Director Hardik Mehta’s debut film is an ode to Bollywood's most famous sidekicks Advertisement

Director Hardik Mehta’s debut film is an ode to Bollywood’s most famous sidekicks

A fitting tribute

By Arshie Chevalwala  November 12th, 2018

Ever wondered what happens to the hero’s best friend—the one usually played by an actor whose name you can’t quite recall? Writer-director Hardik Mehta did, and he decided to shine the spotlight on these pivotal-yet-fringe artistes with his debut feature film, Kaamyaab.

kaamyaab poster

“I discovered that every big film director either has or has had a favourite character actor. Mahesh Bhatt has Avtar Gill, Abbas-Mustan have Johnny Lever, and Guru Dutt had Johnny Walker. Sometimes they would appear as a stereotype, other times to add humour, and most times as a catalyst in the story,” he says. Kaamyaab, which premiered at Busan International Film Festival last month, follows the life of a character actor (portrayed by Sanjay Mishra) who decides to come out of retirement in order to bag his 500th role—the one he hopes will finally make him memorable.

sanjay playing sidekick

Sanjay Mishra (right) playing sidekick to main dacoit

sanjay mishra and deepak do

Sanjay Mishra and Deepak Dobriyal in a still from Kaamyaab

Mining the life of the Everyman for his stories has always been integral to Mehta, who grew up in middle-class Baroda, “on a heavy diet of typical Hindi movies” and started out as a dairy engineer at Amul in Surat. Eventually, he quit to pursue his Bollywood dream, securing a communications degree from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, in 2008, and then moving to Mumbai.

Hardik Mehta

Mehta on the set of Kaamyaab

Mehta learnt the craft of film-making by working with directors like Vikramaditya Motwane, serving as the script-supervisor and assistant director on Lootera (2013) and Queen (2014) and co-writing Trapped (2016). But he first drew attention for his slice-of-life cinema with his 2015 documentary short, Amdavad Ma Famous. The film captured Gujarat’s kite-flying festival through the eyes of a precocious 11-year old and won Mehta the National Award for Best Non-Feature Film that year, as well as nods at Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and MAMI Mumbai International Film Festival, in 2016. It was also bought by Netflix.

short film trailer

Children from Amdavad Ma Famous with Mehta, as he shows them the trailer of the short-film for the first time

“We’d follow the kite runners, share our lunch with them and just capture the madness of the festival,” he says. “And I wanted to hold onto a similar sentiment with Kaamyaab, I wanted to capture as authentic a world as possible.” With early reviews touting the film’s affecting performances and bitter humour, it looks like he more than succeeded.

set of kaamyaab

Mehta on the set of Kaamyaab