A dialogue with directors

Debarati Palit
Tuesday, 6 June 2017

In Hollywood, observes Bhatnagar, filmmakers are very popular among the masses who can recognise them easily. “But it’s not the same here. Apart from a few top directors, people don’t know others. So the people who make cinema possible, always take a back-seat,” he says.

Ritam Bhatnagar, founder, India Film Project, talks about their newest initiative Talk Shop and how it was a natural step ahead for the community

For most people, the decision to watch a film is often dependent on the names of the actors in the credits. Yes, a few do make it a point to watch each film by a particular director, but mostly, the audience is least bothered about who has helmed the project.

India Film Project’s latest initiative, a web-based talk show called Talk Shop is set to change this situation. Here, some of the finest filmmakers of Bollywood will be coming and sharing their creativity and stories. India Film Project is an annual film festival challenge, which encourages people to make films. The participants create a film on a given theme within a time-limit.

The series, going live from June 9, will feature Sujoy Ghosh, Abhishek Chaubey, Shakun Batra, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Rahul Dholakia, Ram Madhvani, Shashank Khaitan, makers of TVF, Ashutosh Gowariker, Dibakar Banerjee, Hansal Mehta and Vikramaditya Motwane.

Says Ritam Bhatnagar, Founder, India Film Project, “Mostly, directors don’t come in front of the screen and nor do they talk. Therefore, their life is not known to people. So we thought that instead of actors, let the directors speak. We wanted to celebrate those who make heroes.”

In Hollywood, observes Bhatnagar, filmmakers are very popular among the masses who can recognise them easily. “But it’s not the same here. Apart from a few top directors, people don’t know others. So the people who make cinema possible, always take a back-seat,” he says.

Bhatnagar also adds that the show provides a great platform for budding filmmakers. “We are a community with six lakh budding filmmakers. The filmmakers on the show have shared some interesting aspects of their work, like research, how to write a draft or how to manage a shoot and so on. For example, Rahul Dholakia shared how he had once written 70 to 80 drafts for a film and after realising that it was not standing out, simply scrapped all of them. Where else will you get to know such interesting concepts?” he wonders.

Bhatnagar says that Talk Shop is the next step of India Film Project. “We are evolving as a festival and expanding too. We thought, what more can we do? And then we thought why not create content which can be consumed from our community.”

He adds that because there are several talk shows, the team wanted this to be different. “We decided to come up with an interesting format where people will get a glimpse into their creativity. You get to see a different perspective of the person,” he adds.

Talk shop
The show has been divided into four segments — Build a scene, Getting real, Rapid Fire and a Game segment that will involve handing out awards, remaking existing films and more.

It’s the ‘Build a scene’ that Bhatnagar is most excited about. He says in the segment, each director will be given imaginary characters and they have to come up with a story revolving around them in a few minutes. “Some of the directors just came up with a story within seconds. Before the shoot, we were not sure if every director will be comfortable with the concept because if they came up with something wrong, people might troll them on social media. So we were ready to share the details of the scenes before the shoot but all of them wanted it to be impromptu. They were very comfortable with the idea of sharing the character details on the spot,” says Bhatnagar.

He further adds that the games too are interesting where they are asked a question and the filmmakers have to answer in terms of ‘interested’ or ‘not interested’, ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ and ‘I have’ or ‘I have not’. 

He says that they had to research for three month before the shoot. “We had prepared around 200 questions for each filmmaker. Some of them were like, ‘How did you know about this?”

But was it difficult to get the filmmakers on board? Bhatnagar replies, “Not really. Because of the festival, we have regular access to these filmmakers and also understand that they need to reach out to people who follow them.”

And which was the most enjoyable episode? “It was fun shooting with Ram Madhvani. We were shooting on a Monday morning and he said, ‘I would be able to shoot for only one and half hours. But he enjoyed the session so much that it went on for three and half hours. In fact, the team enjoyed the way he was building up the scenes and story so much that they started clapping at the end of the exercise.”

Bhatnagar says that most filmmakers do not get a formal education in filmmaking. “But here everyone can tell a story. Either you get formal education or the way to learn is self-validation. Asking yourself, ‘Am I going the right way?’ helps.”

For filmmakers being part of the show was a lot of fun. Among the various segments, these well-known names have enjoyed the ‘Build the scene’, where they had to come up with a scene impromptu. Director Rahul Dholakia, known for films like Lamhaa and Raees, says, “The best segment was the making up the story with three elements. I have enjoyed the segment so much that I have introduced the idea at parties too because it’s a great exercise.”

Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu and Kapoor and Sons fame Shakun Batra, while sharing the joy of being part of story building segment, says, “I really enjoyed the story building segment.”

Follow the writer on Twitter @DebaratiPalitSi

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