Sunday, February 5, 2012

Filmi Girl Talks to... Omi Vaidya! (Jodi Breakers Edition!)

For my previous interview with Omi, please click here.

As January turns to February, in stores and businesses all over America, bouquets of roses, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, and piles of pink greeting cards begin sprouting up like mushrooms after a heavy rain. Yes, it’s that time of year - Valentine’s Day, a day to celebrate the trappings of romantic love. Though Valentine’s Day is not native to India, it seems the industry this year has decided to get into the ishq-mohabbat mood by releasing four romantic-comedies* of various stripes in February. This coming weekend will see Dharma’s antiseptic Ek Main aur Ekk Tu, the weekend after has the sweeping romance of Ek Deewana Tha, and on the last weekend in February comes the peppy Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya and one final film that’s not quite like the others - Jodi Breakers.

Just like you might guess from the title, Jodi Breakers is a romantic-comedy about two people who break up couples for a living, only to find themselves falling in love... with each other! The film stars the gorgeous Bipasha Basu and the extremely likable Madhavan as heroine and hero, respectively, with a supporting cast that includes Helen (!), Dipannita Sharma (Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl), and the always enjoyable Omi Vaidya.

Omi was kind enough to take some time from his visit home to California to speak with me about the film.

As Filmi Girl is no stranger to how a pre-film release interview is supposed to go, she dives right in with her pile of questions: Tell me about your character. Tell me about the film. How was it working with Bipasha and Madhavan? What can we look forward to in the film?

“All the regular questions?” Omi laughs. “My character in the movie is a friend of Madhavan’s character and he’s sort of his support and gives him advice and helps him sometimes with his capers. Basically, it’s a nice supporting role in the film. But he’s also a narration character. I talk to the camera and tell what’s going to happen and what I think is going to happen and I have a little interaction with the audience.”

Filmi Girl comments that she hasn’t seen that much in Hindi films.

“They do it a little more infrequently,” agrees Omi. “Just an aside, they look to the camera like, ‘Is this ridiculous or what?’”

A reaction that would not be out of place in certain Bollywood comedies of the sort directed by David Dhawan.

“Well, it’s hopefully a little bit more realistic [than David Dhawan],” Omi cuts in, “but, yeah, it’s basically that sort of character. And the whole jodi breakers is [Bipasha and Madhavan] breaking up couples having issues - breaking them up for monetary purposes - and then sort of falling in love themselves.”

So, it’s a bit more cynical than a typical romantic-comedy film?

“I guess but even though it’s... it’s like Friends with Benefits and all these movies it’s kind of like...”


“Yeah, it’s cheeky but when you watch it you know that at the end, even though it’s making a comment on all of that stuff, at the end it’s still going to go to the warmth that you want it to go to. It’s still definitely entertainment and Bollywood in that way. It’s nice - like Maid in Mahattan. I mean every movie like that; a sort of warm romance.”

A warm romance with a bit of bite is exactly what the Jodi Breakers trailer promises. The wild card for those of us who pay attention to these things is director Ashwini Chaudhary. Though he won National Award for Ladoo (2000) and critical acclaim for Dhoop (2003), he has been on a break from film directing since 2007’s poorly received Mukhta Arts produced Good Boy Bad Boy, a college romp which starred Tusshar Kapoor and Emraan Hashmi as a mix-matched pair of friends.

Had Omi seen any of Ashwini’s previous films?

“I haven’t seen his films, actually, but I watched a little bit of Dhoop and just a little bit of his first film. He’s done some nice realistic and very real films...”

And then he did Good Boy Bad Boy for Subhash Ghai’s Mukhta Arts.

“I don’t think he was quite happy with that film but, yeah. Then he had a big break.”

Perhaps working with a big production studio was not the right fit for the National Award winning director nor it seems for our IIFA Award winning comedian. The thing he really wants to emphasize about Jodi Breakers is that it is not a big studio film.

“There’s a company that’s basically put up the money - Prasar Vision Pvt Ltd - and it’s their first film out. I’d say that the difference [between Jodi Breakers and big studio films] is that the script was done a year before and the music was done six months before so everything was already in place. Everybody knew what the intention was; all the actors had been vetted. It’s funny to think but in Bollywood that’s rare. Things tend to change rapidly based on...” Omi searches for a diplomatic way to say what he’s thinking and fails. “They just do. Especially in the studio system. Madhavan took more of a role in production, actually. He’s the main character so he had a lot of suggestions.”

Without having to negotiate last minute changes and notes from the head of the studio, the cast was free to let loose and be free with their performances. “I’ve been doing sort of kooky funny roles and I’m still doing that, of course, but I’m getting to do a little more risque stuff and push the envelope a little bit and it’s nice to get out of my comfort zone and push myself.”

Out of his comfort zone?

“I had to do a little bit of dancing! I danced before in my documentary [Big in Bollywood] because there’s a music video at the end but this was the first real dancing I had to do. There was a party scene where I had to do a little dancing and - this was a great scene - we had to do some dancing on top of an open doubledecker bus on Marine drive, which is sort of one of the nicest sunset scenes in Bombay.”

Okay, dancing is good but what about really out of his comfort zone?

“I’ll tell you what was out of my comfort zone. If you’ve seen the trailer, I’m naked in one scene and I have inappropriate scenes with girls because that’s my character so it’s very... I’m not like that.” Omi laughs. “I’m very timid. I’ll make the move after like two-three months. Maybe. So, this was something totally different to just make that move a lot faster and have the intention a lot more. Just removing myself from the situation like, ‘I’m naked. I’m on a set. What am I doing?’ You just get very flustered.”

Did Omi pull a diva move and clear the set for his naked scene?

“No, no! You cannot be self-conscious like, ‘Everybody leave, I’m going to act wild and crazy.’ No, I just have to act wild and crazy and believe it. Every take was wilder than the next, almost, up to a level.”

So, has his wife seen his ‘wild and crazy’ scenes yet?

“No, not really... I mean, she knows about em. And I had to kiss someone in Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Ji and... it’s a part of the job, you know? And it’s funny because there are certain guys you want their shirts taken off and you want to see them half-naked [he’s implying that he is not one of those guys but I’m sure Omi has his fans - speak up, ladies!! - FG] but like every film it’s always, ‘Oh, I hope I don’t have a shirtless scene’ and it’s always like that! In 3 Idiots I have a shirtless scene; I have shirtless scenes in every film!”

Recalling my last interview with Omi where he mentioned teasing a dieting Bipasha with delicious garlic toast, did Omi feel any sympathy for her now?

“I did try to work out a little bit,” admits Omi. “I definitely put on like five pounds of muscle - that’s not a lot but it’s a lot for me. This character is very vain, you know? So, the way he looks is very important. We dyed my hair and just chopped it. I was just like, ‘Go crazy do whatever you want’ and [the stylist] was like, ‘Do you mind if we dye it?’ and I was like, ‘Do what-ever you want, honestly.’”

And Filmi Girl assumes he has a flashy wardrobe to go with his flashy hair?

“The clothes are a little more flashy, definitely. They were really uncomfortable.” Omi laughs. “I had to lose some weight and get into shape but the clothes don’t fit any better - they’re just tighter and more restricting!” Filmi Girl is amused at how baffled Omi seems by this revelation.

“Everybody focuses so much on their clothes,” Omi continues. “I don’t know if I told you, but, unlike in in America where the director picks the costume director and everybody listens to the costume director, in India everybody has their own costume designer - every actor, almost. That’ s sort of the way it works. It puts a lot of the leadership and choices in the actors hands. In Bipasha’s case it makes her look stunning but in some cases, like mine, I don’t really care what he clothes are, I’m just here for the acting. And in other people’s cases like when the costume designer is not doing the right thing or one of the actors is just over the top and just disturbing the film, it can be a problem. It’s very interesting how Bollywood works - very actor driven.”

Speaking of actors, I’m sure my readers can guess what Filmi Girl has been dying to ask about. The H-Bomb. Helen.

“Helen was really awesome.” Of course she was. “She was one of the most interesting people I met on the whole set. She’s been there and she’s done it all and she’s just so like … she’s just seems very happy and she was really cute, the way she did her lines and the way she carried herself. And she just told me these great stories... I don’t know if you know, I ‘m sure you know about her work but my wife told me that she’s not Indian...”

At this point, Filmi Girl excitedly interrupts with a pile of facts about Helen and that, yes, indeed she is from Burma.

“Yes, that’s what I heard. She walked across from Calcutta and one of her siblings died and she was only four so she doesn’t remember it too much but after something like that like anything else...”

No, I suppose that after that, anything seems manageable.

“She quite took a liking to me and she called me her bachcha. Yeah, she was cool. I would just make jokes - just stupid things, you know?”

Filmi Girl can imagine Helen’s tinkling laugh at being flirted with by her bachcha.

“I flirt with everybody!! It’s part of my character, too, so I have to flirt. There should have been some shot where I would be hitting on Helen and she’d sort of slap me because that sort of their characters. But then, she’s Helen, so...”

Yes, she is Helen.

“She brought some really good cakes. She would bring cakes everyday almost. Really good, too, like walnut, crushed fruit cakes. And when I had to come on my 30th birthday to shoot from America there was a cake there for me which was kind of nice.”

That must have been nice.

“It sucked it was my 30th, though.”

While Filmi Girl could talk about Helen eating cake all day, how was it working with Dipannita Sharma?

“Yeah, she’s in the film and she had a critical role along with Madhavan... She’s a model and she has that tall slim look and I was actually joking with her to teach me how to model and asking why are models so grumpy.” Well? What’s the answer? “She said people don’t want you to look at their faces so if you look grumpy, they’ll look at the clothes.” I suppose that makes sense. Dipannita sounds like a very no nonsense person.

Before we wrap up, Omi wants to throw in a word on the soundtrack.

“Compared to some of my last films, I’d say I enjoyed these songs more. I’m sort of a hopeless romantic. I like that kind of like slow stuff and ballads. There are some nice ballads in here. The songs have done well and I kind of feel like the movie will do well, too. It’s a nice project and I feel really good about it. Even though it’s jodi breakers it’s going to make a lot of people happy when they watch it.”

Well, it’s certainly made Filmi Girl very happy just hearing about it.

And that leads to the last question - does Omi have anything to say about Players?

“Do I have anything to say about Players...? Players was really fun for me. I could say that.”

We both laugh. Really hard.

“It was like sort of my first big budget studio film - all the stars and everything that a studio picture is...”

Would he do another one on that scale? All the money and the pressure?

“Yeah.. maybe. It’s difficult. It’s good in some ways and there are so many perks. The hotels we stayed in and the locations but the work can be very limiting. The product is going through more people’s hands.”

The starry world can be a glittery place and very appealing but it has it’s downsides, too. Filmi Girl won’t ask about slapgate since Omi wasn’t at the party.

“I wasn’t, no! You know I don’t really go to parties nor do I probably get invited. I mean they don’t even know where I stay. I stay at some random apartment and then I just go to work and do my stuff.” That’s probably smart, honestly. “It’s cool, you know all these guys. I don’t know what to say, I’m just like, ‘Hey, how’s it going, how you doing?’ and they’re just like, ‘Wassup?’ and then it’s like, ‘Okay, I’ll see you later.’” Omi laughs. “But that’s unlike Madhavan and Bipasha, though. I go into their trailers all the time and just bother them and we talk a lot.”

“I’m just really proud of this.” Omi continues. “I mean Players was fun but I didn’t really have much control of that but I know that this is some good prouduct and good fun and good entertainment. I hope people enjoy what I did because I enjoyed doing it and I tried to do something quite different with myself and it was fun.”

Well, if Omi’s passion for this project is anything to go by, Jodi Breakers should be one to look out for! And though I’m not really a romantic, Omi certainly sold Filmi Girl on this project. I’ll be in line for my ticket opening weekend!

I want to thank Omi for taking the time to talk with me about Jodi Breakers. It’s always a pleasure talking with somebody who takes films just as seriously as I do... and who has a ear for anecdotes!

* I suppose I should include Ali Zafar’s London Paris New York in this list but technically it comes out the first weekend in March.


lvrplfc4l said...

Love how every actor has their own costume designer and they chose what to wear. I wonder how much the director and DP know about the costumes in advance to set up lighting for shots? Or if the costumes clash? Must make for some interesting sets and drive first time directors crazy.

Sal said...

The costume thing is not always how it works, though. The "auteur"-type directors and the newer lot usually have one or two people doing al the costumes. For instance, Bhanu Athaiya did all the costuming in Lagaan, Sabyasachi did all of it in Guzaarish, Dolly Ahluwalia in Omkara, and Niharika Khan in Band Baaja Baaraat and The Dirty Picture.

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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