Young directors in Indian cinema have been trying hard to bring forth the youth perspective in the films they make. While some take the offbeat route, many rely on the tried-and-tested commercial formula. Joining this list is director Punit Malhotra, who is all set for the release of his big Bollywood film Student Of The Year 2 which stars Tiger Shroff in the lead with newbies Anaya Panday and Tara Sutaria. Taking the franchise forward originally started by Karan Johar himself is obviously a task and certainly takes a lot of courage. In a candid conversation with CineBlitz, Punit exclusively spoke about the pressure, how he dealt with it and what went into the making of SOTY 2.
Were you under a lot of pressure to take forward the franchise started by Karan Johar?
It was Karan’s franchise so he was doubly sure that he wants to get it right. I had to be doubly vigilant because of that but he was very gracious during the process with me. When someone puts so much faith in you, you have to put your best foot forward to not let them down. So, there was a lot of pressure, in addition, you are now I was suddenly working with a superstar and then there were two new girls. So, in a way, all these things came together.
Coming to that, Tiger is already very popular and the girls are new. So how did that fall into place?
This is a different film altogether. I had faced a lot of challenges in my earlier films but I didn’t expect it to be as big as it eventually became with this one. But these are the things that I realised while making the film. With the new girls and things like that, I think I just went with the flow. The way to do it was just disconnecting from all the pressure and just get down and concentrate on work. So that was the approach.
Did you have workshops with the cast? How was the preparation?
Yes, we began with Ananya and Tara for dance, diction and action workshops. The advantage I had is that Tiger does a lot of rehearsals. So he would call and say I want to rehearse. Between the three of them, we had innumerable workshops. Every day before a scene, we would read it 20 times and of course, we prepped in advance too. So, I think because of all this, the camaraderie that formed made everything go very smooth.
Tara and Ananya are already famous even before the film has released. So how was it on the sets?
The thing is that I have seen the whole journey with these girls, from no one recognising them to all the way them getting mobbed. There were also days when only Tiger was getting mobbed and the girls were standing in a corner, no one knew them. Now they have so many followers on social media. So the whole journey has been a circle with them and it feels nice that they are getting famous and people are recognising them. You can see that they are happy about it. We trained them hard and we never distinguished them as new comers. And full credit to Tiger who never treated them as new comers. They had a treatment like they were the stars. So all of that is now actually paying off, and that is very exciting to see.
So did you go back to shoot in the same school?
I had another school in mind. This was Karan’s idea as to why don’t we give a hint about the earlier students because it will give the audience some kind of nostalgia. It is completely different from the earlier film; the only common thread between the two films is that it is the same building, same school. Apart from that, it is a completely different story.
You belong to Karan’s school of cinema but what is your signature style?
I would like to say that the ground is Karan’s school of cinema but there is also a little bit of me in the school.
Did the stardom of the three actors’ come in your way?
What happened with us is that we all are of a certain age bracket. I think even Tiger was shooting with a younger director for the first time, so it was a very young crew. There were no egos, if I made a mistake, they would come to me and tell me it is not happening. When they were faltering, I would go ahead and tell them. So the stardom and fame were separate and this was about us and it became like a bunch of friends chilling together and working. All the three – Tara, Ananya and Tiger are far friendlier to my crew than I am.
How do you rate the two actresses?
I think Tara is far more trained as an actor. She has some experience; she is more of a method actor. If you ask her to cry, she gets into the zone and she cries. Ananya is far more spontaneous and I think that is the difference. When you see Ananya, she is far more chilled out and I think it is just about the different approaches.