The making of Queen

Mohini Chaudhuri | Updated on January 26, 2014 Published on January 26, 2014

Vikas Bahl

A still from the film Queen

Bahl recounts the making of his film

As a producer, Vikas Bahl has an impressive repertoire of films to his credit.

In 2011, he was coerced into turning director as well when he couldn’t find one for his story on a gang of young middle-class boys in Mumbai. The film, Chillar Party, went on to bag three National Awards.

Barely a month away from his second release, Queen, starring Kangna Ranaut, Bahl says he’s still a bundle of nerves on a film set. And yet, this time around, he was sure that this was a story that only he could tell.

Great story

“I didn’t want anybody else to make this film,” he said. “I was so excited by the story that I wanted to capture it myself. But I don’t think I’m ever going to be sure-footed on a set. It’s like giving a speech in front of people. Each time you do it, you feel nervous.”

As a filmmaker, Bahl feels he has the neither flair nor the experience of his two partners at his production company, Phantom Films — Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane — but he’s lucky to have them as sounding boards.

At every stage of scripting he would bounce his ideas off them, knowing they wouldn’t shy away from being completely brutal with their critique. “I showed the rushes of my movie to Anurag while we were doing a recce for his film Bombay Velvet in Sri Lanka. He started watching it at 10 pm and was at it till 6 am. I could see him laugh and cry at the same time. By the end of it, he volunteered to edit the film himself and since I didn’t have anybody, I agreed,” he recalls.

Anurag’s generous offer was possibly the most reassuring feedback Bahl got. Even if that meant having heated arguments and creative disagreements for the next few months.

“We love to tear each other’s work apart. But that’s why we make such great partners,” he laughs.

The film traces the journey of 24-year-old Rani from a conservative Punjabi family in Delhi who ends up going alone on her honeymoon after she’s dumped at the altar by her fiancé. Shot on a tight budget, Queen was filmed in 45 days over multiple locations, including Paris and Amsterdam.

While such extensive outdoor shoots usually require a crew of over 100, Bahl had just about 25 people on board.

Even providing his leading lady with a vanity van was a luxury he couldn’t afford. “We would shoot at 3-4 locations in a day. We would quickly film a scene at a spot and then sling the camera over our shoulders and moved to the next location.

“Kangna would have to get dressed in public restrooms or at whichever restaurant we had stopped at for a meal,” he says.

As the script reached completion, Bahl was adamant on having Kangna essay the title role. In fact, he was even prepared to can the film if she refused.

"I wanted someone who came from the same world as Rani and was familiar with those characters around her. Or else, there was a high chance of the character turning into a caricature,” he explains.

Bahl’s instincts were bang on. Kangna slipped into the part so effortlessly that she ended up writing a lot of her lines, a rare liberty for actresses.

Queen’s strength, says Bahl, lies in its unconventional story. Like in Chillar Party, this film too focuses on the extraordinary life of seemingly ordinary people. “My film is not about the journey of a woman, it is the story of a hero,” he ends.

Published on January 26, 2014
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