Archana Puran Singh’s serious turn with Kumud Mishra in Mahesh Nair's Hum Dono
Journalist turned documentary and feature filmmaker Mahesh Nair's short film Hum Dono starring Archana Puran Singh and Kumud Mishra sees laughter queen Archana Puran Singh in a totally different avatar. The 12-minute short tackles a very serious issue and is currently streaming on Apple TV.
Goaded by the reaction to the film, Mahesh Nair us now planning to extend the short now into a proper feature film.
Nair has a personal reason to choose this subject. Says he, 'as my parents grew old, I realised that medical issues and companionship are the thoughts that mostly occupy their mind. Since most of us now live in nuclear families and far away from our parents, how do old couples deal with loneliness? And what can one partner do for the other if he or she is no longer alive? This thought along with reports in newspapers talking about how a Rs 200 crore scam was unearthed in Haryana and its neighbouring states, gave me the reason to make Hum Dono."
The reports shocked Nair as it mentioned people claiming benefits of personal accident policies when actually the patient had died of cancer or killed themselves ss they could not afford treatment.
"I wove both these issues and that’s how Hum Dono the story was born. Also I am a fan of the songs from Dev Anand's old Hum Dono film. That’ title seemed appropriate here."
For his short film, Nair was sure about two things. The story should be gripping and should have a twist. Secondly, the actors needed to be excellent and if possible, surprising.
The entire story of Hum Dono is narrated through the perspective of Saroj, a woman in her 50s in Hisar, Haryana. Says Nair, "I wanted to tell it through someone who people knew, but would be shocked to see her play this character. I thought why not Archana Puran Singh? Everybody knows her for her laughter in the Kapil Sharma Show. Nobody has seen her act for a long time. Why not cast her, completely against her popular image, as a sombre Haryanvi woman?"
Incidentally, both Kumud and Archana lived in Nair's neighbourhood. "When I met Archana I told her I have a role for her where she will not be laughing or cracking jokes. where there will be no make up, no hairstyle, where she will wear rustic clothes. She was eager to hear the story. She loved the role and agreed to do it instantly. Look at the fabulous way she acts in the film. She is such a wonderful talent!," gushes Nair.
As far as casting for the male protagonist Ajitpal Mann goes, Kumud Mishra was again Nair's first choice. "We used to go for our regular morning walk during the Covid lockdown days. I popped the idea and he said, why not? He has got only two scenes and you can see in those two why he is one of our finest actors!"
Nair wanted his first scene to be the perfect set up and the subsequent ones to have no errors of information as the film has a surprising reveal. "What you don’t say or show in the film is equally as important as what is said or shown. A short film needs to be taut and immersive. My idea was when you rewatch the film, it should make you realise, “Oh that’s why he/she did this!”
Next on Nair's agenda are two feature films that he is currently in talks to start shooting next year. "The first is a refreshing realistic rom com called Main, Tum Aur Prime Minister set against a background which people haven’t seen in India. The second is a thriller feature film version of the short Hum Dono, where the story you saw is the backstory of the feature film," reveals Nair.