Luka Chuppi producer Dinesh Vijan, director Lakshman Utekar on depicting live-in relationships in small towns

Luka Chuppi producer Dinesh Vijan, director Lakshman Utekar on depicting live-in relationships in small towns

Luka Chuppi has been produced by Dinesh Vijan, who has been enjoying a dream run at the box office with both his previous ventures, Hindi Medium and Stree, garnering thunderous applause at the box office. With Luka Chuppi too, the confidence is apparent. Apart from his upcoming film, the producer was also in news recently for taking the decision of not releasing his films in Pakistan in wake of the gruesome Pulwama attack on 14 February. He says that everything should not be equated with business. “It’s a horrific thing that has happened and we should stand in solidarity with the country and its soldiers. It was an instant and organic gut reaction.” The producer further adds that he is least bothered if the film were to make less money at the box office with his decision. “If it affects the numbers so be it. It’s not about business and last year, I earned enough from Stree to make films for next 10 years, so I am okay. I think as film people, this is the least we can do.”

Luka Chuppi has the subject of live-in relationship at its core and Dinesh believes that the subject is now no more a taboo for the Indian audience. “As a county, we are all involved in each other’s lives, be it friends, kids, family or even neighbours. We are always inquisitive and want to know what the other person is doing and we don’t like it if we don’t know. This is good because if something goes wrong, then we all stick together but at the same time, if you conceal some information from them, it might just lead to some crazy comedy of errors. The subject of live-in relationship is not really a taboo because it’s a clean family film and a few days ago, we managed a U/A certificate from the Censor Board. In fact, it’s the cleanest film I have ever made,” reveals Dinesh.

Dinesh’s debut film as a director (Raabta) proved to be a nightmare at the box office but he maintains that it taught him a lot. “Agent Vinod taught me how to make Badlapur, and Raabta taught me how to make these films (Stree, Hindi Medium and the upcoming Made in China, Bala and Arjun Patiala). I have now realised that there is no need to ape the West, and the concept of big films and small films have blurred. No one wanted me to Hindi Medium and it was sold only on the back of other films. The experience taught me that there is a new India which is not aspirational and want to see their own stories,” says Dinesh.

When asked if Kriti Sanon and Kartik Aaryan were his first choice, he answers in the affirmative. “They both are born and brought up in the North, and have a clear and good command over the language that’s spoken in that belt. Kartik is from Gwalior, where the film is based, and understands the world really well. I think a lot of girls like him and they will drag their boyfriends to watch the film and all the boyfriends will come to watch Kriti. I think we are good,” says Dinesh with a chuckle.

Luka Chuppi will baptize Lakshman Utekar as a director into the world of Bollywood, though he has been a familiar name in the Marathi film circuit, apart from having shot films of Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Sridevi in the past.

“Well, I am familiar with the environment of Bollywood. Obviously I have an interest in storytelling and have directed two Marathi films in the past. It wasn’t that difficult. We had worked on the script of Luka Chuppi for two years, so there was no space for confusion when we went on the floors,” says Laxman.

It might come as a shock to many that Laxman had initially rejected the film when the offer came his way. “Rohan Shankar had written the script of my last Marathi film Lalbaugchi Rani and when he came with this script, my instant reaction was no. I am a Maharashtrian, and to direct a film whose milieu is places like Mathura and Gwalior or North in other words, initially proved a bit daunting. I felt that I won’t be able to justify the subject.” It was only later that he took up the challenge and made several rounds of Mathura, Agra and Gwalior just to familiarise himself with the environment. “This was more like a challenge to me. James Cameron had made Avatar and that does necessarily mean that he had actually lived in that era. It was only after having stayed at Mathura for 12 days at stretch during one of my visits that I got enough confidence to approach Mr Dinesh Vijan,” reveals Laxman.

For Laxman, giving up his core forte of cinematography for his debut Hindi film was not an easy decision. But he eventually relinquished the responsibility for his friend Milind Jog. "It was difficult but sometimes, you have to control yourself. I had taken the responsibility of both direction and cinematography for my last Marathi film but this time, it was an outdoor location with close to 15 actors, so I had a sense that managing both would be a daunting task. There was a possibility that it could have spoiled both, and then later thought it prudent to solely focus on my direction and storytelling.” Laxman believes performances and graph of a story are the real takeaways, as no one remembers the technical aspects of a film after it is over.

The director is candid enough to admit that both his Marathi films despite getting critical acclaim and awards, failed to make any dent at the box office. He also says that normally, when directors make their debut in Hindi films after having crossed over from regional cinema, they remake their own films in most cases. But it was not possible in his case as none of his films had worked at the box office. He believes that the box office collection of a film is the be all and end all for every filmmaker. “I think every film industry is about box office numbers. If films fail to run at the box office, how will other films be made? A film getting a critical acclaim or award is one thing but every director and producer, from the bottom of their heart, always wishes their films to do well at the box office.”

Despite the friendly mannerism, the director is a no-nonsense person on the sets and believes in taking charge of things. “I have a dominating personality on my film sets and if I want something, it might as well be there on the set. When you are dominant, it basically speaks of your confidence. I have directed before and there was no such pressure on me. Also, I was not working with any senior actor. Both Kriti and Kartik are intelligent and fab actors, and made my job easy.”