Mumbai's street pups inspired 'Roadside Romeo': Jugal Hansraj

By Robin Bansal

New Delhi, Oct 21 (IANS) Cute pups playing by the roadside; yawning, scratching, winking at one another and chasing vehicles on the streets of Mumbai - that is what inspired actor-turned-director Jugal Hansraj to write and direct his animation film "Roadside Romeo".

"I was stuck in a traffic jam in Mumbai once and I saw some stray dogs playing near a garbage pile. They were running behind scooters and seemed so happy and oblivious of the world around them. They were so involved in their own game that I thought how about telling their story and that's how the idea of 'Roadside Romeo' came to me," Jugal told IANS in an interview.

"Roadside Romeo" is India's first ever three-dimensional (3D) mainstream animation venture. Releasing Friday, it is co-produced by Yash Raj Films (YRF) Studio and Hollywood studio Walt Disney Co. It is visualised, executed and delivered by a 150 member team of Tata group's Tech arm Tata Elxsi.

The film has eight voice overs including Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor and versatile actor-dancer-mimicry artiste Javed Jaffrey. They have lent their voice for the lead characters in the movie - Romeo, Laila and Charlie Anna respectively.

Asked the basis on which he chose these actors for the voiceovers, Jugal said: "I had Saif, Kareena and Javed in mind since the time the film was in the writing stage. The characters are like them. For example, Romeo is based on Saif - cool, rich and stylish and likewise for Laila and Charlie Anna's character that is inspired from Kareena and Javed.

Jugal started his career as a child artiste in the 1983 with "Masoom". In 1994 he featured as a full-fledged actor in "Aa Gale Lag Ja" - he was paired with Urmila Matondkar, who played his sister in "Masoom", in the romantic saga that bombed at the box office.

He was noticed in "Papa Kehte Hain" and "Mohabbatein". But the films failed to boost his acting career and now he is trying his luck as a director.

Jugal says "Roadside Romeo" happened by chance.

"The movie wasn't planned actually. I love animation films and I used to be very fascinated by how they are made. I used to buy all books and DVDs on animation. At the same time, Adi (Aditya Chopra), who is a very good friend of mine since college days, wanted to make an animation film in India that was completely for the Indian audience.

"Considering my love for animation, he approached me and I wrote some ideas for him and he liked 'Roadside Romeo' a lot and asked me to start developing the project. It took me 20 drafts before the film got finalised," he said.

Despite his love for animation, Jugal did have a tough time working on the project.

"Animation can be done by someone only who loves it because it requires a lot of patience. For example, when I didn't like a particular scene or an expression of a character, it took not less than two days to recreate the whole scene. It took two-and-a-half years to shoot the 90-minute movie.

"We managed to make the film because of my love for animation and my being very patient in life," said the shy and reclusive Jugal.

Apart from donning the writer and the director's cap, Jugal has also dabbled in singing and dubbing for the movie.

"I've done a couple of four liners in the dialogues for the extras and a few lines with the music director Salim as a part of the chorus in songs," he shared.

Jugal is also toying with a couple of more animation movie ideas.

He is both nervous and confident about "Roadside Romeo".

"I am having butterflies in the stomach as the release date is approaching. There is fear and a bit of apprehension too as it is my debut project but still I am sure people will like the movie. It's a fun-filled movie for both kids and adults and has been made for them to have a good time," he said.

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