From Actor to Auteur: Kunal Kemmu’s Journey to Directing “Madgaon Express”


In an intriguing turn of events, well-known actor Kunal Kemmu transitions from the spotlight of acting to the director’s chair with the upcoming comedy, “Madgaon Express”. This fresh foray into filmmaking for Kemmu stems from his dissatisfaction with the acting roles being offered, leading him to seize the reins and craft an opportunity of his own making.

The idea for “Madgaon Express” germinated from a whimsical thought: What if the iconic Goa trip from the cult film “Dil Chahta Hai” (2001) had gone awry? That speculative scenario laid the foundation for a motion picture about three friends embarking on a trip to Goa, only to find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of unexpected events. This scenario is familiar yet refreshing, promising to bring a dash of humor mingled with the excitement and unpredictability of a journey gone sideways.

Kemmu recalls initiating the scripting process in the year 2016, a period when the roles being offered to him as an actor felt lacking in fulfillment. Faced with the choice to dwell on the unsatisfactory state of affairs or to forge a new path, Kemmu chose the latter, resulting in the creation of “Madgaon Express”. Confidence in his own writing skills wasn’t unfounded, as he had previously penned the Hindi dialogues for the zombie apocalypse comedy “Go Goa Gone” (2013), showcasing his aptitude for conjuring up laughs through the written word.

While Kunal had originally thought to star in “Madgaon Express”, fate, and a bit of nudging from Farhan Akhtar, saw him embracing the role of director. The actor-turned-filmmaker shares how upon presenting his screenplay to Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani, it was suggested that he should helm the project; a suggestion that pleasantly coaxed him into accidental directing.

The making of “Madgaon Express” demands attention not only because of Kemmu’s shift behind the camera but also due to the impressive roster of talent on screen. Divyenndu, Pratik Gandhi, and Avinash Tiwary are set to lead the cast, with Divyenndu stepping into the role initially intended for Kemmu. The director expresses relief at not juggling both acting and directing for his debut, acknowledging the potential overload for a first-time filmmaker’s undertaking.

Kunal Kemmu’s expedition through the Indian film industry began when he was but six years old. As he embarks on this novel chapter of his career, he acknowledges the influence of seasoned directors he has worked with, especially in comedies. Reflecting on collaborations with greats like Mahesh Bhatt in “Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke” (1993), Priyadarshan in “Dhol” (2007), Rohit Shetty in “Golmaal”, and the director duo Raj-DK, Kemmu speaks of observing these luminaries at work, assimilating their essence, and eventually endeavoring to sculpt a unique voice of his own.

Kemmu’s debut as a filmmaker with “Madgaon Express” represents not just a personal triumph, but a broader narrative of transformation within the film industry. It highlights an artist’s journey from interpreting characters to creating a canvas for them, from being a player in a narrative to architecting one. It underscores the cinema’s evolving landscape, where roles are becoming fluid and the lines between acting and directing are blurring.

Bringing “Madgaon Express” to fruition has been a labor of love for Kunal Kemmu. His ethos, shaped by a diverse range of directors with whom he has engaged in cinematic dialogue, is poised to make waves on the silver screen. With the promise of laughter and a reflection on life’s unexpected voyages, Kunal Kemmu’s directorial debut is eagerly anticipated by audiences and critics alike, eager to witness his crafted success formula—a formula derived from introspection, initiative, and a deep-rooted passion for storytelling.

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