Q: Instead of going with a pre-written script, you decided to evolve the script which was more of episodic nature. Can you talk about process of evolving the script?
I have been working on political issues. So there was danger of entering into the genre of street play. So, I didn’t want to cross that line. When I discussed it with my colleagues, we decided to go beyond the line.
I read some books about neo-colonialism which helps my concept a lot. It was quite clear to me that I am going to work on this concept of neo-colonialism. How the policies which had been made by a superpower are only affecting the under developing countries like ours. I wanted to connect it to every being of that third world countries. When I was struggling for the medium what should I do, I just entered the genre of cartoons. I watched various cartoons of R.K. Laxman, Kutti, Irfaan, Tanmay etc. Suddenly I realized that this could be the medium. And in cartoons, there is only one frame. And in that frame you see something which clicks your mind and you say this was what they wanted to say. Which is very direct but not very direct too.
Q: In cartoon we have the static image but here the image is moving. How did you visualize the motion into still image ?
There is an exercise I have been doing with my actors “pre image and post image”. There is an image, what will be the pre incident to that image and post incident. When I was working with cartoons, I developed a narrative with the cartoons. I just took some single pictures about the topic, if it is about oil, then this is the cartoon. Now what will happen after it and what will happen before it? The time you decide pre and post image, in between will follow and there will be a narrative, which is different from animation but very close to the story telling which I did in the form of episodes.
Q: In static cartoon you don’t see the body movement of the character but various characters like “Merica Baba”, “Corporate Bahu” were very stylized . How did you evolve their body language?
Most of the time I asked the actor who played Merica Baba, to search for different interpretations of diplomacy of America. I remember very nice cartoon on Obama (which was brought in by the actor itself) in which Obama was portrait as anchor, which you fix in front of the boat or ship. The moment you are bringing an anchor to the human body, what will the body become? How will the body react? Merica Baba’s character was a long process. Not only Merika Baba’s but all the characters were evolved through a long process. The actors kept on looking for the cartoons of different genre, style, caricatures of different body languages for ten days. Every day actors showed me 3-4 improvisations. I kept on discussing that this is not working, I don’t want this. Because somehow when I was reading about the topic it was quite clear to me what type of characters I wanted.
Q: It is demoralizing for an actor, when he prepares and comes out with suggestions and you keep rejecting them. So how did you maintain the morale of your actors even when you are rejecting their ideas?
It is not always rejecting. Sometimes you correct. Most of the cases you don’t say it is not working. You say Chirag its working but what I want is this character. You cannot have a loose body, because your character is dominating. You cannot be suppressed or compact. You have to develop a body which has a broad stature with broad gestures, everything broad. Like for Merica’s character it was specially said to him that lines have to be very clear. What is your body line depicting ? Whatever you are doing walking, sitting or something else, the moment you speak, you are working with dialogues and you lose your body. The motion in the body gets disturbed. I kept on telling him that in that dialogue you were losing your body. You need to bring the line in the dialogue, for this you need to speak like this, speak like that. So apart from the caricatured body, the voice, the dialogues, the spoken language was equally worked on as cartoon.
Q: What was the reason to choreograph all the actions of Merica Baba around “The Tank” ?
It was a comment on superpowers, how they are misusing their power to control other countries like Iraq. They have been doing it for oil, the whole world knows about it but nobody is doing anything. That single object placed in the back of the Merica, just says what I wanted to communicate. Dialogues, the gestures might not be sufficient. The moment he is blasting out of the tank, actually conveys everything for me. In the very beginning “teri to jai ho, jai ho, Merica Baba, teri daya se chalta Kallu ki chai ka dhaba ” and then he is entering from the tank begins with blast. And the tank was facing the buildings. This is the actual situation. Every day, every time, every moment, we all are in a battle ground. A battle ground which is being prepared by a super power but we are not aware of or if we are aware, we are just living our own life. He is seen eating drinking oil. I think idea was quite clear. To depict a story there should be a surprise element, for a cartoon there should be a bubble, which comes only after the action. The moment he lifts up , you see the petrol or diesel being written below that. it was basically coming from the cartoons, revealing a story in a suspenseful manner.
Q: Also the language occasionally is kind of gibberish. What was the idea behind it rather than having proper dialogue?
I wanted to do more of the visuals rather than coming and saying “look, this is the thing”. I wanted to put it into people’s mind by putting a visual in front of them. The moment you are putting a frame in front of them, you might not require a dialogue. That was the point where the gibberish is entering. If one action is being repeated twice, thrice, four times, only after a point of time it will make a sense. So that was the idea behind use of gibberish.
Q: Talking about repeating things, how did the idea like “more tissues” evolved.
Tissue paper is a very major comment, which I don’t think I should say it. I leave it open for the people’s interpretation. The moment you are paying 1000 bucks, you are getting a tissue paper and when you pay 10 bucks, even then you get a tissue paper. So, this tissue paper has got a very relative significance with small budget people and as well as with high class people. When you are being taken of something, then also you are given tissue paper. So this aristocracy which is always present need to be addressed
Q: Do you think that actor becomes secondary when the property becomes so dominant, like in case of tissue paper scene?
No. I don’t think so. The action of making a property more visible than actors is only possible with actors. Because it is also a vice a versa relationship. Actors use property and property is being used by the actor. So the moment the tissue papers are visible, in the beginning it is not dominating. When actors are bringing in a lot of quantity, it is noticed. The same way it is happening with the bomb. To show that it is a bomb, which is very dangerous, it ought to be of a big size. So when people are playing with that bomb, it has its own significance. whenever in the play ” Civilization on Trail” actors were playing with any property ,that property got more value and became significant.
Q: Do you remember anything else in your production that you underlined which otherwise would not have been noticed?
It is a recording by “Daadi”. That was also something used like that. In the very beginning, in the exam scene, I used it only once. Then I thought that it is not being underlined. So to underline it, I used it thrice. Here “Daadi” represents the Indian politics which can be heard but never there. With the help of playback voice which is being played thrice and people are laughing at it. Though they do not understand the context but they are enjoying it. In the end when it comes again then the audience get it and my purpose is served.