Director Dibakar Banerjee on ‘Sandeep aur Pinky Faraar’
Arjun Kapoor-Parineeti Chopra star has found a new lease of life, receiving considerable praise for his suppression of patriarchy and toxic masculinity
Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar was supposed to be released in March 2020, but just days before D-Day India was under strict lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The film Dibakar Banerjee cooled its heels for a year and hit theaters in March 2021, but found few takers, although reviews were largely positive. Now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Arjun Kapoor-Parineeti Chopra star has found a new lease of life, receiving considerable praise for his removal of patriarchy and toxic masculinity.
Dibakar, who is currently shooting his next film in Uttarakhand, spoke with The telegraph, despite an uneven network, about the world and the motivations behind his slow-burning chase thriller about caste and capitalism.
Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar reinforces the growing conviction that films now have a life beyond cinema. Are you surprised by the sudden buzz?
After Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar finished, I went to work on another feature film and I’m finishing it right now. I had a sort of detachment from the film’s release. Even now, given the echo chamber I’m in, I have no idea how many people have seen it. But the most gratifying feeling now is that among those who texted saying they loved it, a large chunk of that number saw the movie with their families. I really wanted this to be a movie that some sort of “ grown-up ” family could watch together … let’s say a 28-year-old watches it with a 62-year-old parent and then discusses the movie later. having dinner. My main dream was this.
The film is extremely layered. Do viewers come back to you with specific nuances that you didn’t think you understood?
I’m definitely being told things that I didn’t know existed in the movie, or that I hadn’t actually thought of! Someone wrote me something about the movie – which in all honesty I have now forgotten – and I remember turning to my wife and saying to her, “But I didn’t have it. ‘intention of that! ” She just looked at me and said, “Shut up and read! (Laughs)
Does the fact that your movie has a new life on a streaming platform, without the pressure of the box office as a barometer of success, sound like some sort of validation of the hard work you’ve put in place?
To be honest, I’m not looking for validation in the times we live in. Varun Grover (the film’s co-writer) said the other day, ‘Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar ko Covid do baar hua hain‘(Laughs). We scheduled the release in March 2020, then that didn’t happen and we waited a whole year. By the time we released in March of this year, the second wave arrived. Even now the film is being enjoyed, but people are dying everywhere. How to celebrate this? Do we think of a movie or do we think of our families? Everyone is baffled. The fact that people are watching him in the middle of it all is gratifying.
From crony capitalism to toxic masculinity, gender conditioning to the idea of the collision of two Indies, the film tackles a variety of threads. Did all of them appear together when you and Varun started writing it, or did one follow the other?
One followed the other. I had a very basic premise of the shootout scene at the start of the movie, and before I wrote the movie, Varun and I had a lot of discussion about the characters. This discussion validated that we were both watching the same kind of movie. A film that works at the intersection of gender and power, something that keeps happening in our lives every moment. That’s pretty much the vision I had for the movie, but there was a lot about it that I also discovered when I sat at the editing table.
The film does not fire any punches in the assault scene involving Parineeti’s character, Sandeep. It was a difficult scene to watch. How difficult was it to write and then film it?
This scene scared me and Varun. We both don’t feel very comfortable with this scene although we’ve written it. But it’s a scene that’s necessary for the story and we had to go.
How important was it to shoot this film on location in Uttarakhand, on the Indo-Nepalese border?
Very important. It is very expensive to create authenticity on a platter. You can’t really reproduce these places … you have to go live inside, feel them and then change them a little according to what you want in the film. For me, shooting on the spot is actually a shortcut and not the other way around. If it’s available, there’s no reason we shouldn’t go out there and shoot the better to tell a story.
The film is both a withdrawal and a break in masculinity, especially in the last scene where we see this distinct change in Arjun Kapoor’s Pinky as he dances and crosses the border. Arjun is known for his overt masculinity. Did he choose her for this part by design?
I was very clear that Parineeti was Sandy. It was the board the film was shot on. The wide structure of Pinky’s character was pretty much there. At one point, Adi (Aditya Chopra, producer) told me about Arjun and how Arjun, in Adi’s opinion, was when he was ready to step out of his comfort zone and give everything to the role. . He said to me: ‘Arjun is absolutely ready to do something like this and go through all the pain that I know you are going to put your actors through!’ (Laughs)
Arjun and I chatted and thought I needed someone like him who could bring some vulnerability. We now need actors who bring their true metrosexual vulnerability to the screen. I felt there was a strange vulnerability we needed for Pinky.
Arjun worked his ass to try to understand Pinky’s world, which is very different from his. He understood the nuances of Pinky’s speech and we had a long discussion about Pinky’s motives. He went to Delhi and talked to the cops there. We put him in a training camp without the movie even having a single action sequence involving Arjun. In the film, we make Pinky dance. But Arjun went to the police camps and rocked with ropes and did weird exercises for three days! (Laughs)
We have also organized workshops on how kinship and family are deeply metastasized in what we call working life. How social relationships are found in the workplace. It was all a lot of fun to do, actually. We were in the mood to say ‘F *** it! Let’s do it as we want and then see what happens ”. This feeling of leaping into the unknown probably helped the film. I just jumped into the unknown to make this interesting film that tells a very different story.
The stereotype of the strong woman in Hindi films is that of a woman who drinks, smokes and swears. Sandeep does none of these things. Was it by intent to overturn that stereotype, as well as the unconventional relationship Pinky and Sandeep share?
It’s not by design, it’s actually by life. Varun said in a recent interview that he finds portraying life as it happens on screen a lazier but satisfying solution than crafting a script that doesn’t quite convince you that it can happen. . For us, it was the story of a relationship between the two of them. And in the writing and filming, you can see a touch of tenderness. We discussed what love is, and in the context of these two characters, it’s trust. The relationship they have is not romantic, but is very close to a kind of romanticism that people forget their class and gender and come together just for humanity. We never thought of it as a love story where love happens. We thought of a real story where in 30 years Sandy would tell her partner … a story about this strange love she had that she could never put in an envelope and file.