In the second week of July, Mohit Suri’s Murder 2, starring Emraan Hashmi, will be challenged at the box office by a brigade of children out on a mission to help a friendly dog. Chillar Party, the first film to be produced by actor Salman Khan, is an attempt to portray the irreverence, innocence and spontaneity of children on screen. The story, set in a housing society in Mumbai, deals with a so-called egalitarian society’s class distinctions, and how children can bridge them.
The founder of UTV Spotboy, Vikas Bahl, has directed the film along with Nitesh Tiwari, executive creative director, Leo Burnett. Edited excerpts from an interview with Bahl:
Tell us something about ‘Chillar Party’.
Chillar Party is a story of a bunch of kids who live in Chandan Nagar in Mumbai. The film revolves around their friendship and the extent to which they are willing to go for it. It’s about what sets children apart from us grown-ups: their spontaneity, their fearlessness and their non-manipulative approach to life. A child wears his heart on his sleeve. In my film, they stand up against the system, parents and others simply to help a friend.
This is your debut film as director. Why one with children as protagonists?
You never know when you wake up with a story in your head. As a grown-up, my childhood seems heroic and full of wonderful anecdotes. I remember many incidents from my childhood. When I saw the youth of our nation take to the streets to protest the Mandal Commission’s recommendations and fight the government, I decided to meld these two into a film. I began writing the script with Nitesh (Tiwari) in 2008 and worked on it for a year and a half. But all this time I never thought about directing the film. There came a time, though, when we decided to direct it ourselves. We completed the shooting for the film around two years ago. We didn’t release it last year since we missed the summer holidays window.
Child’s play: (left) A still from the film Chillar Party; and co-director Vikas Bahl. Photo Nandita Bery
The film has been produced by Ronnie Screwvala and Salman Khan. How did Khan come on board?
It was a stroke of luck. I always wanted Salman to see the film since it has the attitude that he is identified with. When I finally managed to show him the film, both he and Sohail Khan fell in love with it instantly. So two months ago, Salman jumped on to the Chillar Party bandwagon and decided to make it his first production effort.
How was the experience of shooting with children?
Honestly, I loved every moment of it. We shot in the summer holidays. The production of this film turned into a party for the children. I would admit that there were certain days on which they worked more than usual, though. We ensured that we adjusted our characters according to the acting abilities and inclinations of the children, since we didn’t want to miss out on their natural flair.
Do you think the space for children’s films is yet to be explored in Bollywood?
I think most genres have not been explored in Bollywood. It is baffling since parents are always looking for new ways to keep their children occupied nowadays. We do make films with children but they tend to be ones that tackle certain social issues. This is precisely why my film can be slotted as very much a Bollywood film. It is all fun and masti.
Were you ever circumspect about the box-office potential of a low-budget film devoid of any stars?
No, since I have handled all this before during my years with UTV Spotboy, whichproduced Dev.D and Aamir.All I can say is that if you don’t have a star in your film, your story better be the hero.
Chillar Party releases on 8 July.