Atul Kulkarni finished writing the screenplay for Laal Singh Chaddha in 12-15 days, the actor revealed to OTTplay. He adapted Forrest Gump for his Indian version. The film stars Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan in the lead roles. Atul walked us through the scriptwriting process, how it fits into the Indian context and more.
Excerpts from the interview…
What gave you the idea to redo Forrest Gump in India?
The whole process started about 14 years ago. Aamir Khan had produced Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. I went to his house for a party after the premiere. When we were discussing movies we like, Forrest Gump came up. I left it there. The next day, when I was supposed to fly for my outdoor shoot, it was canceled. I had 12-15 days on my hand. I saw the Forrest Gump DVD and I saw it again. When I watched the movie, there were flashes that occurred to me that if this character was Indian, born in a certain era, what would he go through. I took notes and about an hour into the movie I felt like trying to write the movie. When I started writing from the first scene, I didn’t know where it was going and if I could finish the script. In 10 days though, I finished the script and in the other two days I finished the second and third drafts. That’s how the screenplay was written.
People fear foreign adaptations in India. There is almost always a backlash. Did you expect the same after the release of Laal Singh Chaddha’s first promo?
I didn’t see any backlash. The trailer was loved by everyone.
What do you personally think of Aamir Khan’s Punjabi accent in the film?
No, my Punjabi friends said it was a perfect accent. The reactions I’ve had are fantastic.
Anyone else would think 1000 times before touching something as beloved as Forrest Gump. What gave you that confidence where you felt it would also affect Indian audiences if you wrote a story for them?
You will have your answer by watching the film. It’s a completely desi, family movie. It’s for the whole family and it’s a completely Indian film. Of course, all credit goes to Forrest Gump because it’s such a great movie but it’s a completely standalone movie. It is impossible to fully translate Forrest Gump. You have to adapt it. As a team, we were able to get it as close as we envisioned. When I wrote the script and read it, I was sure that Laal Singh Chaddha is a completely Indian version or adaptation which is an independent film.
There are so many cultures the character could have chosen. What made you think of a particular Punjabi?
Again, the answer will be given once you’ve seen the movie. If I start talking about it now, I’m going to say a lot. I don’t want to spoiler. There is a specific reason why this character is a Sikh. When you see the film, you will understand why I say that.
How did the idea of the gol gappa come together?
When you adapt something like that, you also adapt it philosophically. The Gol gappa comparison is such an Indian philosophical thing. The 135 crores who ate gol gappa will identify with this, this “pet bhale hi bhar jaaye, mann nahi bharta”. His mother says that life is like gol gappa and that is an adapted philosophy, that’s why I call it a desi movie because there can be no other comparison but a gol gappa.
Did the film turn out exactly as you expected or were there any changes at the start of filming? Would you like to talk about the changes?
It’s almost the same thing. Sure, when you shoot it and read it, there are tweaks here and there, but more or less it’s almost the same script.
As a writer, I don’t know. I call myself more of an expressor than a writer. So, I don’t know when I’ll write a movie script next. I continue to write articles and my thoughts.
As an actor, the last two years have been fantastic because a lot of my projects have come out – from Bandish Bandits to City of Dreams and Rudra and all of them have gone really well. In August, I will start shooting for City of Dreams for Nagesh Kukunoor and a comedy show for Rohan Sippy.
Since you mentioned comedy, we also see a lot of comedy shows on OTT. Have you ever thought about participating?
I did not think about it. If an opportunity arises, I might think about it.