Moveable Feast

A moveable feast is many things. A religious holiday whose dates keep changing, a party and most famously, Hemingway’s immortal moniker for Paris. We are adapting the phrase yet again; adopting it to introduce a series of conversations on cinema between those who are instrumental in shaping it. The idea is to have an honest, informal chat on how we watch cinema and how we make it; to determine our co-ordinates on the map of the journey of Indian cinema; to have a laugh at ourselves; to share what we know, and identify what we don’t. Most of all to raise a toast to cinema. For cinema alone is the most exquisite moveable feast.

For our first Moveable Feast five Hindi film directors come together to talk about the trials, tricks, and sheer thrill of film direction. All five have vastly different personalities and processes and have made very different films. Yet they are united by two crucial factors. Each of their last films was remarkably significant and all of them have braved the peculiar challenges of making films in India.

Meet (clockwise)- Anubhav Sinha (dir: Ra.One), Bejoy Nambiar (dir: Shaitan), Imtiaz Ali (dir: Rockstar), Raj Kumar Gupta (dir: No One Killed Jessica) and Raj Nidimoru (co-director: Shor In The City).   – Pragya Tiwari.

 

Watch:

The full video .

Is there such a thing as too much publicity?

Has any of you not had a run in with the censors?.

Is there any award that you aspire for? .

How difficult is it to raise money for your film? .

What qualities have helped you as a director and what qualities could stand in your way

How much and what should and can the director control? .

What role does the ‘director’s instinct’ play in your work? .

(Location Courtesy – Opa, Juhu)

 

 

Or read an edited transcript:

 

Pragya Tiwari:  What is the most challenging thing about being a director?

 

Imtiaz Ali: Giving interviews

 

Pragya: Yeah?

 

Imtiaz:  Yeah

 

Pragya: Before the film is released or after?

 

Imtiaz: Anytime… anytime

 

Pragya: Why is it a challenge?

 

Imtiaz: Because often times when you are talking about your film you are so obsessed with it that you want to really get into the depth of it and talk and it becomes very exhausting. And it is sometimes confusing  for the guy who is interviewing you, who wants a quote or something. So, you know, you get involved but you feel cheated when the guy is not listening but reading his next question and you think: ‘Why the fuck? Why the hell are you doing it anyway?’ Because it’s important. It becomes a complicated and an exhausting thing and… remaining not very meaningful either.

 

Bejoy Nambiar: For me starting the film is like the most challenging thing about being a director. We were just discussing that even before we started here.

 

Pragya: Getting it on the floor or… ?

 

Bejoy: Not just that but getting it all together. I think a film starts on an idea, you know, from the idea. Then there are a lot of other processes that happen, before we actually get it on the floor. I’m talking about that. Funding becomes one big issue and that’s one big part that you have to cross over. I’m just one film old. So, right now, as a director, I think that’s the most challenging thing for me, to actually get it going, to get it started.

 

Anubhav Sinha: Actually most of it is very challenging. Har kaam… Jaise Imtiaz ne bola usmein doosra challenging part yeh hota hai ki aap jab interviews karte hain toh din mein agar sattaais interviews karte hai toh, same panch sawaalon ko sattais sattais baar answer karte hai. Ki film ka ek incident bataaiyeToh kya baatyein? Matlab, we’re not stand up comedians ke hum aap ko ek interesting joke sunayein jisko sunke aapko hansi aayein. Arre humne dedh saal invest kiya hai, khoon lagaaya, paseena lagaaye. Film banaayi hai. Pyaar karte hai film se. Ab usme kahaan se anecdotes dhoondenge, yeh toh sabse irritating sawaal hota hai duniya ka. (Everything is challenging. Like Imtiaz said the other challenging part is that when you give interviews, and if you do 27 interviews in a day, you have to answer the same five questions 27 times. Questions like: ‘Narrate an incident from the film.’ So what do I narrate? I mean, we’re not stand up comedians that we’ll tell you a joke that’ll make you laugh. We’ve invested one and a half years, our blood and sweat. We’ve love the film we’ve made. Now where do we look for anecdotes in that film? This has to be one of the world’s most irritating questions). And I also agree with Bejoy. See most filmmakers are always… they find stories in everything. That’s why they are filmmakers. That’s why they are storytellers. And then to figure out which one… I’m going through that phase right now, so I relate to what he (Bejoy) said more. Figuring out which one story I want to convert into a film, which one I want to invest in. And you invest a part of your life. And then, the next process— of finding who you want in your film. Not just the actor, but who should produce it, who should release it, where do I want it released— the whole lot. I think after that it is pretty routine stuff. Filming it. Post producing it. Releasing it. There’s a certain mechanics you follow. But the part before that is emotionally and logistically the most challenging.

 

Raj Kumar Gupta: From the two films that I have done, I’ve realized that the easiest bit of being a director is directing, you know, because that you only do when you’re on set. Try the road to trying to figure out what to make and getting a producer to make your film, and getting that… bringing him on the same page about how you are looking at the film. Getting a cast together, and that whole road to reaching to your set, is the biggest battle I’ve faced.

 

Anubhav: Also a lot of, you know, compromises that you need to make. They may not be very blatant compromises, but the moment logistics come into play, slowly, some minor decisions keep trying to change your film. And you don’t want your film changed. So that battle is very tough. And the bigger your film is, the demands are higher, because the investments are higher. The smaller your film is, the demands are still higher because it is not saleable. So I think we, within us, have to probably overcome this. I have been interacting with a lot of international producers. The mechanics that works there, which we do not see in our business much, is that the producer finds a director with a story that the producer believes in as much as the director does, and the producer believes in the director and then it is all about helping him make that film. Here the producer and the director are continuously accommodating each other. The producer’s also trying to accommodate you. He doesn’t necessarily believe in your vision. And then what happens is that when the producer finds a good project— it’s a good commercial proposition. Now he wants it, because it’ll make money for him, but he doesn’t believe in it. So producers will have to learn to let go of such things.

 

Raj Nidimoru:  For me it’s more about, I think—I was thinking as you guys were talking— about getting other people to see the film that you see. That’s my biggest challenge every time I make a film. Starting from the producer, to the actor, to the D.O.P. (Director of Photography), to anybody around you. To say: “Look, this is the same but not the same; this is not how I want to shoot it, but this is how.” So you almost want to pick up the camera, act yourself, everything, put it together, and say: “This is what I want to make.”

 

Imtiaz: Ya but that’s also the job I think Raj…

 

Raj: Correct.

 

Imtiaz: That is the only job where you have to…

 

Raj: That is the biggest job too.

 

Imtiaz: You have to break it down to small things.

 

Anubhav: Dispersement of the vision.

 

Raj: It’s just that everybody comes with such blocks or baggage that… Yeah, it’s like you (Anubhav) were saying. Compromises, in terms of you only come with a certain set of ideas, that come to clash with what others have in mind. It’s more than just ‘let’s get together to make one’.

 

Pragya: Have anyone of you had formal training at a film school?

 

Imtiaz: Not me.

 

Bejoy: Nor me.

 

Pragya: Do you wish that you had formal training?

 

Imtiaz: Really?

 

Raj: No. Not really.

 

Anubhav: We were too talented to go to a film school.

 

Raj: I’m surprised none of us went.

 

Bejoy: I know, I’m surprised. I thought someone was going to say yes.

 

Anubhav: The only reason why I regret I didn’t go there is because it’ll take me a lifetime to catch up on those films that I could not watch.

 

Pragya: So you’ve all learnt on the job, so to say?

 

Bejoy: Yup.

 

Anubhav: Have we learnt? (to Imtiaz) Have you? I haven’t.

 

Imtiaz: I have not. No, no.

 

Pragya: We’ll keep that for when the cameras are off.

 

Raj: We (he and his co-director Krishna D.K.) made a bunch of shorts. Didn’t want to experiment directly on an audience. So we thought it’s not fair to make a feature film and learn on the job. So we thought let us make a short every month or whenever we get time. So we were making shorts for a while for almost one or two years. Just by ourselves.

 

Bejoy: That’s what I did it too. I also started with shorts.

 

Raj: Nothing formal, just take a camera…

 

Anubhav: I hadn’t heard of shorts when I made my first film, I just made my first film.

 

RKG: But I have worked under Anurag (Kashyap), so I’ve worked… I have learnt on the job.

 

Anubhav: I have been an assistant myself.

 

RKG: As an assistant I, you know, have picked up a lot of things. I never believed in…  still I don’t believe in the ‘going to school’ thing. There are a lot of practicalities that you have to deal with when you are making films. There are so many things that you have to handle on the job. And those things are so unbelievable that you don’t…

 

Anubhav: …those cannot be taught

 

RKG: …nobody can teach you. So you can only see and learn from filmmakers; or while you are on the job, looking at the director work, and understand what kind of situation he is going through, and people in and around him. At least that’s I learnt how to handle a film. I learnt to preempt that if one has to handle a certain situation, I can do it this way or at least I can try doing that.

 

Pragya: I’m sure that there have been plenty, but can you guys recall some turning points in your learning curve? Like some lessons that you remember, that you learnt on the job?

 

RKG: For me everything was quite an eye opening experience. When you see them, see directors handling actors… We are just assistants, you know. When you come, and when you join, you are just assistants. You see a director handling an actor, you see a director trying to navigate through different people or different situations to make the film that he wants to make. So you learn. And also I learnt not what kind of films to make, but the spirit of filmmaking. You know that’s what you learn while you are doing… while you are working under somebody.

 

Bejoy: I was pitching for Shaitaan. To Mr. Mithun Chakraborty. I went to meet him. And I was pitching for this one role to him and, in ten minutes, I just explained the idea to him. He understood the film immediately. And he was quiet for sometime and then looked at me and said “Kursee se awaaz nahin aani chahiye (There shouldn’t be even a squeak heard from the chair).” So me and my writer just looked at each other and we looked back at him and he repeated the same thing again. He said: “Kursee se awaaz nahin aani chahiye.” So we both shifted in our chair as if something was wrong. He said: “No, the kind of film you are making, if the audience shifts in their chair, then this film will not work. You need to make a film which is really fast.” That was like: Whoa! Where did that come from? But he understood the spirit of the film; he got that that’s what the film should be like.

 

Imtiaz: I think in my case I only started to learn about direction, if at all, after I started directing, and not before. I have not assisted anyone or gone to film school. Then it’s that I’ve made four movies but I don’t think that I know anything more than I did when I started out. And it used to make me very insecure to feel like this, initially. The thought that I should know more, I should feel more confident on the set. Why am I feeling less confident than I felt when I directed television? Why am I feeling less confident and less at ease now in my fourth film than I used to feel during the Socha Na Tha (his first film) times? But I have learnt to accept that. My feeling is not that I have learnt. In fact, in this last film I felt that ‘Oh, so this is the direction to take to start learning.’ It’s really like that for me.

 

Raj: I didn’t go to film school, I didn’t assist anybody, and sadly I wasn’t attached to anything that is film. As in, I had not even any remote uncles or aunties in the business.

 

Imtiaz: Yeah, same here.

 

Bejoy: Same here.

 

Raj: We were from an engineering background. When I say we, (Krishna) D.K. and I, we make films together. So all we knew was the fact that we were analytical enough to see if we can breakdown what we see. So we were just sitting during weekends and looking at films and thinking ‘Why can’t I do the same thing?’ We had no clue how to write or direct, or where to put the camera, so it was more about… for us, it was a very self taught breaking-down process, an analytical process. You know, let’s sit and see what we can do. I have a camcorder, so now what do I do? How do I stitch a scene together? So that was it. So you’re reading a little book—those days there were not so many books either—just read a little bit and then you go, ‘Okay, let’s do this.’ I used to get amateur actors to act. So you are handling just enthusiasts— that’s it. So how do you make it look good with an amateur actor?  So I thought that was our quality. Because I wasn’t a born story teller, nor was I… nor did I have it in my genes. So it’s more about, we thought, ‘Let us break it down.’

 

Pragya: And is that still an essential component of your filmmaking?

 

Raj: Yeah because every time we attempt a new genre or a new technique or something of that sort which you haven’t done… Like, let’s say, we do an action film tomorrow. Green Screen, CG (Computer Graphics) and stuff like that. I haven’t been on a single director’s set. So I don’t know how directors handle it.

 

Anubhav: One is logistical learning. That is the simplest job of it and, like Raj said, that once you have to shoot a film on green screen— you are surrounded by specialists. They teach you, you learn. If you are a smart man, if you’re willing to learn, you’ll learn. The more difficult thing is the creative learning and that’s something which does not come from…

 

Imtiaz: Teaching.

 

Anubhav: Teaching. It comes from watching. It comes from doing. Like a very simple example of Rockstar. It’s a story about a man who loves a woman, doesn’t get her, loses her and then goes back to get her, can’t get her, whatever. That’s the story. Now how do you tell that story? He could have started the story anywhere in the timeline. He chose to start it from some place. Now that is creative learning.

 

Pragya: I was also talking about the qualities, that you feel that you have, that have helped you. And what is the job requirement of a director. And something that you think might stand in your way. I mean it could be something small like…

 

Bejoy: Hustling?

 

Pragya: …not wanting, not being comfortable with…

 

Bejoy: All directors are hustlers, we all are hustlers.

 

Pragya: It could be being someone who doesn’t like confrontations.

 

Bejoy : We are constantly hustling all the time.

 

Anubhav: But honestly, though he may be saying this in a light vein, but all directors essentially are fantastic manipulators, we are manipulating all the time and for good reasons.

 

Pragya: Sure.

 

Anubhav: Also sometimes for bad reasons, for wrong reasons, wrong for you good for me; but you are manipulating, you are… Today, you want this actress who you think is not a great actress. She is doing an intense scene today. So first thing in the morning, when you see her, you try to transport her into an intense day. But there are actors who are laughing. I worked with Kareena, she’s SMSing all the time. She’s on Blackberry all the time, and she’ll listen to you… but then she transforms. There are manipulations we do with our DOPs, with everybody. You have thought of editing a scene in a particular manner and your editor wants it in a particular manner. He shows it to you. You hate it. You don’t say you hate it. You say: “Fantastic man, what if we start with the close up? Let’s try this and… ”

 

Imtiaz: The whole scene changes.

 

Anubhav: You slowly manipulate him into doing it the way you want to do it. After all it’s your film. And there is nothing wrong with that. So we are all fantastic manipulators.

 

Pragya: And managers?

 

Anubhav: Managers, yes. Creativity comes last.

 

Pragya: How important is control?

 

Imtiaz: Control, I think, is a very dangerous commodity. I think the attempt to control is a kind of shortcoming that directors have and the less you can control, the less you can come in the way of the movie getting made on its own, the better it is. You need a huge kaleja (liver) for that, I think. Because in my case, starting out, I was very clear about what I wanted. That this guy has to sit down and say this line and get up and da da da, whatever, because my breakdown was based on that, and it was on paper. It was in my mind and nothing could change that. So if the actor came up with a thing like: ‘You know what, I feel like saying this line standing, you know, how will it be?’ Then you’ve got to make him sit down because you don’t know any better, and what if then the close-up will come like that. Then how is the continuity going to work? Blah blah blah… everything will get fucked up. So he better bloody sit down and I better find a way of making him sit down without appearing to rebuke him.

 

Anubhav: You have to intellectualize it.

 

Imtiaz: Then you’ve got to intellectualize it. You’ve got to say, “Sir woh kahaani mein na woh sunlight-wunlight (Sir, the thing is the story requires sunlight to fall on you in a specific way)… .” Tell him what he doesn’t understand and make him do it. But then, if you know in your heart that the moment was true for him to stand and deliver, then gradually I think you let that go and say okay what’ll happen yaar? If he stands and says this I can’t take that shot, and the edit will not turn like that, so then what’ll happen? Is there a way out of that? Can we take the breakdown in another way? Then you start losing that control. I feel that the good, I mean, the few good things that I might have seen in my movies are coming from there, from not from imposing a control but actually giving it up.

 

Pragya: Has the struggle for you stopped— in negotiating the balance between control and letting go?

 

Imtiaz: Never.

 

Anubhav: Never.

 

Imtiaz: It never stops.

 

Bejoy: I think it’s a constant struggle.

 

Imtiaz: It’s constant.

 

Pragya: But you become more comfortable with it?

 

Imtiaz: Not really. You never become comfortable with it.

 

RKG: You know, it is about being a director or playing a director. It becomes such that once you direct an actor—also we work with actors who have their own mind, I mean very sound minds—what happens a lot of times is… it happens that they might come up with something, where they might, say… You might have constructed a scene in a particular way, then they come in, they read the scene, and it might turn out very differently. So either we (the directors) can say, “No I want it this way.” And then they (the actors) become very defensive and the environment becomes very tense. Or you can just work around things, and you can see how that can work for you.

 

Imtiaz: It’s like… if you love something, set it free.

 

Anubhav: I also kind of disagree with Imtiaz on this. There’s a logistical control that I agree you should let go of. But there’s a film that you thought of when you started making that film. And slowly, by losing this control, you may end up making a film that you had not set out to make. I’ll give you an example of a great filmmaker. Stanley Kubrick. Eyes Wide Shut, he disowns that film. He said, “I got so enamored, overwrought, by my stars that I did not make the film I wanted to make.” And this is Stanley Kubrick. You have to keep a watch and still, when you’re doing a film like Ra.One, what Imtiaz says will have to be done. There were scenes that had to be shot in a particular way, because these shots were prepped like it, rigged like— ‘Don’t move!’ And then there were scenes when I would shoot knowing those were performance scenes, when it didn’t really matter how you shoot them. When Amitabh Bachchan tells Jaya Bhaduri (in Silsila), “I’m in love with Rekha,” it’s a single shot scene. When Dilip Kumar tells Amitabh Bachchan (in Shakti) keTumhari maa beemaar hai, ho sake toh dekh aana (Your mother is ill, see if you can go meet her),” single shot scene hai. So some scenes are like that.

 

Pragya: Related to creative control is the area of a director’s instincts, right? Is that something that you go back to, I mean is that something you fall back on while directing? As an instinct, do you think filmmaking is getting better for you?

 

Imtiaz: I think instinct is very real and often times the only thing that you’re going by. You decide to do something in a certain way, okay. And you’re talking constantly to a lot of people. And this brings me to the point of manipulation as well. Then you will find the logic to give, to say, you know— “The glass should be here. You know why? Because the light, because the XYZ… ” and you will find intelligent things to say to justify the glass being here. If you ask yourself honestly— ‘Why do I want the glass here?’ I don’t know. I just want it here.

 

Pragya: But that’s pretty much how we manipulate ourselves as well.

 

Imtiaz: Exactly. And then sometimes you try to find logic for your own head, to reassure yourself that you’re not just, you know, on a completely illogical plane?

 

Anubhav: Playing the director or being the director…

 

Imtiaz and Pragya: Yeah.

 

Anubhav: Actually what is dangerous is the imitation of instinct.

 

Bejoy and Imtiaz: Yeah.

 

Anubhav: Once your instinct works and then you try to imitate that instinct chances are it’ll be wrong.

 

Pragya: All of you have a writing credit on at least the last few films that you’ve done. Most of you write your films, or at least partly write your films. How is working on material that has been written for you to direct different from being part of, a very active part of, the writing process?

 

Imtiaz: I can’t answer that because I’ve only directed what I’ve written.

 

Bejoy: Same.

 

Pragya: Have all of you always had a writing…

 

Anubhav: No I have. See the truth is that I don’t know of many directors… I was talking to a fellow director the other day, about the fact that I am waiting for a writer to come to me, say Ashutosh Gowarikar, and give me a script. And I say, “Wow! Let’s start breaking down. Let’s start shooting.” It cannot be so.

 

Imtiaz: Yeah it can’t.

 

Anubhav: Because a story and the way you want to tell it—and there’s so many elements in the story the way you would see it—is your job profile. It’s what you do, the way you want to tell the story. Nobody can be a duplicate of that, so the truth is that all scripts are eventually supervised, at least supervised by the director. Sometimes you take the credit, if you feel you’ve done enough. Sometimes you don’t.

 

Imtiaz: In a few words, just to substantiate what he’s saying, just as a director directs actors, he also directs everyone else— all the various departments.

 

RKG: For me, you know, I don’t know whether I have written all my films. But when I look at somebody else’s material, for me, I don’t see it. It’s a very strange thing but when I read something written by somebody else I don’t see the film. But while I’m writing it, while I’m doing it myself, because we describe our situations there— at least I do that—I see the film. Something will be here. He’ll walk in here. This. That. So I see the film in my head. So I find it very difficult to direct what someone else has written. But I also want to do that, you know. I also want to take somebody else’s script and see whether I am able to do justice to that script or not.

 

Pragya: You know, one of the defining features, at least in the new Hindi filmmaking, has been the introduction of the bound script— that now everyone has a bound script. What is your position on improvisation? How important is improvisation once you have the bound script? 

 

Anubhav: I mean that always takes place.

 

Pragya: How open are you to improvisation?

 

Anubhav: Always very open. There are certain situations where logistically you cannot afford to improvise. There you have to be stubborn. But otherwise, if it is to improve the film, the scene, the character, the moment, it should be done.

 

Bejoy: For me, improvisation is like a part and parcel of the film. It has to be there. In fact, when I work with any technician, any actor, I lay it on the table that I expect them to come in and tell me, or come in and pitch in what they think would be right for the film. At the same time, at the end of the day it is a mutual thing, at the end of the day it’s a call… Like he (Anubhav) was saying earlier, you are letting them do what they want to do, but at the same time you are making sure that they’re doing, finally, something closest to what you really want.

 

Pragya: But there are lines. I’m sure that there are things you wouldn’t… I mean when I say bound script, there are things that you would want to keep sacrosanct and say: “Well, this is the realm of improvisation and this is what, you know, we stay within.”

 

Anubhav: See, on set, it’s not the first time that you are meeting the team. You’ve been through it. So even the team knows the realm of improvisation. So it’s not something that they will do absolutely out of the box. Sometimes that happens too, but…

 

Imtiaz: It’s not a random process, the improvisation.

 

Anubhav: Yeah. It’s gone through a process.

 

Imtiaz: And guess who improvises the most— away from the script? It is usually the director who has written the script. So… you do that, other people do that. You are actually trying to reach the script, the real script. Which is not worded, or not in the bound format, or laminated, or whatever.

 

Pragya: I’m going to go back to something that you were saying earlier, about picking the story you want to tell. I mean you’re constantly fascinated by stories and then the process of narrowing in on that one story. That this is the story I want to tell for my next film. I’m sure it’s different in small ways for all of you guys but can you talk a little bit about that?

 

Anubhav: We are all kind of vagabonds, intellectually. Sometimes something fascinates you so much that all night you are so excited. You want to shoot the next morning. And yet, after a shower, you say, “Yaar it’s an okay idea.” And you move on. It keeps happening to us all the time. So, speaking for myself, I don’t even know why I pick what I pick.

 

Imtiaz: For me it’s instinctive as well. You don’t know why you do it. But, as he was saying, I think the story that you want to tell is organic to you and it’s who you are at that point, and what is the voice at that point of time. What you are really. It’s not… when I say: “What is it that you want to say?” it’s not a definite sentence that you have to say, but something that you want to express.

 

RKG: The thing is that at any given point we have five to six to seven stories which, at least in my case, appeals to me. The only factor that rules, which decides things, is— which one am I able to write and bring to that screenplay format where I say: “Okay. This is the screenplay and I want to make the screenplay and I want to make this film now.” Because at that point I am as excited as I was when I first thought of the idea. So I guess that the whole struggle of writing that… whatever you think… I mean firstly we look at people to write it. The easiest thing that you do is, you look at people— “Arre, tu likh de yaar, tu likh de yaar (Hey, why don’t you write it, or you write it).” You know… you do that. But ultimately you realize nowadays writers are very smart. They don’t write. They’ll say, “Where’s the cheque book?” and it’s fair enough.

 

Imtiaz: Yeah. That’s what’s so unfortunate about them. No no… in the way that they are the last guys to get paid and after that their work is done.

 

Bejoy: Writers are very under-rated, they’re not paid well.

 

RKG: And so this reaction is fair for them. So you realize that, if you have to become a director, especially a first-time director, you have to write your own film.

 

Bejoy: I remember when I went to pitch this narration to a director (who might have produced the film)… a full detailed narration I gave. After two hours I’m like waiting for his reaction, and he is like “Acha aap ke paas aur kya hai (okay, what else do you have)?” I was like “Aur kya hai (What else do I have)?!” He is expecting me to going in with a bouquet of ideas like: “Yeh bhi hai, ye bhi hai, ye bhi hai… ab aap bolo (There’s this, and there’s this, and there’s this… now you tell me).”

 

Anubhav: That brings me to one shiqaayat (complaint) that I have with the business. Why do I narrate it to you? Read it! Nobody reads.

 

RKG: I think now people have started reading. But they will ensure that they hear a nice script.

 

Bejoy: They still hear it out. Yeah.

 

Raj: They will still want to hear you out.

 

Imtiaz: Because that’s what— they check you out.

 

RKG: Yeah they check you, it’s basically to gauge…

 

Imtiaz: Yeah, how good, how ‘in it’, how passionate you are. He’ll say, “Hum log toh aap director ke passion pe picture banaate hai. Aapke conviction pe (We make films based on the passion and conviction of you directors).” So you bloody look convinced and passionate all the time. That’s what they look for…

 

Anubhav: Maybe some great directors and writers are not great narrators so what do you do?

 

Raj: Initially my apprehension was that whenever I hear a narration, I think it is so manipulated that I can see through it. When somebody’s narrating I’m thinking: That’s just a very clichéd situation I have heard ten times before. You’re just being a funny guy. You are very funny. You’re a really good narrator. I’m thinking: This is not how it’s going to translate on screen. The audience is too smart. They’ll see. They’ll select the next scene.

 

Imtiaz: But it depends on how smart that person is, who’s hearing it…

 

Anubhav: To see through it.

 

Raj: Yeah, I can see that half the scripts are being sold to actors or producers just on the power of convincing the guy.

 

Anubhav: “Sold!”

 

Pragya: Okay, how involved do you guys get in your marketing?

 

Imtiaz: I get very involved.

 

Anubhav: So do I.

 

Bejoy: Same here. As much as they allow me. I’ll just get more and more into it.

 

Raj: Yeah. I get to cut my own trailers, is what I do, because this is what I want the trailer to be so I sit and cut my trailers and design my posters and give it to them. But then it’s really the producer’s call.

 

Anubhav: No it’s not.

 

Raj: I mean, you can fight it…

 

Anubhav: You cannot put out a trailer that I don’t approve of.

 

Imtiaz: Yeah, sure.

 

Pragya: No but beyond the trailer as well. There are so many aspects of marketing

 

Anubhav: Everything. Poster design. There are merchandizing tie-ups and brand tie-ups, like Rayban… That being the case, I am not a part of it. But presenting the film, I have to be a part of it.

 

Pragya: Does it concern you how the film is being projected or is all publicity good publicity?

 

Bejoy: No no, for sure. I think the correct pitch of your film, the correct communication, has to go out to the audience. Especially—I can only speak for myself—when you’re not doing a mainstream kind of film and you’re trying to do something different, which doesn’t conform as such, the correct communication has to go out to the audience, because the audience coming in, paying that money, should not feel cheated. My film, for example. Shaitaan. On satellite it was projected as a horror film. They cut a trailer, they cut a promo, to make it look like a horror film. They took some weird shots, put some weird music on it and that was the communication that was put out on TV, because they thought that that’ll get more eyeballs for it. I feel that’s a wrong approach, you can never compromise on your content that way, because then you are cheating your audience.

 

Anubhav: People go with a certain mindset to watch a film. So you have to create the right mindset with which they should settle into their seats to watch the film. They should not be expecting a cheesecake and get a mousse.

 

RKG: For me it’s very interesting in the sense that… I mean, obviously, I have to look at the poster, I have to look at the promo to see if I have a doubt, or if I feel that I have certain reservations. But otherwise I think for me, personally, I don’t get involved too much in marketing because I feel the producers don’t tell me how to make my film— so I don’t tell them how to market their film.

 

Imtiaz: It’s also subject to who you are working with, who your producer is. It’s usually a sharing of strengths and if you feel like you can contribute then you should, as a director. And I don’t think there is anything that should be kept away from the director’s reach, per se, because he obviously doesn’t want to harm the film and he knows the film best and is expected to have the kind of objectivity that will enable the film to reach out.

 

Pragya: Is there such a thing as too much publicity?

 

Imtiaz: Too much publicity might be wrong communication.

 

Pragya: But you don’t think that they are two separate things? One thing could be wrong communication and one thing could also be publicity overdrive.

 

Anubhav: I would want to hear, actually, their views on this. Because this was labeled against my film— Ra.One

 

Pragya: I was actually going to bring it up.

 

Anubhav: That one day, Riteish Deshmukh came to the shoot. He was shooting somewhere close by. He came to Shah Rukh’s (Shah Rukh Khan) van and he cracked a very interesting joke. He said “Ab toh sab log isliye picture dekhne aayenge kay, agar nahin gaye, toh Shah Rukh ghar aa jayega.” (“Now everyone will come to see the movie because they’ll feel that if they don’t then Shah Rukh will come to their house.”) I am very intrigued to know from you guys, did that happen to my film?

 

Raj: I feel that…

 

Anubhav: I don’t think there was any wrong communication.

 

Raj: No. Wrong communication wasn’t there. It was the most publicized film, of course, in the recent times.

 

Bejoy: You couldn’t avoid it.

 

Raj: You could not not see it, which I thought was a double edged sword. I was thinking, discussing, about it. Thinking that this will make the haters and lovers both go on the first day, but because they’ve been fed so much (publicity)… Let’s say you don’t like the film. Then in one day or two days, whenever, first show or second show, whatever, they’d come back and say: “Why did they feed us so much?” The antagonism just grows up so much. Everything is so instant these days that I feel that… I thought maybe it would have been safer to do publicity in smaller chunks. Like if you see Hollywood films, in a lot of films you’ll see a trailer coming one and half years early. You’ll see  a Batman trailer that’s coming next Christmas. Everyone’s like – ‘Oh my god, one and half years I’ve got to wait for this,’ which seems to be working there. But here I don’t know if anybody is putting so much thought and analysis and marketing brain behind it. It’s one person’s idea and that person’s saying like: “You know what—  fuck it; let me just do the film for six months.”

 

Anubhav: There was actually a thought process. While we released the first poster in January, the 2nd of January, and the film came out on the 26th of October. So pretty much 10 months. The thought was: Shahrukh Khan, lover-boy, not many action films, superhero costume. Will they accept it? Will they like this costume? No? Yes?

 

Raj: To test it?

 

Anubhav: No.

 

Imtiaz: Let them get used to it…

 

Anubhav: Let’s put it out. Let them live with it. And they will eventually accept it. That’s what happened. But I guess what has been alleged, if I may call it over-publicity, in case of Ra.One, probably happened in the last 8 weeks or 6 weeks. And I wonder if that affected the business adversely. I think…

 

Raj: See, it might have affected the audience, a part of audience, thinking that ‘Why are they doing this to me so much?’ But business wise, you can say, that if it worked in the first few days, then it worked.

 

Bejoy: It worked right? The whole idea worked.

 

Pragya: I think with Ra.One, it was about, like he said, in the last couple of weeks, the intensity was literally everywhere.

 

Imtiaz: Yeah so but it was there Anubhav. These jokes are also coming out of there, I guess. And it’s interesting actually to find out from you whether it worked or it didn’t work— what you think about it. Because the nation was going “Yaar yeh bahut kar rahe hain (These guys are doing too much).”

 

Anubhav: See I met two kinds of people. Literally, two kinds of people, two kinds of responses to my film: “I loved it.” “I hated it.”

 

Imtiaz: The publicity or the film?

 

Anubhav: The film.

 

Imtiaz: Oh okay.

 

Anubhav: That’s where I’m trying to combine the two, probably. That it was very early… during the making, during the promotion, I told Shah Rukh that this time you’re doing so much that they are going to expect Shah Rukh Khan to actually come out of the screen, in every theatre, and this can become a letdown. That “Shah Rukh toh aaya hi nahin yaar, screen ke bahar nahin aaya woh (Shah Rukh didn’t come out dude, he didn’t come out of the screen)”. The film did like 240 whatever crores. Great numbers. Top 3, top 4, top 5. Could it have been 400? And did it not become 400 because we over publicized? I don’t know. Nobody knows. Maybe some people in the business say that it could have done 300 or 400.

 

Bejoy: Because of lesser publicity?

 

Anubhav: Because it was over publicized, ke Shah Rukh, toh bahar nahin aaya, screen ke bahar nahin aaya.

 

Imtiaz: Acha expectation. Like that?

 

Anubhav: Humne yeh promise kiya tha ke Shah Rukh bahar aayega (we had promised that Shah Rukh would come out of the screen), metaphorically speaking.

 

Raj: I’ve heard this. And I’ve had a producer say this to me…

 

Anubhav: What?

 

Raj: The other option. Maybe next film, whatever they were doing it’s a big enough film and they were saying that we’re going to do it only for a month— the whole thing, from the teaser to the release. And it’s a big film and I’m thinking, “Haan.” Because I think it was one person’s opinion, to think that overexposure might let people down. But in a bigger film I feel there’s no letting people down because your business is done in two days. Because the way I’m seeing it is— in the first weekend it’s done. I mean it’s the big ones, especially, taking all the screens. It’s over (after the first week). And at the end of it, even if it just drove the people to see it to figure out how to do their Facebook jokes, you do it. What do you care? It’s become like that.

 

Imtiaz: I think every movie has a personality. And some movies are shy and some movies are extroverted— and that’s how they need to be projected. So you can’t have a single defined way of publicizing any film.

 

Raj: And in the case of Ra.One, I don’t think there would have been another way to do it. I mean you have to compare it to other films that are doing publicity and think: I made the biggest film that’s coming.

 

Pragya: You know this leads to another question, which is budget, given that an amount of budget has now been put into marketing. I’m going to start with Bejoy. You’ve had a tough time raising money for your film. You want to talk a little bit about that? I mean how difficult is it in real terms, to raise money for the film that you want to make and make it exactly the way you want to make it? I’m sure the answers will be different, because it’ll be experiential as well.

 

Bejoy: It’s extremely difficult, and that’s all I can say. And rightly so. I mean I’m not trying to say…

 

Pragya: Why do you say rightly so?

 

Bejoy: I’ll tell you. Because anyone putting their money in, putting their faith into you, they’ve seen your work okay? As a first time filmmaker, it’s a different ball game altogether. If they don’t know about your work and you’re trying to do something different, you don’t have a star, then obviously it comes with all that baggage of: Why should I put my money into someone or some film which I don’t know anything about? I know the story is good, it’s nice. You don’t have a star. You have not made a film before this. So all that works against you. So that’s what worked against me in my first film. But having said that, even for my second, I’m struggling right now to raise that money so I think I’ll be the most bitter one here because I’m literally fighting to get that money. The economics have to make sense.

 

Imtiaz: There’s also a danger of films doing well, which is when people stop looking at the merit of what you’re trying to make next. Because, like I was telling Raju (Raj Kumar) Hirani once, that: “You are totally screwed because no matter what fucking story you write, and who you take it to, they are going to listen to the story and say, ‘Raju, kamaal kar diya tune, tu is baar chappar phaad dega (Raju, this is wonderful, this time you’ll hit the jackpot).’” Because they will be convinced that he has written a great story because look at his record— who’s going to object to that? So he’s screwed, he has no objectivity that he can get from it. He’s writing in a room and he’s hoping that he’s writing well, and it’s going to work out well, but when he goes out to anyone they’re saying: “Raju?!” Woh toh sunne se pehle hi haan bol dega (They’ll say yes without even hearing him out). So any safety net or any collaboration that he could have got, it’s very unlikely for him. So then he got very insecure, of course, and he said, “Main tereko hi sunaaunga, tu sach bol diyo (I’ll read it out to you, you tell me the truth).”

 

Bejoy: Most people who are the producers, the corporates and all that, their first question, more than the script, there is no… yeah, of course, they’ll listen to the script, they’ll give importance to the script, but the only question they’re still driven by is the star system.

 

Imtiaz: Especially the studios.

 

Bejoy: They only ask who is in your film.

 

Imtiaz: Exactly.

 

Bejoy: I am an example. People are not even… they don’t even want to listen to your script if you have a star. They say, “Okay, we are done, what’s the number? This is the star? Okay we are on.” They didn’t even want to know what I’m making, if I had that star on board.

 

RKG: And that’s the dangerous part.

 

Bejoy: And that’s sad, that’s sad. Then you are not giving any importance to the content, which is scary.

 

Anubhav: That brings me to this thing that I was saying about a producer believing in the director and his film. And we must… in India we must start understanding the difference between a studio and a producer. Worldwide, a studio buys into a film that the producer has set up. The producer has invested in the development. He has put the film together. He believes in the director. He believes in the story and he wants to make that film. The studio believes in the producer and says, “This man has never lost money, I want to invest in him.” And they get together. Everybody has a role and function. The director’s job is to… he should be the most protected animal in the jungle, and yet here he is the most exposed animal. He is answerable to his stars. He is answerable to his producer. He is answerable to his distributor. He is answerable to the censor board. We tell the director, “I want a U/A film.” Fuck off! He is making a film, let him make a film. So producing is a job, is a very specialized job. We don’t have producers.

 

Pragya: Is that why a lot of stars and directors are taking to producing themselves? And is it a good idea?

 

Raj: (laughing) I don’t think so.

 

Anubhav: No, no it is more about control.

 

Pragya: It is about control.

 

Anubhav: Yeah.

 

Raj: It is about money.

 

Anubhav: Directors are doing it out of frustration, because they want to control their film. And stars are doing because it makes good business sense, because they are charging 50% of the production cost anyways.

 

Pragya: But that can also be dangerous. I mean, if it is such a specialized job…

 

Anubhav: It is so dangerous, can’t you see? Your films are not recognized outside of this country. You’re still seen as Rajasthan ka Jaipur in the world film market. Have any one of your films done 20 million dollars outside of India? No. Why? Thai films, Vietnamese films, Taiwanese films, Korean films, Iranian films are doing 20 to 30 million every other day. The reason why you’re not doing it is because you don’t understand films. You understand projects.

 

Pragya: This brings me to the question of audiences, I mean this clichéd separation of multiplex audience and mass audience, and, you know, class audience. Firstly that’s very typical to India because we have such a discrepancy, in our social scenario.  I mean massive discrepancies.

 

Anubhav: Yeah we have two Indias, at least.

 

Pragya: We have at least two Indias. How does that translate into, in real terms, into the stories? Are you writing for the India you inhabit or are you also sometimes feeling the pressure of writing for an India that exists in some exhibitor’s, or distributor’s or producer’s mind that you don’t know…

 

Raj: We used to make films that everybody should be satisfied with, the whole of India; anybody who watches your film. Everybody wanted to make a 3 Idiots; like 3 Idiots is accepted all over India, pan India. Right? Doesn’t matter who it is. But I feel, lately that, you know, with the audiences, with the multiplexes, with whatever business models, depending on your budget you make your film. You make the film that you like to make, that is entertaining, that gets your money back. That I think is fairly important— that you have to make your money back. Hence you kind of set your budget, you know, low, big, medium, whatever. Like we have A, AA, B, B1, B2 on all these centers, I feel, even in the non-western countries, there are markets, there are kids films, there are horse films, there are dog films, there are animation films and there is sci-fi. And then there is gore, ultra gore. We have lots of these genres and everybody makes films in their genres. In a similar way I feel that we have… we are developing into that, where we have audiences for different genres, different kinds of films, slowly. So you don’t have to worry about making a 3 Idiots every time.

 

Anubhav: One new director comes, makes a film called Shaitaan, which is not a commercial title. You can’t sell it otherwise. It becomes reasonably successful. They want him to make 3 Idiots, now his next Shaitaan has to be 3 Idiots“Ke thoda comedy daalo na sir? Arre nahi? Ismein nahi ho sakta ek item song? (Why don’t you put in some comedy sir? Oh no? Can’t we have at least one item song in it?)” The economics becomes so compelling. And, like I said, you are the most exposed, and weakest— the most vulnerable animal. 35 people who are much more powerful just got off Range Rovers or a set of (BMW) 7 Series; and you were intimidated anyways, so you say, One song doesn’t hurt a film yaar, let’s do it.”

 

RKG: As filmmakers, at least I’m talking about myself, both the films that I did, I wasn’t the first one to say that I’ve made a multiplex film. Suddenly people come up to you—big producers or exhibitors—and they tell you that it’s a multiplex film and you just say, as a filmmaker, “I just wrote a film.” I didn’t know what the market is. All of us want our films to be seen everywhere. You know, so somewhere down the line, I thought that I never categorized my film, never thought it was a multiplex film.

 

Anubhav: It’s not even your job, that’s what I’m saying.

 

RKG: That’s not my job but suddenly people in and around made me feel that it was a multiplex film. And somewhere down the line, even not believing that it’s a multiplex film, I mean, I gave in. My mind also got conditioned to: ‘Okay, so it’s a multiplex film.’

 

Pragya: But if you control the budget somewhere like Raj was saying, why just multiplex and the classes? Within the multiplex, there could be different genres. There could be different people who go for a different reason for films. I mean there could be slasher comedies…

 

Bejoy: Our audiences have not started doing that. They have not started cultivating a habit of going for a certain kind of film. I don’t think. If that was the case then we would have seen more and more films working like that. Small films of different genres working like that. Like for example, I think there’s a whole zombie film culture, which is very popular abroad. But it’s not started here yet. Once it comes here, once people go for it, once the film becomes a hit, then yeah. Then we’ll have more categories. Right now we have like: horror, comedy, multiplex…

 

Pragya: I’m going to talk about actors, stars or not. It’s such a crucial part of being a director, you know, communicating with your actor. Have you guys learnt some tricks along the way or do you have start afresh every time with every actor?

 

Imtiaz: Start afresh every time with every actor.

 

Pragya: Yeah?

 

Anubhav: I have a different philosophy that I treat them with. I grade them in three categories. There are actors, there are stars, and there are celebrities. There’s a difference between stars and celebrities. A celebrity is a person who would be mobbed, but that mob will not go to the theatre. He’s just a celebrity. So Anna Hazare is a celebrity. You can make a film with Anna Hazare and you can make a film with a cricketer. That’s your choice. Now you have to figure out who’s a real star. A star is a person who’s not dependent on how the film is looking and still gives you X amount, every star can have a different X, X amount on the box office on the weekend. That’s a star. The rest are celebrities. And then there is Naseer bhai (Naseeruddin Shah), Om Puri, Pankaj Kapur… Gods.

 

Pragya: Or the new actors. You (to Raj) had some really good onscreen actors.

 

Raj: Yeah, it’s always a great high when you find somebody and sometimes you don’t even know that they’re going to work out. And when you start your movie, when you start working on it, you realize that there is so much potential that you can pull out of them. And for me it’s been like that in my films. Every time I find one or two guys who are like… Wow! You know? I didn’t even think. Sometimes I don’t even realize until people start saying that. You’re just working with actors. He is fitting my character very well. I’m just making sure he stays within the character— not his own personality, or whatever he wants to do. And later you realize that everybody’s going, “Oh my god, look at this guy, where did he come from? Look at this actor.” And you’re like: He’s done a good job there.

 

Pragya: Is it also a good high, I mean, that you get a star to act in a way that…

 

Raj: It is, right? When I saw Chak De! (India), and I realized that—and what’s his other film? Swades—you suddenly don’t see Shah Rukh any more. At least in parts of it, or a length of it. He’s not the guy I’ve been seeing in other films. You’ll think: ‘Wow, that’s a good job!’ That’s like… because, you’d love to see Shah Rukh tilt, but at the same time you’d also want to see another face of him. Because that’s what stars have, they transform every time.

 

Imtiaz: Yeah. But so the point really is that a star and an actor are not mutually exclusive.

 

Pragya: No, sure enough.

 

Raj: Yes, a star is primarily an actor at the end of it. The day of the movie he realizes, or after seeing a particular scene he realizes, that he did a great scene.

 

Pragya: I’m going to talk a little bit about… has anyone of you not had a run in, small or big, with the censors, anyone who’s not had any trouble?

 

Raj: All of us have. We always make movies that have troubles with the censors. Problem with censors, you say? Yeah I’ve had it.

 

Anubhav: That is another strange… I think we can smoke now, on screen, right?

 

Imtiaz: Can we? I don’t know.

 

Raj: No, now again you can with a big disclaimer. So I’m thinking—in my film, 80% of the time they are smoking, so I’m thinking—what do I do? Cause you have to have a two-minute disclaimer, I think. In the film somewhere, somebody, has to say, the character has to say… I read a whole article on that…

 

Imtiaz: Oh okay so you’ve got to build that into the script…

 

Raj: They say that somewhere. ‘This is bad man, fucks you up’, or whatever, ‘Don’t do this smoke shit’, and then smoke it. I don’t know… I don’t know how to do it.

 

Anubhav: And if you kiss you get an A certificate or what?

 

Raj: No. I learnt that A, U/A…

 

Imtiaz: No, you don’t. No I realized that in Jab We Met, there was a full-out kiss; in fact in Love Aaj Kal as well, and in this one (Rockstar). So no A certificates for me. But you can’t say ‘sex’.

 

Anubhav: You can’t say ‘sex’?

 

Raj: You cant?

 

Imtiaz: You can’t say ‘sex’ even for an adult rated film.

 

Raj: But what about Love Sex Aur Dhoka? The title has it in it.

 

Pragya: Even for an adult rated film?

 

Imtiaz: I don’t know what the fuck man? Yeah. Maybe the rules were different at that time. Because I was told…

 

Anubhav: I don’t believe this.

 

Imtiaz: Yeah! I was told this by the censor chief, now, I mean… during Rockstar.

 

Raj: Wow!

 

Anubhav: We must have a meeting with Pankaja (Thakur) ji also.

 

Pragya: What about ‘fuck’? Do you say ‘fuck’?

 

Anubhav: Of course. You can say bhosadi ke… (literally ‘of a vagina’, in Hindi slang)

 

Pragya: Yeah that you can… Thank you.

 

Raj: No, I’ll tell you. I went through the exact thing in Shor (in the City). Shor got a U/A which is weird. There’s a lot of kissing and there’s also a lot of blunt kissing, not sensual kissing. But everything works in the story. I don’t think, I don’t believe it was gratuitous anywhere, the words or whatever. This guy’s putting a gun and saying “You fucking dogs, I want to kill you right now!” So it kind of went in.  So that lady who was watching, I don’t know her name, she said, “I liked the film a lot. I don’t want to mute that ‘fuck’ because he is saying it in such anger, that it makes sense. But I cannot do this right now. If you are using an F word, you have to… I have to give an A certificate. But your film is so close to U/A, can you do something ‘aesthetically’ good to it?” So then we figured out. I gave her a solution. Can I do ‘f-u-h’, mute it and ‘i-n-g’?  So you kind of feel it? So we actually worked for over two hours on that word, where it was like: “Fuh–ing dogs!” People all thought, “Arre they got away with that whole ‘fucking’ word.” Except what we did was we worked on it, tweaked it. Tweaked it to: “You fuh-ing dogs!” So it’s almost like he is swallowing it. And then it works like that. She came and said in a very sweet way, very well clad in a sari, like a cotton sari…

 

Imtiaz: Hot nahin bol sakte (You can’t say ‘hot’).

 

Raj: “See Raj, we cannot do… we have to take out the three ‘fucks’ in the film, you can keep your ‘chutiya’ (‘fucker’, in Hindi slang), you can keep all that.” I was like: What!? It was hilarious. I couldn’t even laugh.

 

Imtiaz: That’s a great scene yaar.

 

Pragya: (to Imtiaz) You had a very strange thing, with Rockstar, with the Tibet thing. I’ve read several accounts. So first tell me, tell us, what it was actually.

 

Imtiaz: There was this slogan, this banner that people were holding. We shot at Dharamsala and Norbulingka and it was part of the brief of the song (Sadda Haq) that it catches roots and people start associating their own angst or troubles with this slogan of ‘Sadda Haq (Our Right)’ and so there was this banner saying ‘Free Tibetand there was the flag flying, the Tibetan flag. Now, Tibet, of course, technically, is not a country anymore. Ultimately what happened is that, they said, “Free Tibet is not India’s position on Tibet, in our diplomatic situation. So you can’t say ‘Free Tibet’ but ‘We support the autonomy of Tibet’.” But I said, “That won’t be a good banner.”

 

Raj (laughs): …make it ‘autonomous’.

 

Imtiaz: Yeah, so they said: “We can’t let you use ‘Free Tibet’, but what you can do is, you can do just a little bit of a smudge and we’ll pass it.” Now I spoke to them for a while, but honestly also let me tell you, that I thought that— I’m a filmmaker. I can’t also kid myself and say that India’s position on Tibet should be so and so. And unfortunately the guys who you are talking to have a rule book as well. They say,  ”Sir, aise humein… I have to go by this,” and I, not very grudgingly either, said, “Okay fine, as long as the point communicates.” Just like, you know, ‘fuh-ing’. As long as we all know that it’s ‘Free Tibet’, then it’s fine.

 

Pragya: Does anyone feel that we don’t need a censor. I mean in this age, with internet, that we don’t need censorship anymore, or there could be another way, like self regulation?

 

Imtiaz: There could be another way. There could surely be another way. I don’t have a clear position, unfortunately, about it. I don’t know whether there should be no censorship. But sometimes I think there should just not be any censorship because people can choose for themselves what they want to watch, what they want their children to watch, etc. etc. I don’t even know whether people…

 

Anubhav: You could well have, a section, a certificate, that says ‘Uncensored’. Enter at your own risk. Like, I’ll give an example. I was walking into the preview of Rockstar and I had my 10 year old kid with me. I don’t know why—Imtiaz doesn’t make films like those—I don’t know why, I asked him, “Imtiaz, bache ko le aarahan hoon (I’m getting my kid). Okay na?” So he said, “Haan, perfect, perfect.” It was just a passing conversation. But as a father, I was concerned. I was watching a Norwegian film, a very simple film— two brothers’ story. Suddenly one brother walks in, the other brother is called in, and my son strolled along, he was just sitting, he was not interested in the film but he started watching it. And one brother said, “Why did you call me?” And the other says, “No I wanted you to be present,” and he takes out a knife and slits his throat. And blood all over. And by then it was over. I just covered his eyes, but it was over. So as an audience I want to have the right to know what I am getting into. As a father, as a parent, I want to have the right. As long as you tell me this could be dangerous. Like what they write? Use ‘viewer discretion’ kind of a thing. I think there should be a certificate like that. Trust me, they’ll be blockbusters.

 

Pragya: But I think the danger of not having a centralized body could also be that there could be arbit forces censoring things.

 

Anubhav: But what is the sanctity of the centralized body? A central body that Imtiaz goes and struggles with keDekho bhai (look brother), I’m not for freeing Tibet, it’s just a placard in the existing India.” So he does his entire fight and suddenly Mayawati stands up and says, “You can’t show this film in my state.” Who are you? Or who are they? Tell me. The central government must take a stand. Prakash Jha could not release his film even after censorship. Then what is that censor board doing there?

 

Pragya: Or the things that happened with Gujarat. Because Aamir (Khan) spoke against a dam. Then they wouldn’t allow a film to release there.

 

Anubhav: This is so ridiculous,

 

Imtiaz: Religious bodies… I had some trouble with Love Aaj Kal. Some religious body stood up to say, after censorship, that you can’t show it and then this Censor Board was pressurized and then lot of shit happened.

 

RKG: There are two kinds of censorship that we face. One, the censorship we go to. The other one, which comes to us.

 

Pragya: Also inculcated self censorship, given that there are so many censors… (to Anubhav) Did you ever… Your film had a lot of risqué comedy. Did you ever anticipate that? Is that something you start thinking about? Or is it something you just…

 

Anubhav: It is. It is something worth thinking about. This is a very sensitive area, I don’t know if I should bring this up on record, but the least that I can say is that it also depends on who you are. So, honestly, I don’t think many other producers would have gotten away with ‘bhosadi ke’. So I’m sure, going by the same logic, I got away with some.

 

Raj: Yeah that’s true, the amount of… Delhi Belly. I love the film. It’s great fun and everything, and it’s funny and all that stuff, but the amount of profanity in the film… Aamir must have just gone in and said, “I think it’s alright,” and they’d just pass it. So it’d be nice to have a producer like that when you want to make a film the way you want to do it.

 

Anubhav: So it also depends also on who you are. I mean Bandit Queen went on with the censor board for so many years before it made the world go gaga over it. I saw Bandit Queen on a pirated DVD much before it was released, because it took forever to release.

 

Pragya: As with Anurag’s (Anurag Kashyap’s) Paanch.

 

Anubhav and Raj: Yeah.

 

Raj: One angle for censorship is that I was just thinking, as a filmmaker, you don’t want censorship. You want to do what you want, that’s it. But the reason for censorship in a country like ours is that, as they say, with great power comes great responsibility. I don’t know if all the filmmakers, this includes directors, producers, distributors—whoever is making a film—are always thinking, right? Pretty much what you’re saying is: this is a country that doesn’t have a system in place, that doesn’t always have a good father, say, who closes his son’s eyes. It’s just, people are just growing up, ad hoc-ly, seeing ad hoc stuff and then minds are shaped like that. So my aunt said like, “I saw this film.” And of course she was also referring to my film. “Joh bhi inko pata nahi hai, they learn from your film (Whatever swear words my children don’t know, they learn from your film).” So I’m like— I see that, I feel for it. My answer would be don’t show it. Be a parent. Be a good parent. Don’t show it to them. What’s the first thing that a guy who is not attached to the film industry says to you when he knows you’re a filmmaker? “Arre mujhe bhi ek role dena (Hey, give me a role too), I want to be the villain.” Nobody says, usually, and I’ve heard this a lot, “I want to be… (the hero).” Instead it’s the original, whole, B movie villain, raping the maid, that you see in the eighties films. They say: ‘‘I want to be a villain. I know I’ll be good in this scene, rape, and all that stuff.” So we’ve been cultured like that. The fact is that for us nudity and sex, comes from that little bit of a villain raping the maid, poor thing, while she’s mopping the house. This is what it is. And I realized that: Oh my god. All my friends are saying, “I want to be a villain.” Nobody’s saying: “I want to be a hero.” Instead it’s: “I want to be that guy who smokes and kills, you know? Stabs and picks out the chain.”

 

Imtiaz: Smoking has got nothing to do with killing, okay?

 

Raj: No no I’m just saying, you know it’s all cool, na? You get to smoke, you get to wear sunglasses, you’ve got babes around you…

 

Pragya: You know talking about institutions. We don’t have an Oscars, we don’t have the equivalent of an Oscar or Golden Globe.

 

Anubhav: We have Filmfare, we have Screen Awards…

 

Pragya: Yes Anubhav, we do. But is there any award that any one of you aspires for in India? I really do want a serious answer.

 

Imtiaz: No.

 

Bejoy: When we started off, long time ago, we used to look forward to all these awards. All. National, Filmfare, Screen… but over the years the kind of films that have got the recognition, they’ve really lost a lot of credibility I feel. And now, being part of the industry, you get to hear so many things. You see, you start to question…

 

Pragya: And the cynicism is so much that I don’t even know if anyone even debates this. At least, post Oscars, there’s a debate about the politics of the committee or whatever. But here, I don’t even know if it’s… I mean I think everyone just assumes that it’s really random.

 

Anubhav: How unfair, and how blatant? You can say that of the five nominated films in the Oscars, this one deserved a little more. But all five were great films. There’s no debate about that. So that gives it more credibility. So what Bejoy has said is probably the most important thing which is: How credible do you think those awards are?

 

Raj: I mean, even in the Oscars, it’s the best way, I feel, the best way of voting, where you get every director to vote, every writer. Every Oscar nominated guy gets to vote. So it becomes, over the years, a pretty credible body that can vote for it. Who is voting for you, who is choosing you as the award winner— is the most important thing. That’s what it boils down to. But even in the Oscars, the five films that make it from the 300 films that are shortlisted…

 

Anubhav: …there’s a lot of politics that goes on.

 

Raj: Lot of lobbying.

 

Imtiaz: Yeah, a lot of lobbying.

 

Raj: It’s just money now, how much can you spend to make them see a film? There’ll be great films out there but…

 

Anubhav: There was a time when Harvey Weinstein could practically get a film nominated himself.

 

RKG: He used to fight. He used to thrash people. He used to punch…

 

Anubhav: He would fly people down to the Bahamas and Hawaii and whole lot of such things went on. But still, look at the history. You’ll find out that all those films deserved it.

 

Pragya: Yeah I mean he wouldn’t dare to go with something that was below a certain standard.  I mean it’s not like he would take any damn thing, just because he was Harvey.

 

Imtiaz: No but that is not a valid point of view. I feel then it’s subject to somebody who is powerful and his intellectual or moral standards. That’s not a fair judgment on anything. No one should have the power to do that, ideally.

 

Raj: I think a lot of awards have been invented over the years. There must be like 15 to 20 awards.

 

Imtiaz: There are so many awards man.

 

Raj: I’m sure half of them were idealistic, thinking that ‘I’m going to be the Oscars of India, I’m going to set a standard.’

 

Pragya: Really? You think?

 

Raj: I think at least half of them. Otherwise why are they doing it? I’m hoping. I’m hoping…

 

Pragya: Because it’s marketing.

 

Anubhav: I disagree. Let’s understand what an award function is. What is an award function? Tell me, why do you want it? Tell me. You give me the answer.

 

RKG: A television event.

 

Anubhav: It is a television event where the stars will come and dance and some movie clips will be shown. Some old retiring actor will be given an award, you will see him after 15 years. And things like those. And it’ll create great TRPs .

 

Pragya: And there’ll be branding.

 

Anubhav: And there’ll be branding. So at the heart of it all, it’s a commercial activity. It’s not a desire to recognize excellence.

 

Pragya: But you know, the National Awards were. But they have been mired in controversy so much. Do they still mean anything?

 

Raj: When I saw the list of people who vote… Sometimes somebody puts it up on Facebook right? Now Facebook is the news channel. And you get the list of people who were voting. And you don’t know 80% of them or you don’t know who they are or how they are connected to films. And you realize: Oh my God!

 

RKG: Also the category itself doesn’t inspire confidence; I mean a film can be best film. It can’t be best popular film, best romantic film. I mean you just give something a best film?

 

Bejoy: Best actor in a society awareness role.

 

Pragya: Really?

 

RKG: I mean what are these categories?

 

Bejoy: Yeah. I saw one recently…

 

Anubhav: And best actor in a seriously useless role. So there’s all this… All this, so that a lot of people will come. All this, so people will come and it’ll be a star studded event. I was on a jury once and I decided I’ll never be on a jury again. Say you are a bad actress. And suppose I said to Imtiaz that we have to give you an award. We are all intelligent, credible people; history behind us. So we can’t say, “Now give an award to her.” Because I’d look like a fool. Yet all of us know that the award should be given to her so, like we intellectualized the ‘glass yahan kyun hona chahiye’ (‘why should the glass be placed here’), we say: “This time, she did something, I feel her eyes were very honest, I could see through her eyes.” Yeah, yeah. Everyone knows this is what it is, but everyone has to give a dignified reason. I was on one such jury once.

 

RKG: But I was also on a jury, at least a critics jury. I found it very fair.

 

Imtiaz: Yeah my experience has not been bad either. One jury. But on the critics jury, not on the popular one.

 

Anubhav: No wonder. You were on the critics jury. But our awards are the only awards in the world that end with the best actor award, not with the best film award.

 

Pragya: Two more questions.

 

Bejoy: Two more?

 

Pragya: One is about technology. Is it necessary?

 

Anubhav: I have nothing to do with it.

 

Pragya: You know that you have to talk the most here, right? Is it necessarily making the films easier and better?

 

Anubhav: Not necessarily. It’s about the kind of film. Technology can’t help No One Killed Jessica.

 

Pragya: It’s a part of every film.

 

Raj: For me it is. For me it has helped tremendously, I think. Just the logistics of the whole thing.

 

Anubhav: It helps you…

 

Imtiaz: Yeah maybe logistics, but not the whole process of it. I mean it doesn’t make the film better.

 

Raj: Yeah, not the film itself. It’s just the process of it. I can take it to my room and open a laptop and start working.

 

Anubhav: Oh that way. Of course.

 

Imtiaz: That way— yeah.

 

Raj: Yeah, that’s it.

 

RKG: At one point there was this guy who walked up to me. He didn’t have a script, he didn’t have anything. He said, “Sir, I want to make a film on 5D.”

 

Anubhav: On?

 

RKG: On 5D. “But where’s the script?” (is what RKG said to him, and he said:) “Woh ho jayegi, kar lenge (That will happen, we’ll do it).” So I don’t know how to take it.

 

Raj: It’s been advantageous for me for sure. That’s why I’m pro-technology. I’m always loving this new stuff coming up. Shor was really shot on the streets, in the middle of real people, where I couldn’t control the crowd. I couldn’t get enough security, or money, to recreate a scene like Slumdog (Millionaire) would. You are just shooting it there. So I’m glad I can take two cameras and just keep shooting there for an hour, get a 5 second clip out of it. Stuff like that is what helps in technology, tremendously.

 

Pragya: But what can be tricky?

 

Imtiaz: What can be tricky is, if you stop thinking. For instance, if he has the ability, or we have the ability, to shoot for endless hours, and if he says, “Let’s roll the camera, something interesting is going to happen.” That’s when it becomes a problem.

 

Raj: Use discipline is what you’re saying.

 

RKG: I think technology can only help you make a film. It can’t give you a story.

 

Imtiaz: It can’t give you a story. It can enhance. It can take you there. It can make it cheaper for you.

 

Anubhav: It can even help you think larger.

 

Imtiaz and RKG: Yeah.

 

Anubhav: Yeah. Like if you wanted to… there was a time when… how would you make Jurassic Park?

 

RKG: Yeah it can open up the possibilities of what you can think of.

 

Anubhav: How much you can think and how much ever you can do.

 

Pragya: When talking about the tricky part, I don’t know how but I’ve heard this story…

 

Anubhav: How do you bring VT down (Mumbai’s VT or Victoria Terminus Station, now renamed the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, was shown to be brought down in Ra.One).

 

Pragya: Yes, how do you bring VT down. No, but I have heard this story, I don’t know how much of it is true. But when Jaws was being made, you know, Jaws was not working apparently. And he (Steven Spielberg) was showing it around. And he created the whole fish, he actually created this shark and everything with whatever rudimentary special effects were available at that point. And I think he showed it to (George) Lucas. I’m not sure of the story.

 

Anubhav: So far it’s right…

 

Pragya: Yeah and he (Spielberg) said, “Okay tell me what’s not working.” And he (Lucas) said, “Take the fish out.”

 

Anubhav: No it was not him. I think it was his wife (Marcia Lucas), who was an editor, or the editor (Verna Fields) of Jaws. She said, “Not seeing the shark—it is looking fuck all anyways—not seeing it is more fear.”

 

RKG: The inspiration also came from Spielberg’s first film Duel. Where you don’t see that guy. You know, you just see this protagonist, you don’t see the antagonist. So it became one of the reference points.

 

Pragya: Yeah, but you were dealing with so many technicalities when you were making Ra.One. Was it challenging to keep your eye on the human core of the story?

 

Anubhav: Sometimes it is so intricately technological that it’s… You’re talking 45 degree angles from here, and then six feet… no it has to be eight feet. You suddenly lose the actor because both are as important to the shot. Because if this shot doesn’t work technologically, then it’ll look fake. And no matter how well the actor performs, the shot will not work and, as a director, at that point, you are answerable to the visual effects supervisor, the DP, the actor, the make-up, the special effects— a whole lot of shit.

 

Pragya: They’re both as important. In all the superhero movies. It’s the emotion that… I mean when Spiderman’s uncle’s dying or… it’s always that. And actually there’s so much technology that’s invisible that in a sense there are so many wires that you just don’t see, and you actually just, you think it’s all really happening, while, at the same time, it’s just the emotion that you’re really connecting to.

 

Anubhav: No, I disagree with you.

 

Pragya: Yeah?

 

Anubhav: I think if all those things were not working, you will not get to that emotion.

 

Imtiaz: That’s what she’s saying.

 

Pragya: That’s what I’m saying

 

Anubhav: That’s what you were saying? I’m sorry.

 

Pragya: No I’m just saying that a lot of times there’s also… when we talk of genre film viewing a lot of people tend to believe, even in the US, you are going to see great special effects. I’m not sure that that’s not a myth. I’m not sure that it’s not the simple story of Spiderman that’s always moving you. That’s what I’m saying.

 

Anubhav: Correct.

 

Raj: Nahin (No). It drives people to go to the theatre wanting to see the stunning visual, what makes the film run, and become a good film, is the core of the film. So it’s both.

 

Pragya: Okay, absolutely final question. What is the experience of putting your movie out? I’m pretty sure you’ve been asked this question before, but if you can describe it for me… What is the experience of releasing a film and having it out there for everyone, critics, audience, everyone, to see and react to? I know that there are so many pre-screenings that there’s a sort of buffer period.

 

Anubhav: My experience at pre-screenings is that they are the wrongest reactions you get. Do you think so?

 

Imtiaz: Yeah. Can be. I mean potentially yeah. I’ve not done…

 

Pragya: It’s like the exit polls, they’re always wrong to me.

 

Imtiaz: They are exit polls. There are friends I guess. There are other industry people…

 

Anubhav: Some of them are there to love your film and some of them are there to hate your film.

 

Imtiaz: Yeah usually you would know who’s going to say what.

 

Anubhav: Yeah.

 

Pragya: One change, personal or professional, that your last film has brought about in your life?

 

Raj: Made in my life?

 

Imtiaz: How has the film changed you?

 

Pragya: Personally or professionally…

 

Raj: I mean you learn every time what not to do, what to do— I could do this better, how I would have shot it better. I’m never satisfied with the film because given that the person is saying: “Oh it’s a great film, man,” I know I can just see all the flaws in it. So I realized that. I say, “Yeah, thank you.”

 

Anubhav: You only see flaws. Yeah, you only see flaws in the film.

 

Raj: Correct. I’m always seeing it, and saying: “Oh my God!”

 

Imtiaz: You never enjoy your films like other people can.

 

Raj: And somebody says: “This is a scene to remember.” Writes about the scene. And I’m thinking, ‘Oh fuck—  I mean, I patched that up. This is bad.’ That way you’ll learn at a basic level. Shor, because of the reception it got and the fact that people got it, it kind of gave me the confidence of tackling something ‘off’. Because I always felt that Shor was an entertainer. No matter what, it’s a fun film. Anybody who watches it, even though it’s a topical film, you can still have fun. I don’t care about the depths you go to or not— the script or whatever… you have fun. I didn’t think everybody is going to care for it. So when they did care for it, I realized that… hmm. I’m more confident that next time I’ll put a little nuance in the film, or a subtlety, or a little… a subtext or a subplot. I’ll be very confident with what I’ll take on. I can do a superstar film and still have my nuances in it with great confidence because if this can relate to people, that’ll relate better.

 

Pragya: Do you feel more a part of this industry, after Shor?

 

Raj: I’m always on the peripheries of the industry. Only now I have met four directors. But I really don’t know anybody.

 

RKG: As he said, you learn a lot. I believe with every film you live a life, you know, when you’re making a film, from the time of its inception to the time of release, and the reception, I personally feel, I have lived a life with my film and you have your lessons from there. You get to know another’s point of view. Some things might be as you thought; some might not be as you thought. And those are the things that make you think; and then when you go back to look at it, maybe certain points of view you agree with, certain points of view you don’t agree with. But it makes you think; and because you handle so many people, be it actors, different kinds of actors… you deal with different kinds of people so you also learn lessons in life. How to, you know, deal with things and go ahead.

 

Imtiaz: All of the above. Additionally, I think, for Rockstar, it was more internal learning as such. For one thing I felt how much each person, like a technician or an actor… how much that matters for a movie. That I understood in this film. Also somehow I’m a little less ashamed of mental instabilities or typicalities, after this film.

 

Pragya: Eccentricities…

 

Imtiaz: Eccentricities… just… typicalities is more like it.

 

Pragya: Was it in anyway cathartic to make that film?

 

Imtiaz: I think it was.

 

Pragya: More than the others in some ways?

 

Imtiaz: Surely. For sure.

 

Bejoy: I think… my conviction in what I was doing. Like he (Raj) said, if the film had not found a connect with people, then I wouldn’t have been as convinced about what I’d wanted to say. So the conviction became much more stronger, in the ideas that I wanted to put forth, going ahead. And if the film had not been received as well, of course, there would have been a lot more introspection on what I want to say in the future.

 

Anubhav: Nothing left, besides one achievement, that does not come from every film, which is a big plus and a big minus as well. The size of the film, the kind of film. Not only the budget. The kind and the size; so that gives me the confidence of being able to handle any kind of film. But at the same time I realized while they were talking that I am having difficulty choosing my next. Ke, yeh bahut choti toh nahi hai (That, isn’t this too small)? It’s a bad consideration but you are used to it. Like I said in an interview, which is true, that on one day, I asked my production manager “How much are we spending today?” And he said, “How precisely do you want to know?” I said, “Quite precisely.” he came back and told me the number, which was the budget of my first film. And I did that at least four times in my film.

 

Imtiaz: And all four times it was?

 

Anubhav: Haan matlab teen-teen crore rupyon ka din tha. Aap kahen… ki aisa ek choti si kahaani soch rakhi hai, mujhe badi achchi lag rahi hai, getting very drawn—  love story. Bahut samay se, love story hai, toh agar banaau? Choti hai yaar. Toh mai jhagda karta hoon apne aap se. Ke choti hai toh kya hua? Kahaani hai. Picture hai. Tujhe achchi lagti hai. Yeh bol na. So that is the negative. The positive is ke theek hai, le aao, paanch sau aadmi le aao, koi tension nahin. Le aao paanch sau. Hazaar hai? Le aao. Hazaar bhi they ek din set pe. Hazaar aadmi in a set man. Aur ek-do hazaar ke barabar Shah Rukh.

 

(Yes I mean it was about rupees three crores in a day. You tell me… Now I’ve thought of a small intimate story. I really like it and am getting very drawn. It’s a love story. It’s been in my mind for a while now, this love story. So what if I make it? It seems too small. So I keep fighting with myself. Keep telling myself: So what if it’s small? There’s a story. There’s the possibility of a movie. You like it. So tell the story. So that’s the negative side of things. The positive side is that: Bring it on. Bring on 500 people to the set. I’ll handle it. A thousand? Sure, bring it on. There were actually a thousand people on my set one day. A thousand people in a set man! And Shah Rukh, who’s the equivalent of a thousand to two thousand people himself.)

 

RKG: I’d like to ask Imtiaz a question. I mean, when you read reviews, when people react to things like, you know, in reference to Rockstar, people react saying that you know, Imtiaz, “Yaar achchi hai, lekin, you know, Jab We Met jaisi nahin hai, Love Aaj Kal jaisi nahin hai (Man, it’s nice but it isn’t like Jab We Met or like Love Aaj Kal— Imtiaz’s previous films),” the one thing that comes to my mind is—you know it happened with No One Killed Jessica also, that’s why I’m asking you this question—how do you react to that? Because as a filmmaker you’re never going to… you never went and thought that I’m going to make a film like Jab We Met. You were making a Rockstar.

 

Imtiaz: See I feel that… I tend not to be very harsh to people who say that. I feel they will obviously say that yaar. Now every movie that I make, or anyone of us makes, will be compared with every other movie. People might expect that. No One Killed Jessica and your next etc. etc… that that’s for them to figure out. And I’m sure that they’re going to say after every movie of mine that this is not like that. But I’m okay with it, with people criticizing in that way, that their expectations weren’t met. As long as I’m sure that I’m not falling, I’m not becoming a victim of that. I’m not getting into that trap— that after making Jab We Met I should have made Jab We Met again, and Jab We Met again, which would limit my career and really make it…

 

Anubhav: I don’t think you’ll be able to make Jab We Met again.

 

Imtiaz: Not at all. Or any other film yaar.

 

Pragya: I think it links up to how you take feedback and where you draw the lines of accepting feedback. See that I’m pretty sure that that might be the dominant voice. But I can say, just as a random example, that I would say that Jab We Met was not Rockstar.

 

Imtiaz: When Love Aaj Kal was released, a lot of people gave it like three and half stars or four stars etc. and many of them wrote that it’s nice but it is still not Jab We Met. Those same critics, because I’m the director of both movies (so I know), had given two and half stars or two stars to Jab We Met when it had released. The same critics.

 

Anubhav: Yeah he’s right. I have had the same experience.

 

Imtiaz: So you don’t take it very seriously, do you? As a result of which I don’t really read reviews any more. Honestly I have not really read reviews of Rockstar either. Not because I hate them and I think whatever shit, but because it’s irrelevant to me. The same blacker (person selling film tickets illegally, in black) standing outside Chandan Cinema has told me when Love Aaj Kal was showing, that yeh kya kiya second half mein? Jab We Met ka toh itna achcha tha (What have you done in the second half? Jab We Met’s second half was so good). Achcha Jab We Met ne paani maanga tha single screen mein (Jab We Met hadn’t really worked in single screen theatres, one of which was Chandan Cinema). And today after the release of Rockstar, when I went there, the same group of guys (blackers)— “Imtiaz bhai, kya kar diya aapne second half mein, Sadda Haq ke baad toh picture so gayi hai. Love Aaj Kal mein kitna acha kiya tha. Aapko waise karna tha.” So yeh sab chalta rehta tha. (“Imtiaz, brother, what have you done in the second half? After Sadda Haq—one of the film’s songs—the movie’s gone to sleep. You’d made the second half of Love Aaj Kal so well. You should have made it like that.” So all of this keeps going on.)

 

Pragya: Would you guys ever want to have a conversation like this with critics and genuinely ask them and what they think and how…

 

Anubhav: You know what? I’d just add one line to this. I think Raj Kumar, this is a good sign, when they say this film is not as good as your previous films. They were expecting more from you. So it’s respect. It is respectable.

 

Pragya: That was a random question. But would you ever want to have a conversation like this with critics?

 

RKG: No. I think everybody has their opinion on films and that should be respected.

 

Anubhav: There’s a very interesting saying: “Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one.” Some are published, some are not. Maybe there will be some opinions which will be much worse than the reviews, unfortunately they are not written…

 

Pragya: It’s not about good or bad, but it’s about understanding a thought process about how… Like you said, do you ever get curious about what they think? I mean what are they thinking, how do they think?

 

RKG: There’s a love hate relationship… (between filmmakers and critics)

 

Bejoy: Same thing like you were saying about credibility. You are used to reading reviews of certain critics, you see what kind of films, how their ratings have been in the past. When they’re rating your film, you kind of judge them based on what they have been doing.

 

Raj and Bejoy: So you have your benchmarks.

 

Anubhav: I read one of the reviews of Ra.One that said, “The most expensive mid-life crisis ever.” Are you reviewing a film?

 

Pragya: Or are you taking personal potshots…

 

Bejoy: It’s like a personal thing.

 

Anubhav: So when you… then it’s about what Bejoy has said— it’s about credibility. That ‘this’ is a respectable review. There are some reviews that I think are very accurate about how the film will do at the box office. You may or may not…

 

Pragya: Which is not a review, which is…

 

Raj: A prediction.

 

Pragya: Yeah which is a prediction. That’s what it’s called.

 

Anubhav: We are still a developing industry, so let people have the time to learn the art of really ‘seeing’. And then there are reviewers that directors, filmmakers ask, “Kaisi lagi? Kya gadbad hai. Achcha, haan yaar, sahi keh raha hai (How did you like it? What’s wrong? Oh, right. He’s right).” Woh aane mein time lagega. Yeh filmmakers ko bhi yeh seekhne ko time laga, waise sab ko time lagega. (That will be a while coming. Just as filmmakers will take time to learn, so will every one).

 

Imtiaz: The one thing that I’d like to say about critics is the fact that… They’re entitled to their opinion. Nobody is debating that. You hated my film, loved my film, liked his film better than mine… all that is fine. But sometimes you can see an agenda. Sometimes you see that it’s all about: I’m trying to become an opinion leader, by criticizing and having a voice which needs to be quieten-ed… so then I can have you on my show etc. etc. That’s the beginning of what seems to me a big kind of agenda. That is not on, no? That’s not on.

 

Pragya: Provocation?

 

Anubhav: The reviews are a very creative… it should be a very creative…

 

RKG: Reviewing a filmmaker rather than a film, reviewing a filmmaker, getting personal…

 

Pragya: I don’t know, I think it’s a…

 

Imtiaz: Reviews just tell you a story…

 

Pragya: Yeah.

 

Anubhav: And now toh reviews are more about ROI. ‘Return On Investment’, this new…

 

Imtiaz: Everybody is a trade guru, rather than a film critic.

 

Anubhav: The ROI, the ROI of this film is not good. Return on investment.

 

Bejoy: There’s this one reviewer I know, in the first three paragraphs, he gives the entire story out. Everything is given out.

 

Imtiaz: That’s exactly what they do. Most people do that, no?

 

Bejoy: And that’s… you should never… you can’t do that to a film. Then what are you leaving your viewer with? What? You say: “Okay this is what the film is about.” That’s okay. Here he is giving the details of every scene, the plot… everything is being given out. Now who would want to watch the film?

 

Anubhav: And it comes out on Thursday.

 

Bejoy: Thank god you stopped writing!

 

Raj: I’m just glad people don’t read reviews much, they just see the stars. I’m telling you, nobody’s reading it.

 

Bejoy: Haan they say na. “Aapke films ko chaar star milein hai, teen star milein (Your film’s gotten four stars, gotten three stars).”

 

Raj: A lot of times it doesn’t even match.

 

Anubhav: I don’t think many international reviews give stars.

 

Imtiaz: Exactly. You know why? Because in many magazines the stars are not up to the reviewer, it’s a very big financial decision for the company.

 

Raj: Yeah, no, I agree. The headline and the stars, I think.

 

Imtiaz: A lot of reviewers have told me that I loved your film but… whatever. Stars do hi hai but andar bahut achcha likha hai (there are just two stars but inside I’ve written very well of the film). Yeah, or the reverse.

 

RKG: Also, are the critics morally supposed to say that: don’t go and watch this film?

 

Imtiaz: No, no. Never.

 

RKG: That it is a waste of money? I think only in India, I’ve seen something like this happening… so offensive to any film, to any filmmaker, I mean whether he’s making a B, C grade film…

 

Raj: Yeah it’s very personal, that’s the problem…

 

Pragya: Yeah that’s what he said. Also that they’re trying to create a brand, using, feeding off against films…

 

Anubhav: Yeah. There’s a whole race to say: ‘See, I said this.’ Abhi toh picture release toh chod do, reviews chod do, release ke pehle, shaayad bees din pehle, trailers pe woh shuru ho jaata hai; Ke yeh itne ka opening weekend legi. (Nowadays… the movie’s release and reviews aside, it all begins before the release of the film, at times 20 days before the release, the speculation over how much it’ll earn in the opening weekend.) It’s so disturbing, and people should respect the process of making films. Sometimes a director can end up making a bad film but the fact remains that a team passionately works towards something for a long time, that whole sanctity and respect is somewhere…

 

Pragya: And social networking has made that much worse, because Twitter and Facebook now have these…

 

Imtiaz: I don’t know about that. I don’t know…

 

Pragya: Are you on Twitter?

 

Imtiaz: I’m not on Twitter, I’m not active on Facebook much. But I feel that instead of one person accumulating all the power of opinion, leading it, there are many people now. So if you can write a review, I can write a review as well. It’s like… if there are more opinions then at least there is some sort of division of scale, and that there are so many opinions that you have also seen the other point of view etc.

 

Pragya: That is an ideal situation Imtiaz, but the way it’s actually playing out on Twitter is that there seems to be a competition on who can get nastier. And that is how you attract followers and build a brand.

 

Imtiaz: That’s true. But that’s exactly what critics do anyways. Before the advent of Twitter, that was going on anyways, or it can potentially go on…

 

Anubhav: No Imtiaz is right. It’s just that number has increased on different platforms, but the act is the same…

 

Raj: Unfortunately the Twitter guys, all the anonymous blogs and everything, have such a small voice compared to the main critics. One, two days ago, four days ago, you get your three stars, four stars, you are just overpowering everybody with that. So the critics, no matter what, who is saying what on Twitter, it’s just a few critics that have the power to really start off the buzz, no matter what. So yes, it becomes extremely shitty.

 

Anubhav: I think only in Bombay, Raj. I’ve done this research.

 

Raj: No, I agree

 

Anubhav: Bodyguard had such terrible reviews across the platforms (and it was a huge hit).

 

Raj: Some stars are beyond critics. Some movies are beyond critics.

 

Anubhav: The mid-sized films suffer the most.

 

Raj: Some are just… it doesn’t matter. That’s why… I saw a poster of Ready, a re-done poster of Ready, somebody put up these posters saying how the movie should be. So they changed the posters. It’s Ready and Salman (Khan) showing a middle finger to critics.

 

Pragya: I don’t know if that is valid. At the end of the day criticism is not supposed to reflect box office numbers. I think it’s about, it’s ideally supposed to be about, the art of filmmaking. It’s ideally supposed to represent a niche art point of view.

 

Anubhav: When did we reach Europe? We were in Juhu.

 

Raj: I know. It’s beyond control. I think it’s too idealistic…

 

Anubhav: I had come to Juhu (where everyone is)… now we’re discussing Europe…

 

RKG: That’s also a point of view. They can say Dabanng is a tribute to a seventies film. And another film set in the seventies can be called a rehash of a seventies film. So you have completely different points of views just because of some factor…

 

Pragya: Yeah, which is true. Somebody said that about (The) Dirty Picture. That it’s not an ode to any eighties film, it is an eighties film.

 

Raj: I think the solution is that more voices…

 

Imtiaz: More voices is not a bad idea…

 

Raj: Or something that just summarizes all the opinions, at the end of it. You get an idea. Rotten Tomatoes—  that’s why I love it because at the end of it you’ve got 150 to 200 reviewers reviewing everything, and you get an idea.

 

Anubhav: We are still playing at Shivaji Park, so these things matter. The day you start playing at Perth or Lords you won’t hear these voices. They won’t matter.

 

Imtiaz: That’s true.

 

Anubhav: So the bigger responsibility on people like these is to create films… what is the 3 Idiots number? 40 million dollars, right? What is 40 million dollars? Peanuts. So, some day, one Indian film which holds steam, that’s what it tries to do. They (the audiences, especially the international audiences) are looking at us. They want to see our films, and you start… Then that one day, you will be on the world platform and then nothing of this will matter. Then you will have to follow the existing (global) culture, which is quite dignified.

 

Pragya: So the evolution of our cinema will also lead to the evolution of the dependent industries, which includes critics.

 

Anubhav: These guys, the directors, the directors have to win the fight. And then this will happen.

 

Pragya: I’m pretty certain that that’s the best way we could end thisdirectors have to win the fight.

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3 comments
JayantNagda
JayantNagda

Really great initiative TBIP! Looking forward to a lot more..

 

One suggestion for you guys: The pitch of the different voices in interview is fluctuating, sometimes it's too loud and sometimes inaudible! Same thing with Ranbir Kapoor's interview as well.. Do look into it :) 

mekalav
mekalav

Awesome Site :-) Thanks Milind ,Pragya and entire team ...

SurajSinghJhala
SurajSinghJhala

Awsome idea of this kind of website really liked it . Grt work .

The Moveable Feast – Directors

Interview
October 2012
By Pragya Tiwari

Pragya Tiwari is Editor-in-Chief at The Big Indian Picture.