Actors now see merit in the story and not director’s name:Fanney Khan director Atul Manjrekar

While the involvement of artistes likes Anil Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in a project might make the person on the director’s chair nervous, Fanney Khan director Atul Manjrekar had no such worries.

In a conversation with, Fanney Khan director Atul Manjrekar shared his experience of helming his debut Bollywood movie which has been co-produced by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra.

While the involvement of artistes likes Anil, Rajkummar and Aishwarya in a project might make the person on the director’s chair nervous, Atul was comfortable instead. When asked about his experience of working with three big names of the industry, he replied, “There was no nervousness. All of them are great actors. Not only Anil (Kapoor), Aishwarya (Rai) and Rajkummar (Rao), but also Girish Kulkarni and Divya Dutta are fabulous actors. All of them have been extremely involved and very cooperative and supportive. They actually guided me a lot and never let me feel that this is my first film. I think I would have been nervous if these people were not as great actors as they are.”

In Fanney Khan, Anil Kapoor plays the role of an aspiring singer and a father who plans to live his dream through his daughter Lata by making her a singing sensation. While scripting the movie, Fanney Khan’s character was written with Kapoor in mind. “This film and its story are made for Anil Kapoor. He is just the perfect fit for Fanney Khan and he was always the first choice for it. I have written this script keeping Anil sir in mind,” revealed Atul. Adding more about Anil’s invincible energy at the age of 61, he said, “With Anil sir around, the work was faster and the mood on the set was so happy. There was too much of energy and I loved directing him. We all have had a lot of fun on the sets. The energies were amazing.”

Reports suggested that Kapoor recommended his 1999 film Taal’s co-actor Aishwarya Rai’s name for the movie. Refuting the reports, Atul said, “She (Aishwarya) was the only one who could do the role. When we were writing the character, the first line of it said, ‘she is the most beautiful woman of the country’ and when you have this as the description of a character, you have no other choice but to cast her. Aishwarya’s name is the only name that comes to your mind.”

Among many other things, what has drawn cinephiles towards Fanney Khan is the offbeat pairing of Aishwarya and Rajkummar. When we asked Atul how he thought of bringing the two actors together, he insisted on us watching the film first. He said, “Some surprises should be kept till the end. It’s the most surprising romantic angle in the movie. I have written the script with all the actors in my mind. Raj was always in my mind for Adhir’s character and I wove it keeping him in mind. However, it is a bromance over romance. The bromance between Anil sir and Raj will take precedence over the Raj and Aishwarya’s romance.”

Moving further in the conversation, we asked the debutant filmmaker his views on A-listers wishing to work with new directors as well. “I think the stories and the way they are telling stories is attracting the actors towards new directors. There is a pressure perspective. We are living in such good times that we can move away from formula. Actors get to do things differently and get to explore. It’s challenging for them in a way and that is what which excites them. They see the merit in the story,” Atul opined.

Fanney Khan is an adaptation of the Belgian film Everybody’s Famous! which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 73rd Academy Awards. Lately, Hindi cinema has been obsessed with remakes or adaptations of either regional or Hollywood films. So, what are the limitations or advantages of recreating the popular films? Atul said, “There are no limitations in adapting a movie. As a director, you have to look at the script that comes to you and work it out in your own way. But since the film has already been made and you have taken the rights of it as a director, it’s your responsibility that when you are remaking a film, you have to ensure that its soul remains intact.”

Since the narrative of Fanney Khan revolves around music, the film is packed with some beautiful compositions by Amit Trivedi and a few recreated versions of older melodies like “Halka Halka Suroor Hai” and “Badan Pe Sitaare Lapete Hue”. But, like always, tinkering with the iconic songs hasn’t gone very well with music lovers. Still, this criticism doesn’t bother Atul.

“I knew this criticism will be there but that’s the point of my film, recreation vs original. You should hear the entire music and you will get all your answers. There are some remakes that have worked and some haven’t and there’s a reason for it. Songs have this emotional quality. It can be any song, it can be remade ten times and if it doesn’t connect emotionally, it immediately becomes a bad song. If it connects with you, it’s a good song. That’s the thing with music. As long as you are making music that connects and is true to the story, it will always connect,” said Atul as he signed off.