Brad Cohen, the inspiration behind Hichki has come out strongly in support of Rani Mukerji. Yes, he is the guy Rani is portraying on screen and the screenplay is adapted to suit Indian tastes.
Hichki is an adaptation of USA-based motivational speaker and teacher Brad Cohen’s book, Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had. According to a report on Firstpost.com who got in touch with Cohen, he reportedly had a difficult childhood. Born with a severe case of the Tourette Syndrome, he was accused of being a troublemaker in school and was punished by his teachers for the tics and noises caused by the syndrome. As he grew, he decided to “become the teacher he never had”. He managed to get his teaching certificate but 24 elementary schools rejected him. Ultimately, he was hired at Mountain View Elementary School in Cobb County, Georgia. As a new teacher, he was named Georgia’s First Class Teacher of the Year. Firstpost got the chance to interview Cohen via Skype, and among many other things, he spoke about his views on Rani’s performance, their interactions for her to prepare for the role, and what he wants people to draw from Hichki.
Here’s an excerpt from his chat with Firstpost:
Brad, what was your first reaction when Yash Raj Films got in touch with you for the official adaptation of your book into a movie?
I was very shocked. I could not believe that someone from Bollywood wanted to make a movie about my life. I was honoured and obviously excited that it’s such a great opportunity for me to share my story and hopefully inspire millions of people across India. Honestly, I was more shocked because I was expecting the actor portraying me to be a guy (laughs). And when I learnt that it was an actress, I was like, "Wow!" Further, I got to know about Rani’s work and I realised that she was an amazing actress, that she’s a big name in movies in India.
They showed me her film she had done in the past (Black) in which she had the opportunity of taking on some of the challenges and disabilities. I felt that Rani did a great job, the way she embraced the challenge and gave a message to people through that film. I didn’t know much about Bollywood, all that I knew was a movie that came 10 years ago, Slumdog Millionaire. I am not a movie buff. But I am told that Bollywood is 10 times bigger than Hollywood.
Have you watched the trailer of Hichki?
Yes, and it seems to be a really engaging movie that I would want to go and watch. Also, being an educator I could relate to it. It is really great the way Rani has portrayed me, she has done a fine job in delivering my message. She has brought this passion to the film that represents my life. I am proud after seeing the trailer, it’s a win-win. I followed my dream of becoming a teacher despite a medical condition and I just want the story true to who I am and it appears so. I was also paying attention to how she was doing the tics, how Tourette Syndrome was coming across. She portrayed it quite accurately. She gave her all and has taken it to a whole new level. She has been practicing these tics for about a year and I have been doing it for over 40 years but I must say that she has done my tics better than me.
What was your first interaction with Rani Mukerji like?
Our first Skype session was very casual where we were discussing what it was like to have Tourette Syndrome. She wanted to know some of my different tics. So I would show her and then she would do the tics herself. She would ask me if she was doing it correctly or not. Then she wanted to know what it felt like and what I was thinking when I do a tic. She wanted to truly get inside my head and understand what that moment was like. She felt if she could understand this, then she could express it in the film. I would see her practice and try perfecting it. We have never met in person. She got to know me through my book as well.
Have you watched Hichiki yet? Seems like Rani did everything she could to get into the character!