The director of Road, Movie, Dev Benegal in a rare interview tells what promoted him to make Road, Movie. He also shares his experience of working with senior actor Satish Kaushik and young actor Abhay Deol.
Question: What prompted you to make Road, Movie?
Dev Benegal: One of the things I really love about India is travelling. It’s so different, beautiful, stunning and raw. From early childhood, we would go on these long drives and go to different parts of the country and when I started working in movies, I would travel with the film unit to some remote part of the country.
Road, Movie just came out of those memories of my childhood, and memories of my travels in India…of wanting to escape and get out into the open and experiencing the incredible raw power and beauty that India offers. It’s really about my journey.
Question: Tell us about the experience of writing the final draft of the movie?
Dev Benegal: Writing a story is always an interesting journey, and a dramatic journey in the sense that the drama behind that journey is amazing. I wanted to make a movie about movies and about my world as a teenager travelling in India. So I sat down and wrote something, which was a couple of pages long. And then I showed it to my friends who liked it.
Over the next 10 days I completed the script and showed it to a friend of mine who has read all my previous script. He told me it was the worst thing he had read. However, the same day I received a mail from the Cannes film festival- stating that my screenplay had been selected for a new section, where 15 screenplays were selected from around the world! So in a way I feel this script had its own destiny to realise.
Question: Tell us something about the selection of this script at the Atelier Du Cannes.
Dev Benegal: This happened in 2006, the trip to Cannes involved meeting various Producers, people who would possibly be interested in that project. That is where I met Ross Katz whom I knew for 10 years. We had met in Tokyo where he had seen Split Wide Open, which he had liked. We had been in touch sporadically.
We met and discussed the story. He wanted to read the script and I wasn’t sure if this was the kind of movie for him but he liked it.
Next he was on board and we were producing this film together.
Question: How did the association with Susan B. Landau & TIFC happen?
Dev Benegal: Susan and I had met at a script writing workshop in Paris, I briefly touched upon the idea of Road, Movie, because at that time I was in the midst of this script. And I showed her the pictures which I had taken as a part of my travel with the crew. She liked them and instantly became a part of the project.
I came across a news item about the Indian Film Company being formed and launched. I got in touch with RayC who had a role in English August and routed the project into the company through him.
I wasn’t sure if any Indian company would warm up to the story but these guys loved it. We started putting a team together, all of whom fell in love with the script and were keen to work on it despite its modest budget.
Question: Tell us about the first day of shoot in scorching Rajasthan?
Dev Benegal: I wanted the movie to have an authentic Indian look in terms of the lighting, colour, tone, sound specification, art work for the truck, etc., etc.
Incidentally, two days before shooting, it rained in Jaisalmer after five years… so all our work was washed out. We had to start from scratch.
Question: How was it to work with a senior actor like Satish Kaushik?
Dev Benegal: I met Satish Kaushik when I was an assistant on a movie in which he had a tiny role. I told him that someday I wanted to work with him and cast him in a principal role and not in something as itsy-bitsy as the one he was shooting for. When I was writing the character, Satish came to mind. I knew he was the one… a magical character who appears from nowhere and seems to have the right answers to everything before vanishing.
Question: You’ve cast the acclaimed Brick Lane actress, Tannishtha Chatterjee. How was it working with her?
Dev Benegal: I’ve known her since her Delhi days – she was working in a girl band then. She is from NSD so naturally comes with a strong pedigree. She had the look of the character I had written. We spoke to her and everything fell in place.
Question: Did you imagine that Abhay Deol would turn into a new age urban acting sensation?
Dev Benegal: I liked Abhay in Manoroma 6 Feet Under. I met up with him in New York and really liked him…he was perfect for the role of Vishnu. The camera loves the guy. Abhay works a lot, it’s organic…you could see Vishnu come alive… I could see that he wants to escape to live a life of his own.
Question: What are your expectations from Road, Movie at The Toronto International Film Festival?
Dev Benegal: I hope everyone likes it. It’s not a Bollywood film, but the kind of film about young India and about the young generation. If you go with the philosophy of “anything is possible in life” while watching the film, you will enjoy it.
(ROAD, MOVIE premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival on 18th September at The Winter Garden Theatre. For more information visit www.roadmoviethefilm.com)