The director of ‘Kacchey Limbu’ Shubham Yogi, along with his talented cast of Radhika Madan, Rajat Barmecha and Ayush Mehra, premiered his debut film at TIFF 2022. The team joined BizAsia’s Sahar Junejo for a conversation about their movie. The first screening of ‘Kacchey Limbu’ at TIFF was probably a little nerve-wracking for you. Have the nerves left now?
All together: Yeah, not nervous anymore.
Shubham: The nerves have definitely left.
Rajat: The first screening also was a lot more excitement than nervousness, personally. There was a lot of excitement of how it’s going to be, but abb kuch nahi hai.
Radhika, I’m surprised you were nervous. You took TIFF by storm the last time you came!
Radhika: I have a really tough time owning everything that I’ve done. This time I was trying really hard to own it. I always underplay. Even if my film gets a national award or Oscar, I’ll still be thinking, “Oh god, what will happen”. It just me.
My favorite part about the film is how funny it is. How did you manage that?
Shubham: I don’t know, tukka lag gaya (laughs). I really do think most of it landed because we stopped and we started a few times due to the lockdowns. And every time we stopped, we didn’t actually stop working on it. We were constantly in touch. We did quite a few readings together of their scenes before we got on set. As a part of my process, I like to do a final reading with the actors to see what they like. Is this line working for them? Or is there something else they would like to say? That is something which I think has helped, because a lot of the things they improvised during the readings are in the film now.
Ayush: Also — he’s underplaying it — inherently, he’s (Shubham Yogi) damn funny as a human being. He has a damn good sense of humour. So if something does not land on set he would say it, or we would also feel it. He was not bound to “what is written has to be shot”. If in the moment something fun came, he would just go with it. That are his brave choices in the end which made it actually really funny.
Shubham: But honestly, we didn’t think it was as funny as we found out during the premiere. We didn’t know it was funny. We didn’t make a funny movie. We thought haan, endearing hai. We didn’t know log hassenge!
All of you seem to have a lot of camaraderie, which really showed on screen. Was there a lot of improv on set? The chemistry on screen feels very fresh, unrehearsed.
Radhika: To be very honest, I think we were sticking to the script a lot. We actually played and improvised during the readings to see what was landing, what was not landing. But when we went on set, it was to the T. This is what the final script is, you didn’t feel like changing anything. Maybe an expression or two — whatever came in the moment — but none of the dialogues. We wrote so many drafts while we were reading. We would figure out that this is not landing for me, this is not landing for say Rajat or Ayush, and Shubham used to take notes, rewrite it, and bring it again. All the hard work and improvisation was actually done in the readings, which is the best way because you save time on the set.
So that chemistry was established beforehand in the readings, that is why it looks very natural because we were just being in the moment at that time. It just frees you from the pressure of remembering the lines or trying to creating a chemistry or camaraderie.
Rajat: There would be scenes where Shubham would take a print out and say “Let’s erase the scene.”, and for every dialogue, “What would you say? What do you think?” So we would sit and write the entire scene together again. And eventually we would come to a final draft.
Also, I think the biggest plus is that I’ve very rarely seen such a clear director. Yogi really knew what he wants, or moreover what he doesn’t want. He was so clear with every single character in terms of what he or she would do and wouldn’t do. That is such a help for us as actors.
Thirdly, I think we are very, very natural as actors, in the sense that we are not taking it too hardcore. We are just flowing with it, and all three were on the same page in terms of that.
Ayush: I also feel that when you are easy as people, accommodating as people, it just shows on screen and I think everyone on this project was. That’s why the camaraderie was nicer. If I didn’t like something I would tell Radhika to help me out and she would. If she was feeling like she wants a queue in a certain way I would give her that. Similar with Rajat.
The cricket was not in our control because cricket was governed by this man (Shubham Yogi). When you are shooting cricket, it is very stressful because you have a lot to cover and obviously there’s limited time. Also, you don’t have control on where the ball is going to land or how much it’s going to bounce sometimes. We did not know what the score was sometimes, and he would just say, “Hit a pull shot”, and we would hit it. He stitched it all beautifully to make it look like wow, this moment deserved the pull shot!
But during the cricket shoots, we were genuinely only playing cricket because that’s what we were trained to do — just play cricket. Our trust on him was so much, and that’s why everything fell into place.
Rajat: There were so many points and places where he was like “Tum scene pe dehaan do, cricket main dekhloonga”. (laughs)
I love how during the cricket scenes, the crowd was almost a 3rd team on the pitch with their commentary and heckling. Was that present while you were shooting?
Radhika: That was done after. We never got the cheers or anything like that.
Shubham: I was cheering for you guys!
Rajat: We got the cheer, but the wrong cheer. For example, if I hit a six, and the crowd had to cheer that Akash hit a six, there were so many times jab ball mujhse chhoot jaati thi. But the crowd doesn’t give a damn, they were still cheering and clapping. Those are the kinds of cheers we got.
Shubham: Honestly, both of these boys on shoot hit sixers for real.
Ayush: But woh camera pe nahi aaya. Whenever we were shooting, we never could. Because I think even the DOP was like “Yeh thori maarenge” (laughs).
Rajat: One day, Ayush wanted to hit a six, and he took so many takes for it. But woh nahi laga.
Ayush: The first ball came and I hit a six. But the DOP Piyush Puty, who is phenomenal in the film, did not know that we were going to connect.
Shubham: We didn’t expect any of them to connect.
Ayush: But it did. And it went on the six [banner]. After that, I took 10 balls and none connected. So he was like “Don’t worry, editing hai na!” (laughs)
Each one of your characters has their own cricket style. Did that come with a lot of practice?
Radhika: We used to train for 2–3 hours every day for a month or two. I focused a lot on the bowling. I had never bowled in my life, because when I was young I just wanted to bat and leave. I was a Yuvi (character from the film) in that sense: “Main sirf batting karoongi warna main nahi karoongi”.
So actually bowling maine pehli baar set pe hi seekhi. He wanted me to be a spinner, which was pretty tough for me. But I don’t know, something came very naturally. They didn’t scold me a lot.
Shubham: No, not at all. When we started training, I always knew she was going to be the bowler in the film. I had a sense of what this character will be as a cricketer. But also, she wanted me to show her references. We even went to watch an underarm cricket tournament and she observed the bowlers there, saw how those guys played. And she came back asking if she can develop an action like a few bowlers she saw there. So I remember telling her, why don’t we start by seeing what you bowl like? Let’s see what that looks like on camera. Because those guys are bowling for real, they are not bowling for the camera. I want to see what it looks like for you to bowl on camera. And the natural action she had was so good, that I told her let’s not change it at all. It looks good, convincing, and cinematic. Even though she says she’s never bowled, the first time she picked up the ball to do it, it seemed very convincing.
Radhika: When we developed that action with the perpendicular hand, that was something I was just figuring out. Whenever I focused, it was coming very naturally for me to just have the hand there, and I bowled. And he said stop right there, this is your action! So that is what we picked for the film.
It was a lot of fun, just to revisit my childhood. It’s the most beautiful feeling, because you always want to go back to your childhood but you can never relive it. I actually relived it. I’ll always be thankful to him for that.
Ayush: He had also given us players for reference, so it was very easy for us to pick the styles of how we want to play our cricket. He had given me and Rajat: Virat Kohli.
Shubham: I had also given you AB de Villiers.
Ayush: He had given me AB de Villiers as well, because I had the reverse shot, and he could play anything in the book. So we had players we could refer to.
I remember at that time I had stopped watching a lot of cricket, because I had moved on to football in life. Main bhi Yuvi tha! (laughs)
But when I got the film I genuinely started enjoying IPL again. I remember I used to just record some shot and be like “Yogi, this shot is great haan?”, and he would be like “Use karenge, use karenge!”
We’ve played cricket all our lives. It’s fortunate that it’s now been documented, and we are looking so good playing it. It’s a treat.
Radhika: My spirit player was Ashwin.
Rajat: You know how Ayush just said that hum sab ne bachpan se cricket khela hai, or how people say that “India ka har baccha baccha cricket khelta hai”, main woh bacha nahi tha (laughs). Maine cricket nahi khela hai.
I’ve played a little as a kid but I was not good at cricket. I still am not. So for me, it was very tough, because Akash was supposed to be a very good player. My stance has to be correct. Even while practicing, Yogi would come and he would push me harder than the others. It was really tough because I didn’t want it to look like — we all watch movies where someone is playing a guitar aur woh khaali ungliyaan hilaa rahe hain — I didn’t want to look like that sort of a cricketer. I really had to work on that.
Ayush: And he worked very hard. I remember we used to go at a specific time — 8:30 to 10:30 -for practice. Rajat would go at 7:30 for practice. He would stay until 10:30, and we would say “Rajat tu abhi fielding kar le thoda time, tu bohot thakk gaya hoga!”
Radhika: Yeh Kohli tha na, hum kacchey limbu the. (laughs)
Rajat: And Yogi used to say “Tu practice kar, camera pe main acha dikhaoonga”, which was true. It looks great on camera. But I have so much more respect for cricketers now. It is not an easy sport.
I feel like this movie is not really about the cricket. it’s about the sibling rivalry.
Rajat: I would say more than sibling rivalry, sibling love. Because you know we always have that rivalry but the core of it is love.
Exactly! There’s a lot of respect and affection underneath the rivalry. Did you establish that during writing or while acting?
Shubham: Most of it was in place when I started to develop it because that was always the heart of the story for me. I didn’t set out to write a sibling love story. That wasn’t the idea ever. The idea was always that this was going to be a story of a girl who as of this moment doesn’t know what she wants to do and it’s okay. She’s just 17, itna kya pressure hai? And how everybody around her keeps giving her unsolicited advice. The story was always that in my mind. But growing up with a sibling I knew this was a place to explore.
As a younger sibling, you want to do what the older sibling is doing. I’m a lawyer, my older sister is a lawyer, but today neither one of us practices law. Laikin main vakeel hoon, kyunki woh thi (laughs). Similarly, Aditi wants to play cricket because bhai plays cricket. And she says it in the film: I love it, but I love it more because of him. Because it was so cool looking at him do it.
I knew that happens with younger siblings. She’s literally called Ditto because she wants to do exactly what the brother is doing. I think most of it was in the script for sure. But only in the readings when these guys came together, and when we saw what their chemistry was like, how they are playing off each other, a lot of these moments were sharpened. Like the big fight where the bet is thrown is something which we wrote again and again over their readings. Some stuff which was said there was something that we came up in the readings. What if he says this, will this hurt more? And it did hurt. During the readings we would feel bad.
Rajat: It also helps because I have a sister, so I could connect with that. Similarly, Radhika has a brother. So both of us somewhere knew what the sibling bond is all about.
Radhika: My brother is exactly like Akash. I used to copy every single thing and I used to tell him “No I came up with this! Oh you are also doing it?”
It came from a very personal space, and Shubham captured it really well in the dialogues. When we were reading, Rajat actually came up with a lot of things. You know as an actor, when your co-actor is open to discuss stuff, it’s a blessing. So I told him, I don’t know what you’re going to do, but this is not hurting, so I won’t react, I won’t throw the bet. And they (Rajat and Shubham) used to sit, and Rajat used to say “Okay, but I love you, so I can’t be that disrespectful.”
Shubham came up with something else and that was hurting more, but Rajat was bringing his own energy, saying he cannot be that disrespectful. And I would insist, if it’s not hurting, I won’t say the dialogue. So we reached that sweet spot of him being fair in the position he was put in, and that thing hurting me. Kudos to Rajat for being that open, that I can just say, “I don’t know how you’ll fix it, but just hurt me.” . And for him to figure out where we’re going wrong.
Kabir (Ayush Mehra) was almost like the middle child torn between Akash (Rajat Barmecha) and Ditti (Radhika Madan).
Ayush: Correct. I was the person torn between the sibling love, and I chose love over friendship. It’s always to do with your first crush. When you have your first crush you genuinely want to pursue it. It’s not dramatic like “Main tumhare liye chaand, taare le aoon ga” but it’s that cute, innocent first love. That’s how it was supposed to be. And it was, because of Yogi.
What is the main message you want people to take away from ‘Kacchey Limbu’?
Rajat: I want people to see that when it comes to siblings, no matter how much you fight, never lose that respect and love for one another. I think that’s the most important thing. Because no matter how much you are in disagreement, you always have that love, respect and encouragement. That’s the bond you have.
Radhika: If people can be encouraged to take that leap to just try out things for themselves, to just figure out what they actually want. Yes, we get stuck in this whole loop of “my parents want me to do this” or “my siblings want me to do that”. But what do I want, can I take that step of just figuring out what I want, and even failing in that? I tried this, and it’s not working. But I have the luxury to try because it’s my life. And I don’t want to be bitter in my life and blame it on other people. Just figuring it out by yourself and having that luxury of not trying to please anybody but yourself.
Rajat: It’s okay to start over. That’s one of the most important messages in the film. It’s not like you have to stick to one thing for the rest of your life. If you think there’s something else out there for you, why don’t you try it out?
Ayush: I feel people should take away a lot of love from the film, because it’s primarily about that. It about parental love, sibling love, friendship. Everyone’s actions in the film are coming from a place of love, care, and affection.
Also, to be brave. You can be brave and take your choices. You can try to do things, even if you fail by the end of it, and you don’t have an answer, at least you don’t have to do that. At least you’re clear on that, that’s very important.
I just want people to enjoy it and treat it as a slice of life film where they see people coming of age. It’s okay to not have answers at the right time, but eventually you will get answers. The primary thing I want people to take away is a good time.
Shubham: It’s never too late to grow up. The film we’ve made is a coming-of-age story of everybody. The parents had some amount of growing up to do. The siblings did too, the entire team Kacchey Limbu did as well. Everybody had to grow up, each character. So, I feel it’s a coming-of-age story for all characters. If someone watching it can learn that it’s okay to grow up at any point in their life. If I need growing up in an aspect of life, I will do it and it’s fine. It’s never too late.
We are all Kacchey Limbu. We were all Kacchey Limbu making it.