John apparently took up the challenging role to push himself further as an actor and in the process also took some serious risks. For one, he had to smoke about 80 to 100 cigarettes every day of the shoot. John categorizes "No smoking" as a genre in itself, partly real and partly fiction. "It's not a dark film, it's humorous and stylized," John says.
Playing the character, John found out, was not a cakewalk at all. "There was this scene where I had to cough badly. But I was not getting it right. Then Anurag decided to do the dubbing for me. Being a chain smoker he could cough in that typical way. When Anurag started coughing for the scene it put us all off, it was very ugly. I realized that a chain smoker's lungs are full of smoke."
John continues: "Smoking is banned but we had to show it in the movie because it is a story of a chain smoker." Kumar, Anurag and John used to discuss how much smoking should be shown in the film. Kumar then said that the consolation for showing so much smoking on screen was that there would be many in the audience who would give up the habit after watching the movie.
Once the shooting wrapped up, John got X-Rays of his lungs done. "I found that my lungs were looking smoky instead of the healthy grey. My teeth were getting stained because of excessive smoking," John recalls.
The actor is also all praise for Anurag. "He is a genius. Right in the middle of a scene, he can change a word or the body language of the actors and make the shot extraordinary. In the end it's all well-executed. He is so good that he can work better without a bound script."
One of Anurag's qualities that endeared him to his actors was the freedom he gave them. John recalls: "He told me 'It's your block, do what you want. I'll tell you if I want any changes"."
John got a dose of Anurag's novel approach to his work right at their first meeting. Anurag called up John one fine morning after the release of "Water". He introduced himself as the writer of the film and asked if they could meet. "I too was keen to meet him. He told me he stays on Carte Road. I asked him to come over since I stay in the same area."
Anurag took a rickshaw and reached John's in 15 minutes. The first script that Anurag narrated was titled "Lapata". "When he asked me how it was I couldn't help blurting out "horrible". He then narrated another script titled "No Smoking". And I loved it. That's when he revealed that he had written "Lapata" on the way to my house. Anurag is a psycho," laughs John, adding that he took up the offer because he generally tries to do substantially meaningful films which are different from one another. Hope his efforts in "No Smoking" don't go waste. -(SAMPURN)