Smeep Kang: Jhootha Kahin Ka holds nostalgic value for Rishi Kapoor
The actor-filmmaker talks about his debut Hindi directorial, the challenges of making a ‘confusion comedy’, Rishi Kapoor’s recovering health, and the growth of the Punjabi film industry
In the upcoming comedy Jhootha Kahin Ka, two students (Omkar Kapoor and Sunny Singh) travel to Mauritius and decide to settle down in the island nation. However, the quickest route to avail citizenship is marrying a Mauritian national. This spins a web of lies which ensnares several others, including Rishi Kapoor as ‘Papaji’ and Jimmy Sheirgill as ‘Tommy Bhaiya’.
The film is helmed by Smeep Kang, best known for directing the Punjabi comedies Chak De Phatte (2008) and Carry on Jatta (2012). Rishi liked Smeep’s work and approached him for a collaboration. At the time, the director had written a script for Carry on Jatta 2. However, the project was stalled when actor-politician Gurpreet Ghuggi, who had appeared in the first film, got busy with state elections. Unwilling to shelve his script, Smeep reworked it in Hindi as Jhootha Kahin Ka. “Since the characters were Punjabi, it was an easy rewrite. We introduced a Bihari character, Tommy, to make the film more pan-Indian,” shares Smeep, who later made Carry on Jatta 2 with a different script.
Jhootha Kahin Ka pays homage to Rishi Kapoor’s 1979 film of the same name, co-starring Neetu Singh. Smeep says he sought the veteran actor’s permission to use the title. “Rishi sir was delighted with the idea. The film holds nostalgic value for him, as he and Neetu ma’am were engaged on the day of its Delhi premiere.”
This is Rishi Kapoor’s first release since his move to New York last September for his cancer treatment. Smeep met him last month in the US for some dubbing work. Updating us on the actor’s health, the director shares, “His cancer is in a nascent stage. I saw him in good shape. He is doing well. We are all looking forward to his return.”
The filmmaker pegs Jhootha Kahin Ka as a comedy of errors. Unlike ‘no-brainer’ comedies, which utilise slapstick or in-your-face humour, the genre requires closer surveillance of characters and plot. “In confusion comedy, the humour comes from dramatic irony. You need to remember who had said what and how others are interpreting it. It’s a slightly more mentally demanding genre — both for the viewer and the makers.”
Speaking about his comedic influences, Smeep shares, “William Shakespeare is the obvious godfather of this genre. I also admire the middle-class, family-oriented films made by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, especially Gol Maal (1979). Then there’s French filmmaker Francis Veber (The Dinner Game, Ruby & Quentin) who makes wonderful movies.”
Smeep graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering from Punjab University. He made his acting debut in the 1999 film, Mahaul Theek Hai, directed by Jaspal Bhatti. Since then, the 46-year-old filmmaker has witnessed the Punjabi industry expand its territories. “My first film came out in just six prints, which travelled around the state. Today, even the smallest Punjabi film is released in America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Our films have started competing with Bollywood releases. Earlier, Punjabi filmmakers mostly dished out comedies. Today, even action and serious films, such as last year’s Qismat, are doing well.”
So does he plan to continue working in the regional space? “Yes, certainly. I stay caught up with my Punjabi projects round the year. Jhootha Kahin Ka was my first experiment with Hindi. People are approaching me with more work. I’ll do another Hindi film only if the idea is compelling.”