He was an assistant director for seven years, but he now dons the director’s chair and Danish Aslam is ready to make you fall in love. His film, Break Ke Baad, stars the cute new jodi of Imran Khan and Deepika Padukone. The story of the rom-com follows Abhay and Aaliya, who have been friends forever and that friendship eventually turned to love. However, they both are still growing and finding their places in the world and Aaliya decides they need a break…what happens after that is the story of Break Ke Baad. We caught up with Danish for a very fast but fab 10 minutes! Check out what he has to say about his theory on love stories, when Imran said no and how he is feeling on the brink of release!
Tell us the story in your words.
One of the advantages of keeping the title Break Ke Baad was that I assume that I wouldn’t have to explain the story in great detail to a lot of people. It’s kind of perfect symmetry, the relationship when they break and what happens after the break. So, it kind of encapsulates the story in three very short succinct words. Apart from that, the thing is that I have this great aversion towards genres. So, as a joke, Imran and I were contesting to see which genre this movie would fall under. We decided to classify it as romantic coming of age dramedy and that’s what we are going with if they ask us, ‘what genre is the movie?’. It’s an urban love story. It’s about a relationship between two people who’ve been together almost their entire lives. We are talking about spaces, we are talking about differences and very obviously, and we are talking what happens when there is a break in the relationship.
This one is different because it is about the time when you aren’t sure about love…Deepika’s character needs space…
Actually, the thing with her is that she’s slightly impulsive, and very, very mental as well, as a person. She is completely a spur of a moment kind of person and at the same time she’s a commitment-phobe. She doesn’t believe in the institution of marriage. She doesn’t believe in long-term relationships or commitments. He on the hand is a die-hard romantic. So, it kind of explores the tension that happens between two people who’ve been in this relationship for about 11 years and they’ve known each other their entire lives. It also explores what happens in the dynamics of that relationship when you’ve been together almost your entire lives and you are the only two people you’ve been with, then the rift that’s created. They live in Delhi with their families the first half and it’s a very closed claustrophobic kind of society because everybody assumes that they are going to marry each other. The second half of the adventure is in Australia, when they sort of go out and live their independent lives and they are forced to be on their own for the first time. They have to earn on their own for the first time, so it kind of brings them out as characters. There is a kind of coming of age layer to the story as well.
What inspired you to write the script?
Real life. Twenty-nine to thirty years of real life, which was how old I was when I started writing. I feel that when a director makes his first film, especially when he’s writing it, it tends to be fairly autobiographical. So, when I started the first script of the film a lot of it was based on people that I’ve met. Not one particular person but an amalgamation of people that I’ve met or spaces I’ve been in, like Delhi. I’ve lived in Delhi for 11 years, so the places in Delhi are places that I’ve hung out in. Not the conventional Delhi that Bollywood films usually shoots in India Gate or Qutub Minar. I didn’t want to go and shoot in any of those places. I’ve lived in Delhi for 11 years and I’ve been to the India Gate twice in my life. Nobody does that. It’s like if you live in New York you don’t go to the Statue of Liberty every day. So, I didn’t want to shoot that part, I wanted to shoot Delhi that I’ve seen and a lot of that is incorporated in the film. Characters from my life, from Renuka’s life when she started writing it with me. It’s like a slice of life more than anything else.
Tell us about casting Imran and Deepika?
Imran: I watched Jaane Tu and I liked him in that movie. I went on and gave him the script. I gave him a two and a half hour narration and he said no (laughs)! He didn’t like the first half. It was a very different film, then the second half and the ending was different. We sort of sat and brainstormed about it and realized that there were quite a few flaws in it. For about 3-4 months we worked and rewrote the script. We had given up on Imran. He was off our minds because he has said no but I happen to bump into him at a party. We started talking but not about the movie, we started talking about everything else. About how we worship Adam Sorkin and we think he’s a genius, Apple products, (we are both Mac boys), the love for all tech gadgets, and stuff like that. We discovered that we had a lot of things in common. The next day I sent him a text saying I had rewritten the script and would you like to read? He said yes, he read it and he loved it. Just like that he bounced back into our lives. So, Imran kind of went away and came back. It was almost something destined to be, so to speak, because he wasn’t supposed to be in the movie and then he was.
Deepika: I saw Love Aaj Kal and I loved her acting. I thought she was beautiful and gorgeous. Love Aaj Kal proved that she could act as well. I went to her, narrated the story and she said yes instantly. I didn’t have to attend any parties or pretend to like anything that she did in order to get her to do the movie (laughs).
So, how is their chemistry in the film?
You know, it’s funny, but whenever somebody asks me about their chemistry my response is why the hell has nobody cast them before this because they are beautiful, gorgeous. They are both in the same age bracket. They are both good actors. They’ve both done 3-4 movies out of which one or two have been big hits. I consider myself really lucky that nobody had thought of casting them together before this. To me, it’s not so much about why did I cast them or how, because it&’s evident that the chemistry is going to be brilliant, but why did nobody else think of this before. I consider myself very lucky that I was the first one to do that.
The music is doing really well. People are loving it. Do you have a favorite song?
I do. It’s called ‘Dooriyan’. It’s the last song to be recorded on the album and it was almost not there. We didn’t shoot for it in the movie, because none of my songs are lip-sync songs. We finished shooting the film and we were in post-production, I started putting the end credits and thought we should probably shoot a music video. I went over to Prasoon and said I wanted a song, which is like the title song, but it doesn’t have the title in it. It shouldn’t have the words break ke baad, but I wanted it to say everything that the movie is about. He came up with ‘Dooriyan Bhi Hai Zaroori’. Then we got Monica Dogra to sing, she’s from Shaa’ir + Func, which is an international band. She’s got this awesome, awesome rock voice. She is a rock goddess. We got Vishal to sing the male vocals and it just turned out to be this hard-core rock song, with this lovely Guns n Roses type guitar solo in the middle of it. It was like an accident that song, but it was an accidental mistake and it just took off.
Looking back over the time you first thought of Aaliyah and Abhay to now on the brink of release how would you say your journey of making this film has been?
It started with a certain level of insanity and now it’s descended into complete nervous breakdown. I think the journey of making a film is the seven stages of madness. It’s like Dante’s Inferno, but only in real life (laughs). No, no, it’s also a lot of fun. I think everyone who works on a film has a very masochistic streak in them, because it is one of the most tiring professions. You work really long hours. By the end of the day, you have really like what you are doing; otherwise, you won’t be doing it. I love this job. I love the whole process of making a film. I can be on a film set for hours and hours, I was because I was the Assistant Director for 7 years. I had a blast. Film making, difficult as it maybe it’s an awesome process. I love it.
What is the hardest thing you found as a director?
Actually, funny enough, the one thing that I found was the most difficult to do, which I never thought would be the case, was to find things to occupy myself while on set. I really thought I would be on set and I would have no time to do anything. I found out there is this huge thing called the unit of 70 odd people and they all know what they are supposed to do. It was shocking… I never knew that (laughs). So, I told them what to do in the morning and they would go ahead and do it for the rest of the day. I would just sit there twiddling my thumbs and listening to music, going up to people and saying, ‘Listen, I’m really bored. Can I do something?’ And they were all busy and getting really irritated. They would be like, ‘Can you let us work or find something to do. You’re the director of the goddamn film!’ So, I think that was the most difficult thing to find out there was nothing to do on set.
Are you happy with the final product?
Remember when I said the thing about nervous breakdown? It really is an emotional roller coaster ride. That’s what I’m going through right now. I wake up in the morning thinking I’ve made the best movie ever and the academy is going to call me over to LA within the next two days. By afternoon, I am pretty much sobbing under the bed thinking that I should never be allowed to make a movie ever again. So, it kind of goes from one extreme to the other right now… I have no idea what’s going on.
What do you think audiences are going to love about Break Ke Baad?
You know I have a theory about love stories in the Indian Film Industry. Over the years, I look at the successful love stories like DDLJ, Love Aaj Kal, etc. They all have the same story. Boy meets girl. Man meets woman. Fall in love. Fall out of love. Get back together. The end. Anything else that happened is the permutation and combination of this one central skeleton. What makes a love story stick is the characters. Ask me to recite the script of DDLJ or Love Aaj Kal, I can’t. But I can tell you whether I like Raj or I like Simran or whether I like Jai or whether I like Meera.
In my film, I think what I’ve at least tried to do is make two very strong characters – Abhay Gulati and Aaliyah Khan. If you buy into these characters and if you see yourself or the other people in your life as these characters, you will love this movie. The story is a love story so, I mean how different can it be? It really can’t. But the characters are what’s unique about it and I really think that is what works and makes it a good love story.
It looks to us like it is going to be a great love story and we can’t wait to see it! Break Ke Baad opens in the US two days early on November 24th and in the rest of the world on November 26th!
Check back soon because we have interviews coming up with producer Kunal Kohli and stars Imran Khan and Deepika Padukone!