‘When stars get bigger, stories disappear,’ says Vinod Kapri as his thriller, Pihu, made in Rs 46 lakhs hits theatres on Nov 16

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New Delhi | Updated: November 15, 2018 6:44:49 PM

Releasing on November 16, Pihu has received much critical acclaim in Indian and international film festivals. In an interview with Financial Express Online, Kapri shares the journey of Pihu from a one line idea to the silver-screen.

Pihu, Vinod Kapri, Hindi film Pihu, Pihu release date, Pihu reviews, Pihu girl, Pihu story, Pihu directorNational Award winning Director Vinod Kapri has created a feature film out of this ‘claustrophobic’ idea. Featuring little Myra Vishwakarma as the titular Pihu, the film explore every parent’s worst nightmare.

What if a two-year-old toddler gets trapped at home, alone? The thought is enough to send shivers down the spine of any parent. National Award winning Director Vinod Kapri has created a feature film out of this ‘claustrophobic’ idea. Featuring little Myra Vishwakarma as the titular Pihu, the film explore every parent’s worst nightmare.

Releasing on November 16, Pihu has received much critical acclaim in Indian and international film festivals. In an interview with Financial Express Online, Kapri shares the journey of Pihu from a one line idea to the silver-screen.

Pihu looks gripping and scary, and it is certainly an edge of the seat thriller. Where did you get this idea from? We have seen 90’s Home Alone series, but it was more of a fun film than a thriller.

When you search for a new story, you try to understand all that is happening around you. A small incident happened some years ago. My friends fired their maid because she left their toddler kid alone in the house for 2-3 hours to do shopping for herself. They were angry at her irresponsible behaviour.

This is when an initial thought germinated in my mind that what if a small kid is left alone at home? What all a kid would do? I was thinking about the possibilities of making a film. But this was just an idea, we needed a proper story. Later, in August 2014, I read about an incident in Delhi-NCR in which a four-and-half-year old child got trapped alone in the house. Then I realised that probably now I can make a feature film on this.

Also Read | Thugs of Hindostan: Is the film getting crushed under its own weight? Know what went wrong

I was not able to see the trailer in one go because I was so scared for the girl. I saw so many people reacting the same way, especially parents. Do you think this might work against the film?

Yes, one section is saying this but those who want to see good films and good content are really looking forward to this film. I guess people will go. Audiences are getting matured every week and with every passing friday they are surprising us. I think this film will surprise the audience and audience is also going to surprise the film. It’s true that some parents have this fear but I only want to tell them that if you love and care for your family and your children then you must watch this film. It will give you a lot to think about.

Yesterday, someone who saw this film tweeted that he is not able to get over the film even after four days. We are getting these reactions too. With this film, people will learn a lot about saving the families.

In a recent interview you have said that every story must have a message. What is your message with the story of Pihu?

‘Every child deserve a parent, but not every parent deserve a child,’ is the message of this film.

As the trailer shows, the film is about a 2-year-old girl trapped in her house, alone. With this story, how difficult was it for you to convince producers to back this idea for a full length commercial feature film?

This was the second most difficult thing about Pihu. I met many people, went to many studios with this story. Everyone said, this is a nearly impossible film to make. They questioned how I will make this film with only a toddler and even if I make this film, it would not be as interesting. How can one character hold interest of the audiences for 100 minutes. This was a big challenge.

Then I met a friend of mine, Mr Kishen Kumar, he heard this story and decided to back it with whatever little funds he had. It was barely enough for shooting. We shot it with just Rs 45-46 lakhs in our kitty. I told my crew about the financial crunch and they all agreed to reduce their fees by half.

My crew understood that this is an important film and it must be made. We need to tell this story. After we completed the shoot, our producer passed away. Since there was no way forward, we decided to show it in film festivals and see how it goes. Finally, Ronnie (screwvala) and Sid (Siddharth Roy Kapoor) came on board. They loved the film, its creativity and the creative boundaries the film was pushing, and going beyond that boundary. They wanted to back a content-rich film. Now, the film is getting a wider release.

Pihu, Vinod Kapri, Hindi film Pihu, Pihu release date, Pihu reviews, Pihu girl, Pihu story, Pihu directorVinod Kapri with little Myra Vishwakarma (Courtesy: twitter/vinodkapri/)

Tell us about prepping and shooting for this film, especially getting a 2-year-old girl to do all those scary scenes we see in the trailer. That obviously looks tough but only you can tell us how tough it actually was.

It was difficult, as well as easy. When I met this girl, she was just a year and 10 months’ old. I spent some time with her, I got to know her, shoot few videos with her. During that time, I had one draft of the film. But then I realise that a middle-aged man has written how a toddler would react in certain situations. I later changed it. My screenplay was following Myra. We were following what she was doing. We changed our screenplay that way. It made our shooting process easier. She won’t do something she does not like. Our screenplay did not matter to her. This was a big factor.

Apart from this, our crew arrived at the location 4-5 days before the shooting. Everyone became friendly with the child. Her parents were there too. We all were together in a house we rented. Entire shoot lasted for 30-32 days and during that time her parents guided us on how she would do certain things. It really helped us in the shoot.

Also, within 4-5 days of the shoot our crew realised that we can only have one take with the child. That is all we have got, we can’t ask her for retakes, etc., because one, she won’t understand why she is being asked to repeat and two, she will not react the same way again. We tried to minimise our scope of retakes and mistakes. We tried to minimise technical glitches as much as possible.

Recently, we have seen films with small star cast, small in number, do well. For example Trapped or The Lunchbox but they still had some known faces. How difficult it is to market a film which has no stars and is out and out content based only?

What is a star? When we see a person on 70mm and connect with him or her, that is when they become a star. Either known or unknown, love of audience for a person seen on the silver-screen makes him or her a star. We can say that Pihu is a ‘non-star’ film but when the trailer of such a film gets 80 lakh views, that means a star is already born. Also, if a viewer connects with the girl within five minutes, it means you have a star.

There are some misconceptions regarding stardom. Why a ‘Badhaai Ho’ is getting more love from audiences than a ‘Thugs of Hindostan’ which had a bigger star-cast? Ultimately, it all comes down to that fact whether viewers are able to connect with characters and story of a film. If that is achieved than everyone associated with the film is a star.

Film’s marketing strategy, which involved a random and abrupt phone call from a child asking for help, drew a lot of criticism. Do you think that criticism was justified? What do you have to say about it?

Some people did object to it and termed it ‘insensitive’ but in their own tweets I read comments from people who said that they came to know about the film because of that phone call. As you asked about stars earlier, you know we have to reach out to people and have limited resources, and limited medium, to market this film. So, some people liked it and some did not. It’s ok.

2018 has given some sleeper hits, like Stree and Tumbbad, and some big films have not done so well. Where do you see Indian movie business heading in such scenario?

I think people are eager for good content, good stories. If there is a good story in a big star’s film then it is a lethal combination for success. It can give you a Rs 200-300 crore film. But problem is when stars get bigger, stories disappear. Story gets crushed under the weight of stardom. Those who manage it, like Raju Hirani, make successful films. It is very important to get the mix right.

Is the Indian cinema still in transition period, which started with films like Lagaan and Chak De or a new age has actually, well and truly, begun?

This is a new age of Hindi cinema. Just in last couple of months we have seen films made on different subjects, like Andhadhun, Stree, Badhaai Ho, doing well. And in last four-five years we have seen that there is a market for such films. There is a substantial audience base for content-based films. Few years ago it was impossible to think such films making Rs 100 crore but it is happening now. This is a great phase for cinema-lovers and Hindi cinema as well

Thanks for talking to FE online and best of luck for Pihu.

Thank you so much.

Watch: Pihu Trailer

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