Your craft as a director is kind of different. What’s your fuel as a director? What gets you going and what keeps you inspired?
Different stories have different genres and I think this is biggest kick I get out of my business. That’s all it is. When I can constantly tell different stories and not be labelled as one thing or a director that just does that one thing.
Dhanak has been received really well in film festivals. When you were making that movie, did you anticipate this kind of a response?
The truth of the matter is, when you are making any film, we really don’t know what the hell we are making,in terms of how the audience will perceive it or how anyone will perceive it. Especially when you are telling a story in the form of a film, it’s so many little parts that you start focusing on and piecing together and by the time you piece the whole thing together you lose perspective. So you have no idea what the whole thing means to anybody who sees it and sometimes the movie takes off and it’s really well perceived and sometimes its not.
How was your screening in Orange County,CA? What was that like?
It was good. I think it was Father’s Day and it was not a full house but it was a very good screening. Actually, out of all the places I had done in India, gone to so many cities promoting the film, it was actually interesting to interact with the Indian audience here. It was my first interaction in the USA for Dhanak.
You have won so many awards and so many accolades, which one is the closest to your heart?
Honestly, it is Dhanak winning in the Berlin film festival. That was the highlight. Before that, I had won the audience choice award for my previous film at Palm Springs and that was the highlight upto that point. The simple reason for Berlin is that you know awards like this are obviously non-biased and they are from an extremely reputable festival as Berlin is one of the top five film festivals of the world. When you are getting it, you feel genuinely overwhelmed to know that the award is legitimate (laughs).
How was your experience working with children? Did you face any difficulties directing kids? Was it different than adults?
It took me 15 years to break the promise that I would not work with kids again but these kids were truly amazing and I would not trade these kids for any actor. You know the conditions we shot in were tough and in different locations in 33 days and many days the temperature soared to about 50 degrees Celsius. They shot in those conditions without any complaints and no whining. They did their work and went on. Sometimes it can be difficult but if you have the right set of kids, I lucked out, it turns out amazing. Also, one of the things I want to say is when dealing with kids when I have treated kids like adults, I have always had the greatest success. When you treat kids like kids then they take advantage of the situation and if you treat them like adults and let them in on everything you are doing, then they do their part.
Is there any movie in the past from any other director that you wish you had directed? You know a movie where you felt you would have done a different job not necessarily a better job?
One movie which I absolutely loved and was done so well that I don’t know if I could do a better job is Paan Singh Tomar. I truly loved it. When I see a really good film, I never ever think that I can do better and if its is a really terrible film, (then you don’t know what was intended). Sometimes you look at a premise and say, wow I wish I had thought of that, I wish I would have come across that story or told that story. But if the director does it well, I don’t have the foolish arrogance to think I can do better. I just enjoy the movie for what it is and I leave it at that. Whenever I see a good movie and walk out of the theater, I constantly think I need to rise up to the occasion and do a great film. I need to keep testing myself. This happens with every film festival, trust me.
Does that have something to do with the fact that especially in India there are a new crop of directors that are so diverse now and so bold in their storytelling. Do you like any current day director?
I’m very curious to see what Amit V. Masurkar will do. He is the guy that did Sulemani Keeda and I actually loved the film. I’m very curious to see what Amit will come up with next as his second film. The newer batch of directors come off blazing with their first film and what I really want to see is if they have the ability to do what they believe in for their second,third or fourth film. I understand that everyone has different goals and sometimes you have to consider the fact that living below the poverty line and trying to sell your ideas is difficult. I understand the whole business, I have been there a long time but it’s just disappointing to see directors come out amazing and then gravitate to the more traditional and commercial film with their second or third film. I understand the reality of the business also and the sad part is if you keep saying “no, this is the way I want to make it”, the industry chucks you out. I understand the situation but it’s still disappointing.
Why do you choose to pick up stories which resemble real life? What keeps you going or what keeps you inspired?
The truth of the matter is that I am constantly drawn to simple everyday life and the core of it.The movies are also about that. It’s about a sister believing that her brother can get his eyesight back and going off on this magical journey taking her little brother with her. I like the underdog fighting the system (stories of real heroism) but the core of the thing is that I need to be challenged by different genres and kinds of stories. I might return to the genre but not for at least two consecutive films. I’ll come back to it much later. I like experimenting with different genres.
Do you believe magic and miracles exist in real life?
People look at everything so cynically and I am no different since I am an engineer by profession and science comes into play to explain everything. So the element of magic doesn’t exist in real life but kids have the unique ability to believe that magic exists. I find that beautiful and of course we grow up and discard that but until then, let’s believe that it exists because for that hour and a half, there is no harm in going back into your past, becoming a child and actually believing that the world is good. There really is no harm in that. Then you can come back and resort to your cynicism and say “that does not really happen in the real world”. However, for that hour and a half, if you smile and let yourself be led into that little magical world of what these two kids experience in Dhanak, I think that is an hour and a half well spent. Don’t you think so?