(kj) “Zubaan” is a movie by Mozez Singh who puts music into the focus of this film. And “it is a story about death at many levels” as Mozez explains to Karuna Jha. Mozez says: “I don’t want to repeat myself. But I believe every director’s work has a thread that keeps re-appearing in all his works.
A very warm welcome to you at the 13th Indian Film Festival in Stuttgart. “Zubaan” has left the audience stunned! Congratulations on an absolutely marvelous movie! What was your modus operandi for choosing the locations for the sets?
I’ve been writing the script for over seven years and spent a lot of time on it. So when we were looking for locations I was just very clear on what I wanted and conveyed it to my producer and location manager. We searched for locations and ultimately found them. And sometimes we didn’t get the location which I wanted: either it was too expensive or it was too complicated to get it and I reworked the location. It was a lot of hunting, asking friends for favors, I shot a lot of scenes in my friends’ homes.
Music is central to ‘Zubaan’. Each song seems to be a representation of not only the dynamics of the place, but also its very soul. How did u make it fit so perfectly?
That is something that just came together. Film making is an extremely collaborative process, where you work with the cinematographer, the choreographer, stylists, location people, etc. Once I saw the locations I knew what I am going to do in them. I can’t say that something happened before and something happened afterwards, it just came together and it came out well. I was just very clear about what I wanted and it really helps when the director knows what he wants and there is absolutely no confusion about it. He is the captain of this ship and the director’s vision has to be very clear whether it’s about the emotion which he wants in a scene or a location for a particular song.
The theme of loss is recurring throughout the film. Do you see it as an indispensable part on the path of discovering of Dilsher’s (Vicky Kaushal) true self?
Yes, it is a story about death on many levels. Amira (Sarah Jane Dias) is dealing with the death of her brother. Dilsher is dealing with the death of his father. It’s a film about grief, about how people come together because of the grieving. She is coming to terms with his death with music, but she is messing herself up with drugs and he is not able to celebrate music at all. He has shut it out of his life, music has become his enemy. His father served God through music, it was a metaphor for faith for him. And when his father killed himself, he thought that God betrayed the very one who worshipped him through music. That’s how he dealt with his loss. I think life is about everything: life is about celebration, grief, loving and losing. My endeavor through this film was to be able to show all of that and yet to make it a film about hope.
The final song “Ajj Saanu O Mileya” is shot on the rooftops in Punjab and is imbued with colour. Could you tell us about the shooting?
The last song has been written by one of the most famous poets in Punjab – Surjit Patar. He has never written a film song in his life. He is a legendary poet. He lives in a small village in Punjab and I tracked him down and requested him to do a song in my movie. I followed him and did research on his work. He was not sure whether he could do a song for a film. In this song Vicky is always looking at the sky: singing, talking to God. And the song conveys the meaning of thankfulness for making him go through all that and turning him to what he actually is – music. The only way he could talk to God was to look at the sky, so I decided to put him on the rooftop of peoples’ homes. It was a very challenging thing to do. We were standing on the roofs for 4 or 5 days in 45° C heat, it was very tough. But for me it was the only way he could look up and see the skies. And he is from Punjab and Punjab is synonymous with colour and I wanted colour everywhere.
Why did you choose Vicky’s character to be Punjabi?
Well, I did specifically choose Punjab. I’ve grown up in Sikh faith. I don’t live in Punjab, but I’ve been to Punjab hundreds of times and my grandparents were from there. I grew up with a lot of prayer and music in my own home. I know what Sikhs are like, they are very hot-blooded, so it made it a very personal film. It’s not my story, but I’ve put a lot of what I know into the film.
So how much of you is in the film?
There is a lot of me in the film. I have a stammer sometimes and I made his stammer a metaphor for holding things inside and blocking him. When he sings he doesn’t stammer. Singing is his only connection to him being a complete person and Amira sees it. There is a lot of me in there. I am a person who has a lot of faith and I wanted to do a film about somebody who has a lot of faith, loses it and finds it again in music.
Vicky Kaushal is an absolutely brilliant actor. How did you find him?
Well this is Vicky’s first film. I’ve auditioned for around 8 months and I must have rejected 300 or 400 boys and my producer told me that there was Vicky who has just done a short silent film. I saw it and I liked something about his eyes and I called him and auditioned him and he was just amazing. I’ve auditioned him for 8 or 9 days until I was absolutely sure. He is an exceptional actor.
What are your upcoming projects?
At the moment I am writing three different scripts and one of them will be made into my next film. I will spend the next 5 to 6 months just writing and whichever one will come out strongest will be made into a film. I don’t want to repeat myself. But I believe every director’s work has a thread that keeps re-appearing in all his works. In my work it would be a theme of identity and finding who you are and I think that’s what I will be dealing with my whole life.