The Shaukeens claims itself to be a 2014 redo of the Basu Chatterjee classic called Shaukeen. The anglicized version of the title is just to convey its freshness, emphasizes filmmaker Abhishek Sharma of Tere Bin Laden fame. The highlight point of the film, according to Sharma is Akshay Kumar – The Superstar who plays himself in the film with a difference.

Abhishek explains, “We have painted a fictional side of Akshay Kumar. He is after all an actor playing the superstar, Akshay Kumar. He is approaching it as an actor. It is difficult to play yourself in a fictional way. You have to laugh at yourself which only he can do. Akshay has contributed so much in devising so many digs in the film. He is so sure of making fun of himself. He has brought out those layers of himself and put up together a very interesting character.”

'The Shaukeens' movie poster and Abhishek Sharma
‘The Shaukeens’ movie poster and Abhishek Sharma

The story is set between Delhi and Mauritius and deals with the lives of three lecherous men. Abhishek corrects me, “The three pivotal characters in this film are deprived, they aren’t vulgar. The point was to give these characters a certain endearing quality. Women won’t be repulsed by them. Interestingly when the Censor came for the film’s screening, they came in with the mindset that they will rate it either a U/A or A, but even they found it so sweet, never crossing the line that the women hate it.”

Playing the deprived men are stalwarts Anupam Kher, Annu Kapoor and Piyush Mishra. Dealing with such stalwarts need precision but Abhishek believes in not tampering with their flow. He elaborates, “When you are directing such actors, there is a conscious effort to not direct them. Because they are brilliant in envisioning what more they can bring to the scene, besides improvising on what is written. It is a collaborative effort. In comedy, there is always a scope to learn from seniors. The thing with comedy is that it is a very actor dominated genre, and it is also the toughest genre. A director’s job in comedy is never to interfere with the actors when they are in. The timing of all of them, be it Anupam Sir, Akshay, Piyush Bhai, Annu ji, was so crisp, I did not even try to fiddle with it. Comedy seems very easy but to keep it separate from hamming is very tough.”

The germ of the film was taken from another film. Technically, it will be called a remake though Abhishek has clearly revamped the set up and hopefully the story as well. But Abhishek believes remakes are seen in a very lowly light in India. He opines, “I think in India we talk about remakes in a very derogatory way. First of all, it’s not a remake, it’s an adaptation. I don’t understand when people adapt Shakespeare’s plays, that seems original to people, just because you take inspiration from a film made earlier doesn’t mean you haven’t done anything new with it. The whole voice is new. The Shaukeens has transformed everything, giving it a newer tinge altogether. Everything is different. We shouldn’t look at it like a remake is a shot by shot copy of its source. That is the instinct and tone in the questions I am asked by journalists. There is a lot of originality infused in The Shaukeens. For instance, Lisa is a registered stalker in the film, something no Bollywood film has used before. There are many original moments in the film. Just because we call it The Shaukeens doesn’t mean it’s not original.”

Agreeing with him, Akshay too agrees that comparisons will happen but he can’t care for them. He signed off with, “​People will compare because they want to compare. Jinko karna hai woh toh karengey hi. But to be honest, these are different films. The germ might be same, but this is a 2014 film that was a 1982 film. The plot differences are evidently there. I am not worried about the comparisons.”

The Shaukeens is releasing tomorrow and stars Lisa Haydon along with Anupam Kher, Annu Kapoor and Piyush Mishra in pivotal roles.

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