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Interview Hindi

20 years of Gunda: Deepak Shirke recalls shooting without a script

The actor, who played the politician Bachubhai, shares some interesting stories from the making of the cult film.

Keyur Seta

When a film is remembered and enjoyed even 20 years after its theatrical release, it is usually because it tells a great story, has excellent performances, and, perhaps, great music or dialogues.

Director Kanti Shah’s Gunda (1998) boasts of none of these. And yet it is remembered today while its fan base just keeps growing.

The film is ranked so highly in the so-bad-that-it’s-good category of cinema that it has developed a cult following since its release on 4 September 1998.

Unsurprisingly, Gunda did not create much of an impact at the box office when it was released. But as internet penetration in India grew, audiences began sharing nuggets from the trashy epic. And a cult was born. The cult of Gunda.

The film had an ensemble cast of Mithun Chakraborty, Mukesh Rishi, Shakti Kapoor, Deepak Shirke, Ishrat Ali, Razzak Khan, Sapna (director Kanti Shah’s wife) and others. The film is basically about a coolie (Chakraborty) whose family is murdered by a group of gangsters and politicians and how he wreaks vengeance.

A large part of the movie contained poetic lines by the characters, as if each wanted to outdo the other in poetry. Why should shayars have all the fun?

Deepak Shirke

Here are some lines if you can digest them:

Mera naam hai Bulla. Rakta hoon khulla. 
Mera naam hai Chuttya. Achhe achhon ki main khadi karta hoon khatiya. 
Dikhne mein toh hai tu naata, par naam hai Lambu Aata. 
Bulla ka naam lekar khada kar diya tune mera... gusse se ek ek baal. 
Mera naam hai Pote, jo apne baap ke bhi nahin hote. 
Mera naam hai Ibu Hatela. Maa meri chudail ki beti, baap mera shaitaan ka chela. Khayega kela? 
Lambu ne tujhe lamba kar diya? Maachis ki tili se khamba kar diya? 

In a conversation with Cinestaan.com, Shirke, who played the politician Bachubhai in Gunda, looked back at the dialogues and shared some interesting anecdotes. 

Speaking about the rhyming lines, he said, “The writer of the film [Balbir Bashar] wrote in an unusual way. It was so hatke [different]. I said, ‘What lines are these?’ But he said this is what our theme is. He said such dialogues work more in the rural areas.”

Despite being taken aback by the dialogues, Shirke went ahead with them. “I was asked if I would be comfortable speaking these lines. I said, ‘Why not? If the director is fine with it and this is what he wants, I will do it.’ I am a director’s artiste. So, I just did it,” he said. 

Shirke believes in enjoying his work: “I felt we should enjoy ourselves and say such lines. I enjoyed reciting such poetic lines. And no dialogue was repeated in the film.” 

A famous dialogue by Shirke’s character goes: “Bulla toone khullam khulla Lambu Aate ko maut ke tawe mein sayk diya. Uski laash ko Worli ke gutter mein fenk diya.

Shirke agreed to be a part of Gunda without knowing the plot. “Kanti Shah visited me and narrated the story in one line. I instantly agreed to do the film,” he said.

He did not read the script because there was no script. “Kanti Shah doesn’t follow the method of preparing a script and giving it to the artistes," Shirke said. "The film is in his head. The artistes are not aware of it. He is famous for wrapping up his films quickly.”

The 1980s and the 1990s have become infamous in Hindi cinema history for the way commercial films were made, with lines often being written just before the shooting of a scene on the sets. Gunda followed this practice and the actors had to just improvise. “The writer [Bashar] used to write the lines on the sets and hand them over," Shirke recalled. "There was no homework as such. We just did a lot of improvisation.”

The cast and crew of Gunda faced just one challenge. “The biggest challenge was to shoot on a low budget. There was no other challenge,” the veteran actor said.

As the film is still remembered, for whatever reason, Shirke believes it was a success story. “The fact that people are still remembering the film and reciting its dialogues speaks about its success," he said. "Dilon mein rehna badi baat hoti hai [It’s important to stay in people’s hearts]." 

But none of the cast and crew expected such a following when they were shooting for Gunda. “We never thought this would happen," admitted Shirke. "We thought people would just watch this for 'timepass'." As it turned out, the movie is still 'timepass' for its fans.