Nishabd, the Ram Gopal Varma venture portrayed the story of an 18 year old girl (Jiah) in love with a 60 year old man (Amitabh). The significant age difference between the two romantically paired characters didn’t meet with a very encouraging response from the audience.
And not much later comes another film where the couple in love is separated by a considerable age difference. Interestingly the old man in this film is Amitabh Bachchan again and this time he is in love with a much younger Tabu. Ask R. Balakrishnan, director of ‘Cheeni Kum’ and he confirms, “Yes, my film is a love story about an elderly man and a younger woman”.
And before you think that Cheeni Kum is inspired from Nishabd, the fact is the other way round. Ram Gopal Varma hit upon the idea of directing his hatke love story when Amitabh Bachchan once mentioned him that he is soon going to do a film where he would be seen romancing a younger girl. Ramu confesses, “Yes, Mr Bachchan told me about Cheeni Kam. I also heard about a man in Hyderabad who married a much younger woman. When Mr Bachchan told me about himself and Tabu in Cheeni Kam I suggested a film with a much younger girl. Within five minutes we decided to do Nishabd and within three days the script was ready. The film was shot in twenty days”.
However Balki (as R. Balakrishnan is popularly known in the ad world) doesn’t quite agree that Nishabd was inspired from his film. “My film is about two people falling in love and a relationship. They could be of any age, they so happened to be of different ages. They don’t even remember their ages till the interval part of the film until the father comes into frame. It’s a very light love story which people won’t forget very easily.”
Also Balki clarifies that the tone of Cheeni Kum is not as heavy as Nishabd. “Nishabd was a very serious film. My film’s love story is a comedy. It’s also got Paresh Rawal in it. I have attempted to make a very shallow film with no depth in it. It’s a very light film. Cheeni Kum is as mainstream as a film can get”.
Ask Balki if he has seen Nishabd and he reverts positively. “I don’t know about the audience but I personally enjoyed Nishabd. The audience don’t analyze the character as to how can Jiah Khan be paired with Amitabh. Audiences either enjoy a film or find a problem with it and move on. They don’t think too much in the theatre”.
I wanted two characters who are slightly of different ages but not so different that the audience should be taken for granted. So does that mean Balki isn’t apprehensive about the cold response from the audiences to Nishabd considering the couple in his film also has an evident age difference? “See, I don’t see it as an unusual pairing. I wrote the story with Amitabh and Tabu in mind. I wanted to do a love story between two interesting people. And I didn’t want it to be seen as ‘hey how can this old man fall in love with this young person’. I wanted two characters who are slightly of different ages but not so different that the audience should be taken for granted. I wanted the audience to believe that this can happen”