Though only three films old, Rohan Sippy has tackled a varied range of genres with his projects. He has done the Hindi filmi romance, the cool black comedy and now for his third outing he is going gritty suspense with Dum Maaro Dum. The film is set in the darker side of the paradise, Goa and the story involves five different characters played by Abhishek Bachchan, Bipasha Basu, Rana Daggubati, Prateik Babbar and Aditya Pancholi. The plot runs along three different paths that all eventually intertwine and lead to an exciting and, from what we have heard, a very shocking finale. Rohan says that what makes DMD special is it has all the twists, the action, the suspense and the drama needed to make a good thriller, but also the underlying emotional layer that makes it a great film. We caught up with the director and had a fabulous chat about all things Dum Maaro Dum. Check out what he said!
What was it about this script that made you say ‘I want to direct this film’?
Well, it was really an exciting suspense thriller driven by some great characters and a fabulous setting like Goa. There were so many things that were working for it: it was a real page turner from the first draft that I read and it had a combination of suspense, thrills, scope for some great music, and a chance to work with an ensemble of actors that seemed like they would be a lot of fun.
The film is not just about a cop finding a drug dealer there are intertwining stories. Can you give us a little idea of what that is?
It starts off with Prateik’s character, a student called Lorry, who is on the verge of going to college in America, but life has some other plans for him. The first 15 minutes goes into his story because he takes a wrong decision and he lands up in the path of Abhishek’s character, which is ACP Kamath. At that point we go back into Kamath’s story understanding his character and what brought him to this point before he got to Goa. Then it continues on to when his investigation leads him across Prateik’s character. Then we start a third story, it’s the story of a Goan musician and the girl he loves, which is Bipasha’s Zoe and how their story goes through these twists. From there on it takes more linear structure forward more as a suspense thriller as these characters intersect.
There is line actually we found in the lyric of a song ‘Mit Jaaye Gham’, which turned out to be perfect for our film which is ‘kya hai kahaani tere paap ki – what is the story of your sins’. How that applies to all four of these characters, it’s a little bit of their search for redemption or their attempt at that. There is a character graph that happens throughout the film that then unfolds more as a thriller.
How did you work with each of them to get them into character because they did have this extra layer of the behind the story.
I was lucky with Prateik and Rana, who are newer actors, we spent a month or two doing regular workshops, you know, just going through scenes, getting into the skin of it, which was really nice to have that time and we also got to know each other a lot better in the course of that. That was a very nice luxury to have. With Abhishek and Bipasha we had relatively less time. I think at the base of it is that we had a script that was pretty good and substantial and that itself gives you a lot of stuff to work of off. I had a great crew to work with whether it was makeup design, whether it was costumes, production design. We had a lot of people working from the early stages and there was lots of trial and error we went through to get the feel right. So, between the script reading sessions and also this other stuff we started getting the feel for who all these characters were when they finally show up on screen. It was nice. There was no shock to the system when you see them on set.
You shot extensively in Goa. What was it like shooting there?
Incredible! It’s one of my favorite places in India. Even after a 16 hour day it’s a fantastic place to have a beer and discuss the day’s work and the day ahead It doesn’t get better than that. It’s got an incredible variety of locations; great mix of people from all over who are there. I think it’s one of the great spots in the world. It was an absolute dream to be able to shoot and set a film there.
Tell us about working with Abhishek on this film. How was it different from the other two films that you’ve done?
Working with him was different in the sense he’s playing ACP Kamath who is a more hard-hitting character. With Bluffmaster there was a lot more lightness and a different kind of wit to it. Also in Bluffmaster he was kind of in almost every scene in Dum Maaro Dum he comes in at certain points and there are other characters at other points. We got a little less time to work together, which is unfortunate. But I think on the third film together we also have a better short hand and know where we are trying to get to that much faster. It gets better with each time out. He’s also done a lot of work in between so he also brings all that experience and that’s always a nice thing to feed off.
How do think you’ve changed as a director over your three films?
I think you learn a hell of a lot but finally it’s like building a roller coaster by the time you’ve figured this one out you realize the next one is a completely different design. You end going back to scratch and learning to be humble before each film. Probably the most important thing is having the judgment of how important it is to get the right crew on board. I think this time I really lucked out: everyone from cast to almost everyone on crew really worked out. I’ve learnt more and more it is very important to find the people whose judgments you trust and whose instinct and integrity to what they are doing is really fantastic. Then you can really work in a collaborative way, which is the way I enjoy working. To have a good set makes all the difference in the world.
Tell us about the cool music for the film.
I think there are five terrific tracks. The unit loved the song ‘Jeeyein Kyun’ all the way through. This was the first song we recorded with the fantastic new voice Papon. It connects all the characters in a strange way through the film. There are two up-tempo songs, which are great. Then there is the song which Abhishek has done and the romantic song is very cool as well. I loved working with Pritam on this. I think he’s very talented and again very generous with his input on the film. He was really a part of this along with the lyricist Jaideep. So it just felt great to be a part of this process. You feel good no matter what the outcome. You are so satisfied with the work that you are proud to put your name on it. That, for me, was the judgment no matter what happened. Very glad to know that it’s being received so well so far. The process for me is the validation. That’s when you really feel good about it.
Tell us about filming ‘Mit Jaaye Gham’ with Deepika.
In the film there was situation with a rave so we wanted to amp it up and really give it a good Hindi film high in the second half for the climax. You know for the classic kind of point where you get that great song in a Hindi film. Then when we knew that we had to rights to use the original track we knew we could make it big. I had worked with Deepika earlier, but not as a director. I was so excited when she agreed to come on board. We thought of the look because it’s set into 2011 in this sort of rave culture so we wanted to keep the look grungy, a little raw. It was also exciting because Deepika has not done something quite like this. So it was a chance to put it out in a fresh way. Then Bosco-Ceasar were thrilled when they heard Deepika was doing it because they think she’s a terrific dancer. She worked unbelievably; we shot the song in just three days. It was exhausting for her but she was so focused, so sharp, so there, it was a treat working with her.
Bipasha’s character goes through quite a change as the film gradually progresses. How was it working with her and getting her into the darker sides of Zoe?
I think, luckily, she saw it immediately from the time she had the script narrated to her. I showed her some of the storyboards and the animatics we were working with and she immediately got it. Then again she is probably one of my favorite actors I had a chance to work with on this. She was not hung up like a conventional heroine that ‘I get x number of songs and this is a film just about just a boy and girl'; none of that. She saw that we were trying to push things just a little bit and she just brought the script to life. There are couple of sequences where there is very little in terms of dialogue, but she brings so much with her performance, her eyes. It was fantastic.
What do think audiences are going to love about DMD?
I hope first they love it because it’s a great suspense thriller with great twists and turns. I love the Hindi film, which can do that in our style. I think they will love the music that Pritam has done, the outstanding background score that Midival Punditz had done. But mostly I hope it is the heart of these characters that will engage them. That would be my wish list for when they come out of the theater.
Dum Maaro Dum hits theaters on April 22nd! Be sure and check out Bipasha Basu and Abhishek Bachchan’s interviews as well!