The characters in Badhaai Ho are quite relatable: Amit Ravindernath Sharma

When we started writing Badhaai Ho, I realised that it has happened in my family also – my grandmother was pregnant at the same time as her mother,” says director Amit Ravindernath Sharma. However, he says, the film is today’s, and challenge was to keep the story real and relatable – how the family, the mohalla, the relatives would react to the ‘good news’. Amit tells us that it was important to make sure that the audience laughs at the story, not cringes. Excerpts from the interaction:

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Gajraj Rao and Neena Gupta as Kaushik
sahab and Mrs Kaushik

‘There is a cuteness in the story’
Earlier, a couple in their 50s having a kid was not a taboo, but it is happening today also. Like, 18-year-old, 22-year-old, and then a sibling is coming, yeh aaj bhi ho raha hai. I know a few people – there’s a girl I know who was 26 when her sibling was born. Aur issko likhne ke samay bhi, we kept it ki real mein natural reaction kya hoga logon ka, mohalle ka kya hoga, bachchon ka kya hoga. Apne ghar mein jo mother hain, unka kya hoga. Aur husband-wife ke beech ki chemistry ka kya hoga. Chemistry is very important – when I say ‘family’, family means chemistry. Whether it is two brothers, whether it is girlfriend-boyfriend, whether it is husband-wife, whether it is daadi.

When you see things happening around you, you see the reactions, you feel it, and that’s what is written. It is not vulgar at all. You can come with your kids and watch the film. You’re going to have fun. Even if the film was U/A, it wouldn’t matter. The cuteness is there in the whole thing. Usske andar har kisi ka apna apna point of view hai. Like Nakul (Ayushmann Khurrana’s character) and Renee (Sanya Malhotra’s character) – Nakul ke ghar mein hua hai, par usski girlfriend usko bol rahi hai, ‘Yaar tera problem kya hai? Tu iss baat pe upset hai ki tere mummy-papa sex karte hain?’ She doesn’t believe ki aisa nahi ho sakta. That’s why, when her mother asks ki yeh kaise hua, she says, ‘jaise hota hai waise’! Everybody has got a point of view, which is very important, that you have characterisation written like that. Like her (Renee’s) mother, she’s saying what the audience will be thinking, actually. That character has been created because those questions were coming to my mind – ‘Toh matlab aap iss umar mein, why will you have a kid?’ She has her own point of view. Which is not wrong. She doesn’t become the villain. That’s the balance which was very important when you’re creating the characters.

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‘All the characters come from our families’
In Kaushik sahab and Mrs Kaushik, I actually saw the relationship of my parents. They were like, very strong with each other. They were like, agar unko jana hai sabzi khareedne ke liye toh he will say to my mother, ‘chalo yaar sabzi khareedne chalte hain’, to which she will reply, ‘Arre yaar tum ja ke le aao na yaar, samne market hai’. He’ll say, ‘nahi yaar chal na saath mein’. She’ll say, go, and as he reaches the door, she’ll say ‘achha wait, main aati hoon’. Toh ek aisa pyar jab aapke relationship mein hai, you’re still in love with each other, whether you are 50 or 60, whatever age, doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It’s fine. We’re not saying having a kid at the age of 50 is fine. We are saying that being in love with your wife is fine.

Because we are all from middle-class backgrounds, we understand how people think, how a daadi would react. In my mind, my daadi was there, she was also a Jhansi ki raani. Jab main shoot kar raha tha, maine unke photographs bhi dikhaye, ki this is the way she used to dress up, this is the way she used to talk, but accent aapka woh rahega. Sab kuch apne ghar-parivar se hi jo aap seekhte hain, because I’m from a middle-class, and at the same time, joint family. Joint family ki apni hi ek politics hoti hai.

My grandmother and my mother had this kind of a relationship. Unki ladayi bhi hogi lekin shaam ki paanch baje ki chai dono ko saath mein baith ke peeni hai. Meri maa shaam ko do baar chai peeti thi, ek baar with my father, and then with my daadi. All this has come from somwhere or the other, kisi ki family se, kisi ke ghar se, koi ek aisa character, that makes the film more relatable, and more real – ‘ki humne aisa character dekha hai’.

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Amit Sharma, Badhaai Ho director

‘It took us two years to write the film’
When I heard that one line idea from Shantanu (Srivastava, one of the writers), I asked kiska hai yeh? He said Akshat (Ghildial, who wrote the screenplay) ka. So, I said let’s do this. It started from that one line and to write that whole story, whole script. Again that one question, that very valid question ki mummy-papa ke saath film dekh rahe hoge toh aap cringe toh nahi karoge? Aapko aisa toh nahi lagega? Toh actually nahi lagega, aur aise likhna bada difficult hota hai. Aisi samajhdari badi mushkil se aati hai, kyunki aisa nahi hai ki aaj idea aaya aur 5-6 mahine mein script ready kar di. It took us two years to write the film. Constantly, we would throw ideas at each other, and the way both of them have written the film – when I heard the script finally, I was so happy.

At the same time, it’s not very easy to make a film like this. It becomes very difficult ki writing process ke andar hum iss family ka jo milieu dikha rahe hain, woh kitna real dikha sakte hain. Aap kitna uske saath relate kar payenge. I wanted that when the audience starts watching the film, they see the family and they become a part of it. That quality of writing came from both of them because they have seen life. Akshat is from Meerut. He has lived his life in Meerut, 12th class tak woh wahin par padha hai. Usko language bahut achhe se aati hai. Shantanu is from Rohtak, so he understands the middle-class. Professor ka beta hai. Woh sab cheezein, iss poori cheez mein, are the most important things.

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Surekha Siri as
Dadi

From Mrs Kaushik to dadi – how the casting happened
When I heard the character of dadi, I was like isko kaun play karega? That casting was important for this film. Surekha ji ka naam aaya, and – I told this to Surekha ji also – I was not very convinced. Maine unke kuch serials dekhe thay toh mere ko aisa laga ki yaar, nahi, kaise hoga. Then one day, I said, ma’am, aaiye reading karte hain. She came and she was reading one scene, and I had tears in my eyes. Toh film ke aur bhi pehlu hain. Yeh toh humne sirf aapko ek hi pehlu dikhaya hai. Later, when it opens, you will see, you will feel, you will know.

Same with Neena ji. You know I was thinking who will play the mother. Neena ji ka naam aaya. I hadn’t seen anything Neena ji ka recently, and Khujli kar ke ek short film kari thi inhone, toh woh dekhi maine aur maine kaha, ‘Oh my God, I got my mother, I found my mother!’ When we called her, we said Neena ji jab aayengi toh bahut simple kapde pehen ke aayein. Toh woh simple si salwar-kameez pehen ke aa gayi. Aa ke baithi aur boli ki, yeh simple enough hai na? Kyunki mere paas actually iski salwar nahi thi toh maine apni maid ko bola apni salwar de do. Toh itni simplicity agar ek actor mein hai, toh wohi chahiye tha character ke liye.

For Nakul, I wanted ki ek aisa banda jiska you see the face and you say that it’s relatable. Ek aisa actor jo usko andar se le paaye, andar se maan paaye uss baat ko ki meri maa pregnant hai. Those reactions are not easy. Bahut mushkil se nikalte hain woh. That is something which came from Ayushmann. I was so happy. Then Gajraj ji, I have known him since I was 18. We had never worked together as director and actor. Mere liye bhi revelation tha, inke liye bhi revelation tha (laughs).

Then comes Sanya. Mujhe zyada brief karne ki zaroorat nahi padi. She underplayed the character so well. It was not ki aap kuch over kar rahe hain. Over ki gunjayish thi hi nahi. She is not over at all. She is understated. Everybody in the film, like Gullar, the younger brother, the one guy to whom I didn’t have to say ki tu aisa kar. I used to say, tu kaisa karega, bata.

Junglee Pictures presents Badhaai Ho in association with Chrome Pictures. Produced by Vineet Jain, Aleya Sen, Hemant Bhandari and Amit Ravindernath Sharma, the film is co-produced by Priti Shahani. Badhaai Ho releases on October 19.