Karwan is an Irrfan Khan starrer, directed by Akarsh Khurana. The director believes the road trip in the movie is a representation of the changes the characters undergo.
As a child, director Akarsh Khurana found working backstage in a theatre production fascinating in its gush and accuracy. But the same could not be said of film shoots, which if he was not involved, seemed boring. “But it certainly helped to have an exposure and my father, Akash Khurana, who was an actor-director, played an important role in certain choices that I made. My father’s career gave me easy and early access and I began my writing career pretty young,” says Khurana whose debut film Karwaan will hit theatres tomorrow. Senior Khurana has been a veteran theatre person and one would recall immediately if one has watched Saraansh, Sarfarosh andBarfii.
With a stellar cast which includes Irrfan Khan, Malyalam actor Dulquer Salmaan and Mithila Palkar, the idea of this road movie came from Bejoy Nambiar while the screenplay was written by Khurana and Adheer Bhatt. “Nambiar gave us this idea where somebody receives the wrong dead body for a funeral and has to undertake a journey to rectify the mistake. So we decided to just flesh it out,” says Khurana who has been running a prolific theatre company called Akvarious Productions for 18 years which has had 60 productions in different genres in terms of play. “Our voice is that of urban, contemporary comedies that have a little bit of soul,” he adds.
Khurana points out that while people might talk about road movies like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara orPiku to say that he is cashing in on the growing popularity of the sub-genre in recent times, he feels it has been around as a mainstream format for years. “Bombay to Goa was one,” he says and goes on to elaborate, “The road trip is a metaphor for the journey that the characters undergo. More than the geographical distance that they cover, it is more about how they reconcile with the problems that they have within themselves and with each other.”
But while writing the movie, he never thought about the actors that he would cast. “We had never imagined that we could pull off casting such established people. When Ronnie Screwvala and KK Gupta came, the former suggested that we should at least make Irrfan hear it. After the narration, when Irrfan agreed to do the film immediately, that was like a dream come true,” he recalls. As for Dulquer, associate producer Shubh Shivdasani recommended his name but Khurana had just seen him in the film Charlie where the eminently likeable character was very different from the one in Karwaan. “So I decided to see some more of his work and realised that he had tremendous range. We met in Chennai for a narration and he thought about taking it up for a week as he had been offered Hindi films earlier too. He weighed his options and said yes. Mithila was cast through a regular process,” he says.
Khurana’s first foray in the film world was with Krrish where he wrote the script and was also the assistant director. “I come from a theatre background and I have been directing for long on stage. I have directed a series on TV for Anurag Basu and also a web series for Alt Balaji called Hijack. So I have been directing for a while. It was just natural progression. The script of Karwaan was very close to my heart and I wanted to do it myself,” he says.
Given the fact that it is a road movie, shooting was bound to take place outdoors which inevitably led to a lot of crowds. “We shot in Kerala where Dulquer is really popular. Thousands would turn up but generally the crowd was well-behaved and controlled. I explained to them that we were working in sync sound and if they were quiet, they would get a chance to see Dulquer later. It was actually a smooth shoot,” he says.
Talking about the competition between old and the newer media, Khurana says that what is happening is that the platforms and number of options are increasing. This, he feels, leads to an explosion of ideas and adaptability. “People have to look upon these as a challenge and also as an opportunity. There is an audience for everything as you can customise content for them. Now people are choosing what they want to see. For the directors, too, there is a lot more freedom in choosing to do what you believe in without worrying about funding and commerce all the time. The concept of smart budgets has arisen only because of a multiplicity of fora.”
Despite the opportunities that the web holds out, Khurana feels that TV still has the maximum reach and depth and should not be written off just yet. “The further you move away from the cities, the reach of TV goes on increasing. There is still time before TV becomes completely outdated. What it needs is to up its game, production values and content that is available to us. The onus is more on creators to create something that grabs the eyeball,” he says.
During downtime, Khurana can be caught inside a cinema hall watching a film or at home reading a book. He also likes travelling. Having finished the hectic schedule of a film shoot, he is looking forward to a bit of a break. “I have been working on projects back to back. I will now take a vacation and figure out what to do. There are talks of a web series and a film but all are in the nascent stage. There is nothing concrete. I certainly want to go back to directing on the stage,” he says, signing off.
Writer: Saimi Sattar
Courtesy: The Pioneer