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It wasn't until we reached the sets on the first day of the shoot that we realised what we were doing. We were making our first full-length commercial feature film," says director Avinash Kumar Singh, all set for the release of his first film Listen Amaya on February 1. The film is about a widowed mother and her daughter who own a coffee shop in Delhi. It stars Swara Bhaskar — who has acted in films such as Guzaarish and Tanu weds Manu — in the title role. Veteran actor Deepti Naval plays her mother and has been paired opposite Farooq Sheikh after 28 years.
"Listen Amaya began as a germ of an idea in my wife and co-director Geeta's mind many years ago. Then, it was to be a short film of under five minutes with two principal characters sitting and having a conversation on a sofa," says the Mumbai-based filmmaker. "We almost forgot the idea until about two years ago when we finally decided to work on the script," he adds.
Singh says Naval plays the character of Leela Krishnamoorthy, a widow who runs Book A Coffee, and Bhaskar plays her daughter Amaya, a feisty 22-year-old writer. Their loving relationship changes as a 60-year-old retired photographer, played by Sheikh, forms an emotional attachment with Leela.
The film is directed in a simple narrative format in which subtle humour blends in with the emotional quotient of the characters. "People want to see something they can relate to, a story that seems close to them or something that can happen to them," explains Singh, about why he kept the story, cast and narrative simple. "Listen Amaya is a contemporary film about relationships, family dynamics, pre-conceptions and priorities," he adds.
Singh, 37, who has earlier worked on various documentaries and TV commercials, has also collaborated with Discovery, National Geographic and BBC for various projects. But getting to work with veteran actors such as Sheikh and Naval, he feels, was very lucky. "When we wrote our story, we wrote it for Farooq sir and Deepti ma'am, and we knew we wanted people of that calibre, stature and look. We were pleasantly surprised that they agreed almost immediately after we narrated the story to them," he says.