Tell us about yourself. What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
I always enjoyed watching films and analyzing various aspects of filmmaking from a very early age. I used to write Hindi poetry as a young adult. Most of my work comprises daily life emotions and a few life lessons. The period from 1950 to 1970 had some brilliant pieces done by great maestros of the Indian cinema. And, when I used to see their work, I used to think can I do even a fraction of what they have done? As I started understanding a little bit about filmmaking, I got more interested in direction. I could see films as an effective medium to take my limited skills a notch further to relay my thoughts and expressions and do things beyond myself. One thing that I absolutely love about filmmaking is that it is a harmony of multiple art forms from writing to visual to sound. And, that is why it is so effective!
Talk about your last work. What are some of the challenges you faced during production?
'Dil Ki Dor' is a project close to my heart. I decided to make this movie when my Dad passed away due to heart failure. He was a noble person who always cared for others. This movie is my tribute to him by raising awareness about cardiovascular diseases. I decided to make this movie in two languages - Hindi ('Dil Ki Dor') and English ('The String of Heart') so that we can reach the maximum audience. I am an independent filmmaker and most of the time I run the entire production by myself from the camera, lighting to sound. The script was about 12 minutes for each language. And, it was a one-day shoot. So, some of the key challenges centered around ensuring we can wrap it up in time with quality. Thanks to the hard work put in by my entire cast that we were able to shoot both movies in one day! Yes, we shot movies in Hindi and English separately instead of dubbing to provide a more intimate experience.
My recent work is a Hindi short movie, Main Bhi Social (which means “I’m social too”). It is
about the social media journey of a retired teacher who is technology-averse. I am an independent filmmaker and most of the times I run the entire production by myself from camera, lighting to sound. This script was about 20 minutes. And, it was a one day shoot. So, some of the key challenges centered around ensuring we can wrap it up in time with quality. Secondly, the movie also tries to highlight the elegance of Hindi/Urdu languages. Hence, I worked very closely with my cast to ensure we can do our best to bring out the beauty of these languages.
What makes you want to tell stories? In other words, what are the themes/issues you want to incorporate into your work?
I firmly believe that we filmmakers have a responsibility in shaping society. I like to work on projects that help us in building better communities. Be it exploring aspects of a relationship, relaying a simple social message, or just highlighting the beauty of languages, I like contributing to movies that can help us become better.
Please tell us about your vision and your method of approaching a new project?
In general, I like to focus on movies that can nurture positivity and help in building better communities. I am very much an “ideas person”. At the same time, I have worked extensively in the corporate world. And, that brings in pragmatism in my approach. I often combine these to pick an idea that I can deliver with the resources that I can afford without compromising on the quality. This is one more aspect of filmmaking that I love. I believe it is not just important to be creative in the art, but also in how to execute a project. To me, filmmaking is a beautiful journey without any specific destination. So, it does not matter which script I pick first. As long as I can deliver it with quality and have a meaningful contribution, I am good.
Who are your filmmaking influencers? What are the films that were influential for you?
I am a lifelong learner. I like to analyze the work of not just the maestros but also, at times, of not-so-well-known artists. And, the biggest influencer for me is my learnings from life. So, there are no particular people that I follow. I like to learn from whomever I can. And, I enjoy multiple genres of movies. There are quite a few movies that I admire like Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ke Phool, Sholay, Andaaz Apna Apna, 3 Idiots, and Dulhe Raja. I also like to watch movies from across the globe (sometimes even without subtitles). It is amazing that storytelling can be so effective even when one cannot understand the language!
How do you think the industry is changing? How has COVID affected independent filmmaking/creation?
With various online platforms, it has certainly become possible for independent filmmakers like me to publish content and reach the audience. And, as we can all see, there is a plethora of content being produced. However, not many of us have big budgets for marketing. So, a big challenge that I am sure most filmmakers face is how do we get our content in front of our target audience. Some do a better job at this than others. But, this is something that all the filmmakers have to learn and carve out their paths. COVID
has certainly taught many of us how to operate in difficult times. Filmmakers have been trying to explore ways to produce content by working remotely. For example, for all my projects I prefer using online rehearsals for the most part even if the cast is local. We do try to do a test shoot in-person, if possible. As we all know, scheduling is one of the biggest challenges during pre-production. Being able to execute most rehearsals online gives us a lot of flexibility.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists? What are some of the things they must follow/avoid?
On the one hand where it has become very easy to produce and publish content. On the other hand, this brings in a challenge about how to ensure that the quality of content continues to be good. We all have to bear in mind that there is no substitute for wisdom and experience. That is why the work of maestros will always stand out even after ages. My two cents of advice are a) take some formal training and b) be observant and continue to improve. Not all of us can afford to spend time and money on training. But, I can tell you from experience that training is critical if you are serious about this field. You may certainly have potential, but training helps you in realizing it. So, take whatever you can and build upon it. Develop your own style than blindly following someone else.
Do you think films/stories can bring about a change in the world?
Absolutely! This is exactly the reason why I make films.
What do you think people like to watch these days? Has the pandemic changed people's taste?
This is an interesting question. I firmly believe that audience’s taste is based on what kind of content is being produced, and not vice-versa. Put another way, if we would like to build a certain type of taste in the audience, we need to produce content that nurtures it. It may so happen that there is no response to it for some time. But, over time, it can be built. The pandemic has certainly had an impact on our lives. And, it is quite possible that the audience must have explored different kinds of content than what they used to watch before. But, in the longer run, I still believe that it is the content producers who influence the taste.
Please tell us about your upcoming projects.
My next couple of projects advance my filmmaking journey both in terms of storytelling and the craft. They are going to be centered around the theme that explores subtle aspects of relationships and love.
Dil Ki Dor The String of Heart