Mozez Singh makes his directorial debut with the upcoming musical, 'Zubaan', starring 'Masaan' (2015) actor Vicky Kaushal and Sarah Jane Dias. The film premiered at the Busan Film Festival last October where he bagged the 'Rising Director Asia Star' award. In a candid chat during their recent visit to mid-day office, Mozez and his actors talk about the film and more...
From left: Vicky Kaushal, Sarah Jane Dias and Mozez Singh at mid-day office. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
Q. Vicky, did you feel disheartened that Masaan did not bag many honours during the recent awards season?
Vicky: Not at all. For me, the fact that I had accomplished and got so far was a big achievement in itself.
Q. Despite rave reviews for Masaan, you preferred to go slow and steady…
Vicky: 'Zubaan' was the first film I signed, but 'Masaan' released earlier. So, I consider both as my debut projects. Whenever I meet directors, they tell me it is fresh to see someone who is comfortable in his own skin. They can cast me in any role they think would suit me. I recently wrapped up Anurag Kashyap's next and am part of Aanand L Rai's upcoming production venture. I do not want to build six-pack abs and beef up unless the character demands it or it is an action film.
Mozez: After all, he is the son of a leading action director (Sham Kaushal).
Q. How did 'Zubaan' land in your lap?
Vicky: I auditioned and auditioned.
Mozez: When I cast Vicky, I had no clue who he was. Guneet (Monga, producer) told me to check his audition tapes. I must have rejected about 300 guys and it took me eight months to finish casting. But the moment I saw his tape, I knew I had found my actor. Still, I wanted to be sure. I sadistically auditioned him for an entire week.
Vicky: I thought I will finish shooting for the film during the audition rounds itself.
Sarah: I was the first one to be cast and had to wait till they found the leading man. When I first met Vicky, he was in costume. I felt intimidated, which is unusual for me.
Mozez: Even for Sarah's character, I auditioned many girls, but they did not have the body language of a singer that I found in her.
Q. 'Zubaan' is being touted as a coming-of-age film…
Mozez: 'Zubaan' is about a voyage of self discovery, finding your love and aspirations. The music takes the narrative forward. After the Busan screening, they told me this is a new type of Bollywood film. Even at the Palm Springs Festival, the audience, which mostly comprised foreigners, told me that they were seeing a Bollywood film they could relate to. As a lover of cinema and music, I grew up watching films and listening to songs of Amitabh Bachchan, Zeenat Aman and Parveen Babi. Later, when I lived in the US, I began watching Iranian, Chinese and Korean films. So, Zubaan is an amalgam of all my influences.
Q. How relatable are the film's characters?
Vicky: Actors do all sort of stuff to prep for a film; for me, it is finding a song to match the character and then I play it on loop.
Sarah: My character in the film is similar to what I am in real life. I grew up in a house where there was always music playing. I grew up singing carols and being part of church choirs.
Q. As a new director, how tough was it to get the film going?
Mozez: It took me seven years to roll out Zubaan. I had written the script and knew exactly what I wanted to make. At the same time, I did not want to compromise. I had produced and written the Rahul Bose-starrer White Noise (2004), and was the line producer for Angelina Jolie's A Mighty Heart (2007) which was shot in India. I have not had formal education in filmmaking; I learnt through observations.
Sarah: Mozes is a voracious reader; his house has bookshelves from floor to the ceiling. That is why he is well informed about every subject.
Q. Arjun Rampal has tweeted in support of the film...
Mozez: He is an old buddy. I have known him since his college days in Delhi. He and his wife, Mehr, are my closest pals. I could not cast him in the film as there is no part for him in the script. I needed a new face, someone who had a sense of vulnerability and knew Punjabi. Vicky can rap in Punjabi too. If he ever embarks on a singing career, it will be because of me!