Q&A | Sameer Sharma
His maternal grandfather was singer Mukesh and his paternal grandfather, film distributor B.M. Sharma, but debutant director Sameer Sharma’s father preferred the hospitality industry to the film industry. So it’s no coincidence that 40-year-old Sharma’s film Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana blends food and film. Set in a robustly Punjabi milieu, this comedy has Kunal Kapoor and Huma Qureshi in the lead roles. Edited excerpts from an interview with Sharma:
Your film education must have begun at an early age.
Besides my two grandfathers being in the film industry, producer Romesh Sharma is my uncle. My college was movie sets and studios. Mukesh Mills, Shekhar Kapur’s and Mukul Anand’s sets were my classrooms. I started as an assistant director on Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Dil To Pagal Hai, and then I wrote Swades, Bhoot and Khoya Khoya Chand and dialogues for Raincoat. It took me some time, but now I have directed my first film. I think it takes time to understand oneself and become ready to direct.
Where did the idea for this family food comedy come from?
The writer Sumit Bhateja, actor Kunal Kapoor and I were developing this idea as a Punjabi language film, but when Anurag Kashyap and UTV came on board as producers, they felt it had the potential to reach a wider audience. So we made it in Hindi but there is still a lot of Punjabi in it, especially as that is how the film was also cast. The smattering of Punjabi makes the situations more real.
Big Bollywood films like ‘Singh is Kinng’, ‘Yamla Pagla Deewana’, depict Punjabis in a similar way. Will your film be any different?
No, we have tried to make it seem real, and this comes from the fact that Sumit, Kunal and I are Punjabi. Also you make it real by not casting Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif in it and by not making Paresh Rawal and Boman Irani play sardars. You cast Vinod Nagpal, Rajesh Sharma, Rahul Bagga and create as authentic a world as possible. I spent months in Punjab getting to know the place and we have borrowed many details from Sumit’s life as well as what I have observed of my own family. Plus the humour is situational and not written as gags. It’s organic and simple, like Hrishikesh Mukherjee or Rajkumar Hirani’s films.
Besides extracting the secret family recipe of Chicken Khurana from a dying man, what else is your film about?
Yes, it’s the story of home, of homecoming, of ghar ka khana (home-cooked food). It’s about how, while trying to find the recipe, along the way Omi (Kunal Kapoor) also finds love and himself. Chicken Khurana is a family entertainer in the classic Hrishikesh Mukherjee mould. He has been a great influence and inspiration. Food is an obsession in small towns and villages. We have taken that idea and done something with it—like the thrill of finding the recipe. And en route you find other things, like love, which you only find at home.
Do you cook or is there a secret Sharma recipe?
I don’t cook, but I would like to learn. In our home in Delhi, our family khansama Dayaramji’s tandoori parathas and food were legendary. When B.R. Chopra, Amitabh Bachchan or Shashi Kapoor would come to Delhi, they would come home to meet my grandfather and for Dayaram’s food. My father was a hotelier and ran a restaurant in South Africa where I also worked, waiting tables, etc. I have always been fascinated by how food and the quest for the next great dish can make people so happy.
After the release, anything cooking?
Yes, I am working on another script, which is a dark take on the world of music. I plan to make more movies, continue having fun and continue learning.
Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana releases on 2 November.