The Story of ‘Kahaani’ – Part 2



I am meeting that girl in the music video. For a film called MINDS WITHOUT FEAR. I had pestered my friend Nilesh to get me to meet her. She would be the perfect heroine.

I meet Vidya Balan.

She talks by the dozen. She takes the script and says, “Aami bangla bolltey paari…” (I can speak Bengali).
I don’t talk much because I rarely get to meet a person who talks more than me.




After meeting Bumbada I meet a friend of mine, a doctor in Kolkata.
I tell him: I just met Prosenjit Chatterjee! And he wanted me to make a film in Kolkata…
I tell him the concept I had about the pregnant woman.
He immediately starts piling gynae gyaan on me!

In between the gyaan he tells me, “You will need a very good actress…’
I tell him that’s the least of my problems.



I bump into K. S. Sanjay (Vidya Balan’s manager) at a friend’s office.
I have been desperately looking for him. I wanted to meet Vidya for ALADIN but never could. She was always out of the country on shoot.
I vent out all my complaints about Balan in front of him … when she walks in from behind! A scene out of ‘City Slickers’.

But she is cool.
This is the second time we were meeting. I tell her I really want to work with her.
‘Do you have a script?’
I don’t have a script. I have a concept and feel like an idiot.
But I really want to work with her.
And somewhere I want a guarantee from her that she is going to work with me.

There was no way I am going to let this meeting go without a deal. And Balan has to go. She is getting late for a meeting with Meghna Gulzar. The proverbial clock ticketh…

Sanjay resolves the matter.
He pays me one rupee as a token and we agree to make a film together once I get a script in place.

It is a Saturday and she is going off to Wahi the next day to start the shoot of ISHQIYA.
The film that would change a lot of things…




I come back from Kolkata and call up Balan. She is shooting for PAA in Film City.
We meet.
I tell her that I want to make the story about the pregnant woman. This would be my toughest challenge in terms of writing, but I will only embark upon it if she promises to do the film.

She says “Yes, but only if the script is good…” Not quite the answer I was looking for but, as Jim Carrey deduced in ‘Dumb and Dumber’, “…there is a chance…” ☺

But Balan is like that only…no matter what, she will never agree to a film without a script.


While working on the post-production of ALADIN I try to crack the story.
I have a beginning, but that’s it. There is no end.

I religiously bug Balan every day with the story. She hears me out every time, very patiently.
I am also skint.
Balan funds my cigarettes and coffee. She even buys me slippers.
She gives in to extortion.
Anything to stop me whining on how I cannot crack that one link of the story, I guess.

Balan and I keep discussing.
Something is not right about the story. It’s not exciting enough. It’s still not making us want to drop everything we are doing and start the film.
No point starting a film unless you are willing to lay your life down for that film.
We are on the verge of giving up on KAHAANI when:

My doctor friend from Kolkata calls me.
We are chatting when he asks me how the script is progressing.
“Which script?’ I ask him.
“That one about the pregnant woman…”
He tells me what he remembers…
…except that he has got it all wrong!

On my face, a smile as big as the Bandra-Worli Sea Link appears…


I run to Balan.
Tell her the mistake my friend made.
Suddenly we want to drop everything and make KAHAANI.

I am willing to lay my life down for this film.

“How are we going to get money for this film?”
The pragmatic side of Balan is still alive.
“Don’t worry, ALADIN will be a huge hit and we will easily get finance”, I say.
Little did I know how the story would change for me.

“But we still need a hero ya…” Balan says.
Little did she know how the story would change for her.


I meet Suresh Nair and tell him the idea. He is more literate than me. My thoughts are all over the place.
He says “Give me a couple of days…let me write a basic story draft for you. Then decide.”



I am sitting with Vishal Dadlani. I receive the story draft from Suresh on my phone.
Reads like magic.
Now KAHAANI has a beginning and an end. The in-betweens are missing, but still…

I ask Vishal to read. He is one of the rudest critics you can meet.
Especially when it comes to anything I do.
He reads it on my phone and says something along the lines of “fucking great dude” or thereabouts. His vocabulary does not extend beyond that.

“But who will give you money to make this film? “
“Don’t worry”, I tell him. “ALADIN is going to be a huge hit…”


OCTOBER 30, 2009

ALADIN is released …

… and comes crashing down…

… taking with it all my hopes for making KAHAANI …

… or any other film for that matter…








Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Uncategorized


The Story of ‘Kahaani’ – Part 1


Late 1950s, Kolkata

A very attractive woman in her early 20s loses her husband.
He was all she had, apart from her three children. Her world started and ended with him.
Now she has no one.

She has no idea how to survive without him, how to look after their children.
The outside world is completely alien to her.
She has no skills to survive in that world.

She does not even know how to read or write.
The easiest option is to abandon the children and start afresh

She starts afresh. She rewrites the obvious story.
She teaches herself to read and write.
She goes out and gets a basic job. And when one job is not enough, she gets more.
She does not give up.
She works every living moment of her life to build a life for her children.
To make sure they don’t go through what she went through. She teaches herself every skill needed to survive and protect her children.

She is a mother.
That’s her job description.
She is the closest you will ever get to god.


Long time back, can’t remember when, Mumbai

I see this song on television. There is a very simple looking girl in the video.
She looks really nice when she wears a saree.


Late 2007, Mumbai

Have just wrapped the shoot of ALADIN. I get a call. The man on the other side introduces himself as Prosenjit Chatterjee. Otherwise known as the Bengali Film Industry. Most know him as ‘Bumba da’.

I stand up in respect. Even you would if you knew his contribution to Bengali cinema.


A month later, KOLKATA

I meet Bumbada for the first time in his make-up van.

He is shooting for some four films at the same time. I am not sure if he has slept in the last few years but he greets me with a smile the size of Howrah Bridge… and I still remember what he said to me – and he was meeting me for the very first time – “Dyakh babu aami toh onek din korlam, ebaar torah kichu kor…”

I don’t know how to translate the emotion in that sentence and I won’t even attempt to. But what it contained was a request from him for me to do something.

But that one sentence welcomed me back home to Kolkata… and reminded me of my responsibilities.

Bumbada was convinced about the Bengali Film Industry. The talent, according to him, was at par with that anywhere else in the country.

He wanted to put Kolkata on the national map. He wanted me to make a film in Kolkata.

I wasn’t very sure what to make. I told him about this idea I had: A pregnant woman, who has to survive in Kolkata.

“Make it…I will give you all the support you need…” he said.

I think he could see the obvious hesitation on my face. He laughed. “Don’t worry if there is no role for me…making that film is more important for me…make the film.”

I told him I would work on the story.

But first I needed to get someone to agree..


Posted by on January 18, 2012 in Inception


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