First, she made Shah Rukh Khan go “Chalyya Chalyya” in Mani Ratnam’s DR Se and now, Farah Khan has put Kangana Ranaut and her troupe on top of a moving train for a song, 77ppa in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Rangoon, a Casablanca-like romance set against the backdrop of the Second World War. What made this song all the more difficult for Farah to choreograph was that the train had to look like one from the ’40s, travelling from Mumbai to the North-East with diva Julia and her co-actors on board, on their way to entertain soldiers on the border.
“After getting permission from the Assam railways, my art department went to work in the yard to give the train a ’40s look. When they were done, the staff suddenly realised that they had extended it a little from both sides and were worried it might hit the signals on the way,” reminisces Vishal, who waited for four days with an equally concerned Farah by his side for the train to arrive while he shot other scenes.
There were no signs of it and the National Award-winning director and choreographer almost believed their song had been derailed, when the train finally chugged in at around 2 am in the morning. “The authorities were very helpful and had agreed to a test run to see if it did bump into a signal. And when it didn’t, they showed It the green flag,” Vishal exults.
Even after it arrived, there was a mad scramble to get five-days work done in three, battling crowds of regular commuters everyday, with just a window of 30.40 minutes to can their shots. Vishal is all praise for Farah’s experience with moving trains for this near-impossible feat. “She advised us to reserve two bogies, one for the actors and the other for the crew and equipment. She also got me Rahul, who’d been a pilot with Indigo before and now works as a drone. He was invaluable. I’d never shot on a train before and had I not had Farah by my side, I might have just canned the opening stanza of the song and stopped there,” he admits.
Tippa, a Punjabi word, can be translated as a dimple in the cheek and Vishal points out that Gulzar who has written the lyrics, has used the word beautifully in his poems. In this instance it is used to cajole Kangana aka Julia out of her angry mood by her co-actors who want to drown In the gol gol tippas in her cheek. Vishal describes his leading lady as one of the finest actress we have, hard-working and focussed despite all that was happening off camera when they were shooting the film in Arunachal Pradesh. “She was so professional,” he raves.
Rangoon Is a long-cherished dream which Vishal has nurtured for almost a decade. Even Tina was recorded nine years ago. “Gulzar saab would keep telling me I could shelve any other project but this one because it’s a special film. It is. It’s the first time I’ve attempted a pure, intense love story. Usually the love story remains in the background in my films, but In this case the love triangle is in the forefront and war and patriotism melt
into the backdrop,” he points out, adding that he will be relieved when he sees the film unveil in the theaters on February 24. “It’s been a difficult shoot and I’m so tired. But for all these years I’ve been caged by this dream. Now, I can see the lock broken and the door opening…”