Video: Afsar Nithya Ramani in Mahabaleshwar
What do gangsters in Uttar Pradesh want with US President Barack Obama?
Well, we have to wait for director Subhash Kapoor's With Love to Obama to know more, though Nithya Ramani did have a glimpse of the actual shooting at a bunglow in Mahabaleshwar, a hill station in Maharashtra.
The movie stars Neha Dhupia, Amol Gupte and Rajat Kapoor. The story takes on recession and its impact on everyone from top corporate houses to gangsters in UP.
Speaking of gangsters, Neha Dhupia plays female don Munni Madam. Wearing a brown patiala salwar and kurta, Neha readies for a shot with Amol who plays a politician-goon Dhananjay Singh. There's a picture of the character at the entrance of the bunglow where the media was invited to cover the shoot.
Wearing a green shirt and a pair of jeans, Subhash sits in front of a small monitor, keenly studying the scene on screen. Though a short one, he takes about five takes to okay it.
The scene in question is one where Neha's Munni and Gupte's Dhananjay are striking a deal. Whether the deal is struck or not is something we need to wait and watch.
'I hope people will be surprised by my performance'
The day was a busy one for Neha. She had to leave the venue in the afternoon and return to Mumbai, where she was to catch a flight to London. "I play a female gangster from Meerut, something new to me," the actress said, keeping a strict watch on the time. "I am not very kind to men, especially those who make mistakes. She is somebody you don't want to mess with."
For Neha, playing Munni was very different from the glamourous roles she has done in the past. She said she watched a lot of [Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister] Mayawati's speeches and Shabana Azmi's bold roles for inspiration to play the UP female don.
"We watched a few tapes where women spoke in the UP lingo. I worked hard on the accent though Hindi was never a problem," she said.
Why the director chose the glam Neha for such a rough role is something the actress cannot understand. She had even suggested that Subhash take someone else. But the director insisted, and she finally agreed. "I think acting is all about pushing yourself and raising the bar. I think I did that and hope people will be pleasantly surprised by my performance," she added.
'This is not an easy script to deal with'Image: Amol Gupta on With Love to Obama
After Neha, all eyes turned to Kaminey's Amol Gupte. A quiet smile came on his face when the media praised his villainous role of Bhope Bau in the Vishal Bhardwaj film.
Displaying none of the starry attitude common with most actors, Gupte spoke about his character Dhananjay Singh in a soft and almost inaudible voice. "What I play is a flesh and blood character; nothing out of this world. He is a goon and a minister."
Asked if he is not ending up as a stereotype with yet another negative role, he replied, "Everything is not always black and white. There are grey shades too, especially when you're making a caricature of a bad character. While there was a child hidden in Bhope, I'm trying to show off an affliction in Dhananjay."
Gupte had nothing but praise for Subhash. "The way he shoots every scene is very meticulous. He has a fabulous capacity of an intellectual journalist, where he can easily come up with characters that are not run-of-the-mill."
Neha seconds that. "He has so much clarity; he knows exactly what he wants in his shot. This is not an easy script to deal with and I think he is very lucky to have actors like Amol Gupte and Rajat Kapoor in his film," she said.
'The gangster have a message for the US President'Image: Subhash Kapoor on With Love to Obama
Curious to know more about the film, the spolight turned to the director. Asked how he came up with the script, he replied, "I wanted to show how recession has affected even the lowest strata of society in our country. The film is about four gangsters. What links them is that they are all suffering from the after-effects of recession.
"There comes a point when they realise that if there is anyone who will listen to their woes it is Barack Obama," he continues. "They have a message for the US President and hence the title, With Love to Obama."
After Mahableshwar, the next schedule will be shot in Mumbai. The film is expected to release in July or August.