Q. How did you get the idea to write a script based on the Electricity Issue ?
A. Way back in 2009, we were having a small get together. One of my friends, Sandeep Ohri who is also a consumer activist pointed out to our Electricity Bill and asked me if I understood anything written in it. To my surprise, I noticed that there were more than seven columns before they came up with the final figure of the bill. There were Headings like ‘Fixed Charges, ‘Energy Charges’, ‘Reliability Charges’ and a host of other charges which no layman can understand. This triggered the writer in me and I decided to further research this and write a script regarding the electricity issue.
Q. What kind of research did you do?
A. I was lucky I had my friend Sandeep Ohri who was already fighting a large Electricity Corporation. He helped with the research, the data, and patiently explained the fine print, the loopholes in the law and how these companies exploited it. He also introduced me to other consumer activists, took me to MERC hearings where I got a first hand information regarding this massive issue.
Q. Why did it take nearly ten years for the script to become a film?
A. Every script has a destiny. Even my previous film RUSTOM, changed hands multiple times before finally landing in front of Neeraj Pandey. Similarly, this script too changed hands multiple times, before landing in front of T-Series. I believe All’s well that ends well.
Q. Apart from your name, the writing credits have also been given to Sidhartha and Garmia, why is that?
A. Actually, in August last year, when the project was green lighted after Shahid read my script and Shree Narayan Singh came onboard as a director, it was mutually decided to shift the milieu of the film from an urban city to a small town set up. Uttrakhand was chosen because of it’s pristine beauty and excellent locations. Since I was tied up with other projects and the script needed to be rewritten, Shree decided to bring on the other writers onboard.
Q. You didn’t mind?
A. Not at all.
Q. You were in the Indian Navy earlier, and hence wrote RUSTOM with authentic detailing, Shahid’s character in the film is seen as a blackmailing lawyer , where did you get inspiration for such a character?
A. Actually an interesting incident occurred with me once when I bought a bottle of beer manufactured by a leading distillery. The sealed bottle contained two pieces of glass in it. I demanded compensation from the company, and the entire episode took nearly two months to resolve with the company finally compensating me. The way they tried every trick in the book to take away that bottle from me, the way I outsmarted them made me realise that even large corporations have their weak spots provided you know where exactly to strike. This basically gave me the idea to model my character as a blackmailing lawyer. As a sweetener, I wrote a script on that episode which Mr. John Mathan of Sarfarosh fame has bought from me and will soon make a film on it.
Q. What will the audience learn after watching BATTI GUL METER CHALU? A. We usually have a tendency that if we see anything printed on an official letterhead (Bill, Invoice), we assume it is an accurate document. After watching this movie, I can assure you the public will first find out how much electricity they are consuming and what exactly are they paying per unit and trust me, the revelation will shock them. The awareness that this film will create will be on a massive scale. In fact when I first narrated this script to other producers, directors and actors, the first thing they did was ask for the Electricity Bill trying to figure out why is the amount so much. These are people who earn in millions, so you can imagine what will be the reaction of middle class people.