What challenges did you face during your struggling days?
I started my journey in the entertainment industry in 2000. I started with dance, then I taught dance, then I moved on to events. When I arrived in Mumbai, I realized that there was so much chaos. I need to have some background. So I went to film school. When I graduated from film school in 2008, I struggled for eight years with no direction. But an important motivating factor is that you need to believe in yourself. You have to believe that you have a voice and that voice needs to reach everyone.
Another thing is that you can’t feel offended or depressed if someone doesn’t reply to you. You have to take it as a life experience. In my early days, I wrote a lot of emails, Facebook messages, and direct messages to a lot of people in the industry. You have to do it respectfully. You shouldn’t beg, but you shouldn’t do it with a sense of entitlement. You have to find the right language to reach people. You have to make your point and hopefully, someone will answer.
How did you end up at Dharma Productions?
I wrote seven scripts. I pitched their creative team. I think they got into so much trouble with me that they decided to listen to my script. I never run away from it. Between 2010 and 2013, I wrote seven 120-page scripts with dialogue. I continue to recommend my movies to them. My seventh script is Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya. And that’s when the creative team liked it and let me meet Karan Johar, who loved the movie. Karan doesn’t know me at all. He read the script and felt that this boy had a voice and wanted to tell a story.
I think people are so caught up in it that they don’t want to fight. You have to adapt to the industry. You need to self-criticize, self-analyze, and learn from each meeting. You have to work on your own and you will break through.
What kind of movies would you like to make under your Mentor Disciple Films banner?
The name Mentor Disciple Films is also self-explanatory. I am a practicing Buddhist. The role of a mentor is very important in my life. I think Karan Johar is an extraordinary mentor to me. Just trust me blindly and then guide me through life and make sure I keep making movies that I feel like. I have been very fortunate with the opportunities that I have. And now I want to give it back. I still haven’t gotten to where I want to be in life but I still want to have people around me to grow with me.
For example, I had the opportunity to co-produce Good Newwz, Bhoot, Yodha. All of those writers and directors are people I’ve had the opportunity to work with, nurture them and make sure they deliver. In addition, there are many technicians that I have had the opportunity to give breakthroughs. One of the responsibilities that I will take very seriously at Mentor Disciple Films is to really foster new talent in all parts of filmmaking. My intention is to dedicate talent to the industry so that the industry continues to grow.
But how can new talent reach you?
It is very simple. My email address is widely available. Some people contact me through my phone or social media. Some people send their CVs at my office. I really take the time to review anything I can and make sure I answer the person. There are many musicians who directly approach me and send their songs on WhatsApp. I ended up listening to them. Some of the songs in our movies came out that way. Someone just sent me a song on WhatsApp. I liked the song and I called the person to meet up. There is a song Nain Ta Heere in Jugjugg Jeeyo. The composer randomly sent me the song. I loved it and sent it to director Raj Mehta. He loves it and the song is in the movie. Whoever wants to come will come.
When we entered the industry, the path was much less. We couldn’t even make a phone call. But we found our way. I think a lot of people want to cut down on waiting times and that’s not the right approach. One needs to keep hustling every day. People are looking for gifts and gifts.
Do you want to direct every script you write?
That temptation is always there. But you have to react to your circumstances. I wrote things for which I was not credited. But at that time, I needed money. I wrote and got money for it. So the need that I wrote about was met. When I wrote Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya, I made it clear that I wanted to direct it. So you have to react to your needs and circumstances. You don’t have to follow someone’s itinerary. I don’t think you’ll be successful in this industry if you’re just a latecomer. You have to be very aware of who you are and start making your own journey.
As a writer, what do you think about the perception that writers are not respected or well paid. Is there a shortage of good writers and are we relying too much on remakes?
It’s a cliché statement but we are really looking for new and good scripts. But different people make movies for different reasons. Some make it creative and some make money. All are welcome and all will find opportunities. I don’t think there’s such a big drop that people are panicking.
As for the remake, some people remake while some people create the original movies. Brahmastra is not a copy of anything. It is the product of Ayan Mukerji’s work and vision. The West has been investing in technology for 40-50 years. We started doing that recently. So there is a great scope to learn from them.
Bhediya is a new attempt to create something unique. We need to stop letting box office revenue dictate our creativity. From a commercial perspective, Bhediya may not have hit the big numbers. But in my opinion, not a failure. It was a huge hit when you consider what that team did. The storytelling and VFX are excellent. What we need to do is become less transactional and more creative.
But people are looking at last Friday’s one actor and one movie.
It’s being reviewed because they’ve taken it seriously. If an actor is promoting the 100 cores his movie has earned instead of promoting the movie itself, what do they expect?
Do you follow any particular filmmaker? Which directors have had a major influence on your storytelling profession?
Honestly, I don’t follow anyone. While aspiring to be a director, certain movies will inspire you but then you think about how you could have done some things differently. I think that mindset turns you into a director. I don’t follow a particular filmmaker. I watch good movies. Of course, we have great filmmakers like Rajkumar Hirani, Zoya Akhtar, Karan Johar, Rohit Shetty and Sanjay Leela Bhansali who have made a name for themselves. I aim to do something different with each movie. I want to keep experimenting and maybe from there, I’ll find a genre of my own that I want to do more of. But my real desire is that I want to make different genres of movies.
If you were to make a movie about a real person, who would it be?
Actually, there is one person whose name I can’t remember. But his story is very interesting. He was a tailor in Bollywood until the 80’s and 90’s. There are some amazing trivia about him because the heroes would fight for him to make their costumes. He has a shop in Bandra. His story is interesting as he has seen all the Bollywood stars up close and personal. I want to tell his story. I worked with him briefly when I was working as an assistant.
Why did you choose the title Govinda Naam Mera for your final release?
I wanted a title close to Marathi culture. Govinda is a well known name in Maharashtra in general. I have a friend in school named Govinda and the tragedy of his life is that no one calls him by his real name. People call him by many nicknames. And I wanted to use that element in the movie because the character has to go through those struggles as he tries to figure out his identity. And to a larger extent, no one else can represent Hindi commercial cinema other than Govinda ji himself. So for me, it’s a tribute, but at the same time staying true to the content of the film. When I looked at Vicky Kaushal, I saw that he was the perfect Govinda for the movie.
Are you confident that Vicky Kaushal will complete this role?
I’m very confident that Vicky will play this character. Knowing him from his theater days helped us a lot. Also, he was raised in Mumbai. He understands language and jargon. He’s done absolute justice to the movie.
Our aim is to make a movie that everyone likes. Unfortunately, that timing made us unsure whether to release the film to theaters.