and flew the first ever unmanned plane in the 1800s. Not many know of Talpade’s story and Puri embarked on his journey with this story to bring about awareness and appreciation for someone who is arguably one of the most important men in Indian history. BizAsia speaks to Puri about the film and how he went about making it.
‘Hawaizaada’ is your first film as director. How do you feel with the film being so close to its release date?
I feel very overwhelmed from the reaction that I am getting from the audience, the industry and from people from all different walks of life. They have been very kind to film till now and every piece of communication which has gone out from us has been appreciated so that gives me a lot of confidence and a sense of responsibility because people are expecting a lot out of the film. I am nervous about living up to people’s expectations and exuberance as I have been working on this film since four years and it is going to be a great feeling to see people react from the film.
How important has social media been for you to get a response from the film?
It is a great medium. It has democratised emotions now. Till ten years ago, there were certain people who made communications with the audience and there would be people receiving, there would be no link between them. Now the world has shrunk and I can directly interact with people who like my songs and my film and that is a lot. It makes you out there with the public, you can perform and get your applause right there with those people in front of you.
How much did you know about Shivkar Bapuji Talpade before writing the story about him?
Frankly speaking nothing. The first time I read about him was in 2011 and it just sparked something inside me and I thought, this man needs to be filmed. Not for anything else but the fact how conveniently he was forgotten. He is not talked about at school or in alternate classes, there is no mention of him as a scientist, a dreamer or an artist. It was very important for me to go back and do some research about him and understand his life. We had to take a lot of cinematic liberties which happens in any sort of filmmaking but I spent a year researching him and writing and rewriting the story.
Was the main motive for you writing the story the fact that Talpade has been forgotten?
Correct. For it was a very inspirational story. It is not just making a plane or being a scientist, these things are there but after a point, it is a very human story. It is about a dreamer who wants to go out and achieve and get his own piece of the sky and what he will do to go out and do that. It is very contemporary. It is about someone living in London wanting to be a journalist or someone who lives in the corners of India and fights to get electricity in his house. It is about any sort of a dream or a struggle to begin with but once you start on that journey you end up doing that. It is an inspirational story and for me, it was always a story about human beings and how we always bounce back.
How did you go about casting the film?
In a way, when I was writing about Shivkar Bapuji Talpade, I realised that he was a young man when he made it, he was not a 70 year old professor who made a plane. He was a young man who wanted to change the world, he was 29 or 30 years old. I was looking at the younger generation of actors, those who came to the scene two to three years back. Among the young people I thought Ayushmann Khurana had the most vulnerable and charming face and he was the most hard working actor who was ready to take on the role which was a journey where I didn’t know where it was heading. It is a difficult film to make, especially in the kind of cinema we operate in. We make 200 to 300 films a year and most of them you would forget three days after release, which is side. For me cinema is trying to covert literature into celluloid. I wanted to put that sort of timelessness into the film and I was looking for an actor who could surrender himself. Ayushmann could do this and he is loaded with charm like Shivkar.
As Pallavi is concerned, I had met her during her theatre show where she is an accomplished classical Indian dancer and even if you were living in India, you would hardly come across someone who was learning classical Indian dance so seriously. Especially for a girl who was born and bought up in Australia and she was more Indian than many Indian girls that I would know. She had the right poise and grace, she had the vulnerability of the time and I thought she would make a lovely Sitarra, the love interest for the boy so that’s how Pallavi got it.
Sibbraya was a mastermind and I thought Mithun da bought with him, a lot of his star approach towards the role and at the same time, he was ready to get under the skin of the character brilliantly which I don’t think any other serious actor would have been able to transform.
How did you prepare for the 1895 setting of the film?
When I was child in London, we always read the book Sherlock Holmes and he was this tight upper lip sort of a guy who was always on the verge of being a boring man who was orthodox sort of a gentlemen. We saw Robert Downey Jr in Sherlock Holmes by Guy Ritchie and this guy was drunk and a womaniser. So when we approach a period film in this part of the world, we always make it a preachy sort of a film but my interpretation was that I wanted to make a very lively contemporary film in the name of a period film. It may be a period film but I wanted it to be inspirational to the younger audience as they will change tomorrow.
Would you say the end product of how ‘Hawaizaada’ will be released is the way you conceptualised it?
I am very happy with the way it was shaped up, my cast and crew have worked very hard. I need to thank my producers, my musicians, my music composers because without them, I could not have taken this journey. As I am making this film as a first time director, there have been compromises you have to make but I think we have made this film with a lot of heart and it has translated beautifully onto the screen.
As a director, how much does box office success matter to you?
I actually went out to make this film because I wanted people to know about Shivkar Bapuji Talpade, that was the only goal in my mind and today near the release, we are talking about this gentlemen and there are debates happening in science congress to people in school talking about it, this in itself is a huge victory. We have been able to dispense information about him over different platforms and today, this a victory for all of us and people are talking about him. Whatever happens at box office will happen for good and I am very excited and looking forward to seeing how people react to the film.
What has been your inspiration in the whole process in making ‘Hawaizaada’?
Shivkar Bapuji Talpade has been my biggest inspiration making this film because every time he got stuck somewhere, this happened when I was making the film like plausity of money or as simple as the sun setting when you have many more shots to film, in every stage we have always gone back to Mr Talpade and we just need to make a small little film. He has been the driving force for all of us and I am sure wherever he is right now, he will be proud of all of us. He has held our hand throughout and has seen us do it.
Why should the audience watch ‘Hawaizaada’?
So that I can make another ‘Hawaizaada’. It is simple as that. You have to go out there and appreciate good cinema and there would be another five ‘Hawaizaada’ standing in your doorway. If you reject films like this, you will not get that sort of conviction and courage.
What is next for you as director?
No idea. I do not have any idea of what I will be doing. After 30th January, there will be a huge void with withdrawal symptoms. Right now I don’t want to give my mind or heart to any other film than ‘Hawaizaada’.
BizAsia sends special thanks to Vibhu Puri for taking the time to talk to us, exclusively. ‘Hawaizaada’ is set for release on 30th January.