Ever wondered what it’s like to shoot in the open when the temperatures dip below minus 30 degrees? Filmmaker Vikash Verma, who is gearing up for the release of the first ever Indo-Polish production “No Means No”, unexpectedly found himself stranded by extreme weather while shooting the mega-budget action adventure film in Poland. “While there was the constant fear of avalanche as we were shooting around the Tatra Mountains, at first it was all going well for us. But suddenly the weather started playing its tricks. Up to a certain point we were able to use special chemicals that are made to keep the shoes and clothes warm. But before we could anticipate it the camera and the battery stopped working as the mercury continued to dip further and further, making it impossible for us to continue the shoot. We had no other option but to postpone the shoot for the next year,” recollects Verma.
“No Means No” revolves around an Indian man (portrayed by debutant actor Dhruv Verma) who visits Poland to participate in a ski championship and ends up falling in love with a Polish woman. The film’s international ensemble cast features the likes of Gulshan Grover, Sylwia Czech, Natalia Bak, Sharad Kapoor, Nazia Hassan, Deep Raj Rana, Kat Kristian, Anna Guzik, Pawel Czech, Anna Ador, and Jersey Handzlik. “While the legendary Hariharan is the film’s music director, the background score has been provided by Akshay Hariharan. The film also features a track sung by Shreya Ghoshal. The film’s choreography department is helmed by India’s very won Shiamak Davar and Michal Stasica from Poland. One of the central themes of the film is women empowerment,” reveals Verma.
Set in the city of Bielsko Biala in Poland situated neat near the world-famous ski slopes of the Beskid and Tatras Mountains, “No Means No” features several intense skiing scenes. “As someone who played Table Tennis at the national level I have always had a special place for sports in my heart. Since No Means No is an Indo-Polish collaboration set in the Polish winters it was really a no-brainer that skiing should be a part of the story as it’s the favorite sport of the Polish people in the winter months,” explains Verma. And, fortunately for Verma, the writer Hitesh Desai was up to the challenge. “Hitesh’s screenplay beautifully captures the thrill and excitement of skiing as a sport and the same has translated well on the screen in the manner the adrenaline-pumping sequences are shot on the camera. This really is the first time the Indian audiences will get to witness such breathtaking ski action sequences,” asserts Verma who also has plans of releasing the film in China ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Verma is also hopeful that his film will boost skiing culture in India. “Gulmarg offers one of the best slopes for skiing in the world. As a sports lover I have been fascinated by the idea of skiing in the Himalayas but for the last several decades Kashmir has been under the shadow of terrorism. But all that is changing now for the better and so I think the time is ripe to put Gulmarg on the world map as a major skiing hub,” opines Verma. “Right now what we lack is the infra. Imagine we have a place like Gulmarg in the country and yet Indian ski lovers have to go abroad to enjoy the sport. Also, locally, the sports hardly gets any exposure. ‘No Mean No’ is just the starting point for creating the buzz about skiing in the country. I also have a detailed blueprint ready with me about how we can develop Gulmarg into a global skiing hub with state of the art facilities,” adds Verma while reminding that PM Modi had inaugurated the second edition of Khelo India Winter Games earlier this year in Gulmarg.
According to Verma, his will also boost tourism and give a fillip to the ties between India and Poland. “‘No Means No’ film will introduce Poland to the Indian audiences. The film’s cinematography that beautifully captures snow-clad mountains and picturesque vistas provides a hitherto unseen glimpse into the life in Poland. They call Bielsko Biala as Little Vienna. It is a stunning town situated in southern Poland that has mostly remained away from the public attention for a better part of the last century,” reveals Verma who has shot the film simultaneously in three languages viz. English, Hindi and Polish through which he hopes to further strengthen the socio-cultural, religious, and bilateral connect between India and Poland.
The grilling shooting schedule dramatically stretched by the uncertainties of weather followed by the global pandemic has tested Verma’s patience on all fronts but he remains unfazed. He is now eagerly looking forward to the film’s release slated for November 2021. “Although, ‘No Means’ No has turned out to be a huge project, both in terms of budget as well as scope, it was initially intended to be a dress rehearsal for my next project, ‘The Great Maharaja’—a true story based on events of World War II, which will star Sanjay Dutt in the titular role,” reveals Verma. The film is about Digvijaysinhji Ranjitsinhji Jadeja, the Maharaja Jam Sahib of Nawanagar, who in the pre-independence India provided shelter and education to around one thousand Polish children evacuated from the USSR while escaping the German bombings during the Second World War. “For the project, I am planning to rope in Roman Polanski seeking his support and guidance in direction as he made ‘The Pianist’ which is about the horrors of the Holocaust. I believe his inputs will be priceless in shaping the story of my film,” adds Verma who is grateful to the Polish people for their love and support.