In the span of 1 week, we have 2 films releasing, at complete opposite ends of the spectrum- most people would have seen or heard some of the promotion for Chandni Chowk To China, which is out on January 16. But on January 9, we have another film releasing- The President Is Coming.
We didn't plan it this way, but due to the terror attacks we shifted our release date and ended up here.
It's been a terrific journey that started just over a year ago when I met the writer of the play of the same name, Anuvab Pal. He had co- written Loins Of Punjab Presents…. and we were chatting about doing something fun, when he mentioned the play that was already running successfully.
It is about when George W Bush actually announced that he wanted to shake hands with a young Indian when he was visiting India. So he took off on that thought, in this reality TV obsessed new India, what would happen if they actually had to find a 'shining' young Indian worthy of this bizarre prize!
He organized a reading with most of the actors from the play, which was hilarious. It was only later did I realize that he had conned me- out of sheer laziness, he had sold me on something that he had already written, rather than go through the ordeal of coming up with something original! The director of the play, Kunaal Roy Kapur, was there too, as we thought he would be the best choice to direct the film, if we went ahead.
Things moved in quite an organic way after that- bit by bit, pieces kept falling into place. My friend Akarsh Khurana was working with us at the time, and he really helped put things together. He runs an extremely dynamic & prolific theatre company, Akvarious Productions, and knows tons of young talented people in the business.
In adapting the play, we were really lucky when we got two superb additions to the cast. Shernaz Patel had supported the play from the time of its writing, and so knew it well. Akarsh, Kunaal & Anuvab all have a good rapport with her, and I have always enjoyed her work on stage & in films like Black, so we were very happy when she came on board.
And then there was Konkona Sen Sharma; before this film I had never met Konkona. From the time I saw Mr & Mrs Iyer, I have considered her one of the most effortless performers on screen, and I had been waiting for an opportunity to work together.
I asked for a meeting with her, but didn't have too great a hope- the whole project at that time felt so crazy (the good thing is that it still does!), but I just wanted to give it a shot. As I started narrating the idea to her, she actually seemed interested. She started laughing when I told her about Maya Roy. I thought she is such a good actress! She's being so polite! But she genuinely was intrigued, and wanted to hear the screenplay in detail.
When she came to the office to hear it, she was mildly shocked to walk into a room with all the other actors! I remember what a good impact doing a reading with actors who read their lines so much in character really helped convey the humor and madness of the material, and we wanted to share that with Konkona. Then I even suggested to her that she read her part as well! She was a good sport, and agreed, and that's when I realized, holy s**t, we actually may end up making this film!