Mitali Ghoshal (left) with Amartya Ray (C) and Barun Sobti on the sets of 22 Yards
If you are a Barun Sobti fan, it's unlikely you haven't heard about Mitali Ghoshal. The former sports journalist, who made the famous documentary, Warrior Prince, on cricketing champ Sourav Gaunguly is now directing the king of television, Sobti, in 22 Yards, a film that has been long announced and has generated a lot of curiosity already. Apart from Sobti, the film boasts of an illustrous cast of seasoned actors, including Rajesh Sharma, Amol Palekar, Tisca Chopra and Chaiti Ghoshal, and newbie Amartya Ray, who plays a cricketer.
In an exclusive chat with T2 Online, Ghoshal, daughter of famous Bengali actor Shyamal Ghoshal, bares her heart out on everything that you ever wanted to know about 22 Yards — the reason behind the delay in release, working with Sobti and if she's under pressure to live up to his fandom.
P.S: All questions in this interview are from Sobti fans on Twitter. Excerpts:
So this is a film about cricket?
Yes, it is. But more than that, it's a humane story. It's about two people – a sports agent and a cricketer. It's about their journey, their fall and how they make a comeback. I guess this is the first time in India a story is being written around a sports agent. They are really big in cricket. But we don't know much about these characters.
So, would we see some real cricket being played in the film?
Well of course there will be cricket in the backdrop. More importantly, the story will revolve around how the business of cricket works. Starting from the sponsors, agents, administrative functions, the media to how finally a player is selected for the team.
Did you write the story, considering you've been a sports journalist yourself?
The story and script have been written by Samrat but, yes, I have certainly given my inputs to the storyline. I have covered international cricket for many years so I had good knowledge about the nuances of the subject.
How did you zero in on Barun Sobti?
Why not Barun Sobti? (laughs) He is a fantastic actor. And we wanted a handsome guy to play the part of this sports agent, Ron Sen. Barun seemed best fit for the role in every way. Most importantly, when I narrated the story to him in Mumbai, I saw that very quickly he could connect with the story and the character. I could see he was thinking exactly the same way as my line of thought. And when we started shooting, he didn't disappoint me either. He's a very dedicated guy.
Where did you spot him first, on his TV show?
To be frank, I hardly watch TV. So when I was looking for my Ron Sen, many of my acquaintances suggested several names to me, but I wasn't convinced somehow. Then one day, a close friend suggested Barun's name, and I managed to catch an episode of his show (Iss Pyar Ko Kya Naam Doon). I realised that this guy was just a class apart from the other regular TV actors. I met him, and after that I actually started watching his show more frequently. Somehow, I felt this boy will go a long way.
Why didn't you want to cast a known face from Bollywood?
I'd rather go for a good actor than a star. For me, it's more important that the actor understands the character. Barun was a perfect fit.
What is it like to shoot with Barun – what kind of a person is he?
Oh! I can go on and on about that. Barun, Samrat, Amartya (who plays the cricketer) and I have a core group, and all of us share a wonderful camarederie. So it's not just my film, it's their film. And Barun is extremely involved in the project, not just with his role but overall. He often comes up with some excellent suggestions.
As a person, he has a wonderful heart. Through the journey of this film, we've become great friends, too.
And what about his starry tantrums?
He is far from throwing any starry tantrums. He is a darling. He is extremely cooperative. And if he ever spots me worried or sitting quietly somewhere on the sets, he'll immediately come and try to solve the problem.
But there is a perception that he is very reserved and arrogant.
Yes, I have also read few of his interviews that people's first impression of him is that he is very arrogant. I am surprised why people have that impression because he was very down-to-earth from the very first day of shoot with us.
You recently shot in Kolkata. Where else are you planning to shoot?
Yes we shot a lot in Kolkata, and some of the locations are very rare. We are planning to shoot another leg in October but that will not be in Kolkata. I want to keep the location a surprise.
It must be difficult to shoot with Barun in the open considering he has such a fan following?
No it's not difficult because his fans don't create any ruckus. What is disturbing is that some people take videos of the shoot and post it on social media. Now that's not done.
Do you ever feel pressured to live up to the expectation of his fans?
No I never let any pressure affect my work. Even when I made the documentary on Sourav Ganguly, I was not under any pressure. I just put in my best. And for 22 Yards, I have a wonderful script, so there's nothing really to worry.
What is the reason beind the delay in the film's completion?
Well, yes, there is a lot of speculation and criticism by people around that on social media. Some good and some bad. I'd like to tell them is that if you are really a Barun fan, then have faith in him because he has a lot of faith in this project. This film is very dear to Barun. So whenever they say bad things about this film, it hurts Barun.
To answer your question about the delay, well, we had done a prep shoot long back. Before a film finally goes on the floors, you have to show the look-and-feel of it to some some people. So at that time the media asked us about when we are planning to release the film, and we had just given a tentative date. After that we pitched it to the distributors and other co-producers. We thought that we would be able to wrap it up by a certain date but it didn't happen, and these things are common in filmmaking. In fact, it's good because we got more time to prepare and do our homework.
Are you planning to include any portions from that shoot?
Yes, of course. The prep shoot had come out very well. I will certainly use a lot of it in the film.
What has been the biggest challenge in making this film?
(Laughs) I don't want to sell my struggling story because I'm still struggling. I'd say that established producers in India should really have trust in the content. Only that would help create good cinema. I don't want to sound immodest but not many people can fight for a long time with a film. They get lost and in the process a good concept gets lost, too. Somewhere the perception is like this saas-bahu ki ladai. Every filmmaker thinks that when I came to this industry, I had to struggle and suffer, so let this newcomer also struggle.
So, I want to ask, what is that one thing a new director should carry? A reference or a good script?
When are you planning to release the film?
Next year for sure. We are yet to finalise a date. It will be a worldwide release. And for his fans abroad, it will also have subtitles.
Who's doing the music for the film?
Salim-Suleiman chiefly, alongside a new composer.
So we can expect a romantic track?
Of course, when Barun is there and Panchi (Borah) is there, there has to be a romantic number.
Why did you change the female lead from Suzanna Mukherjee to Panchi Borah?
Suzanna is a sweet girl and we're still in touch, but things didn't work out with her so I thought it was better to rope in someone else.
By when do you plan to wrap up the shoot?
By October definitely. It would have wrapped up earlier but we were held up due to the untimely rains.
Social media is a must to promote a film these days. How difficult is it to coax Barun to be active in that space?
He is really not into Facebbok, Twitter, Instagram and all that. I really have to coax him a lot to be there (laughs). He's rarely on social media.