By all accounts, 2016 was no great year for Hindi films, particularly if measured in terms of box office or footfalls. What was impossible to overlook however, is sheer variety of cinema that was an offer. The result of an often singular vision of directors, who boldly dared to go where few had gone before. From rousing biopics of rousing public figures to progressive thought provoking dramas that hammered their message. From compelling recreations of true events, to engaging works of friction. Some of the year’s most interesting films reflected the passion and the commitment of the directors who did not hold back from the fear of failing. Ram Madhvani skillfully evoked the mounting tension within a hijacked flight cabin, literally transporting the viewers to the scene of the harrowing tragedy in Neerja. Nitesh Tiwari took the true story of a has been wrestler and his two daughters and crafted an epic saga of sport, family and girl power in Dangal. Abhishek Chaubey maintained a tight grip on multiple narratives in Udta Punjab. Creating a powerful portrait of a landscape, marred by drugs. Shakun Batra mind genuine laughs especially tears from the simple premise of a family reunion, delivering an authentic portrait of human frailty in Kapoor and Sons. Ali Abbas Zafar fashioned a moving love-story, at the heart of a sport’s film, shrewdly harnessing his superstar’s leading man’s charisma to carve a flesh and blood character in Sultan. And Karan Johar employed all the trappings of Hindi cinema, including hit and catchy songs and heart-throb stars to deliver a fresh perspective on the messy business of unrequited love in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Between them they made some of the best most successful or simply the most talked about films of 2016. The six film makers opened up about the steps they took, to win their actor’s trust, the fears they are often crippled by and their cynicism about where the industry is headed, when they assembled to share their thoughts and perspective.
- Q) Some directors say that they expect their actors to have implicit faith in them, do you feel that this level of trust is crucial?
- A) According to director Ram Madhvani, he feels that it is too much to expect from an actor. But it is also necessary for director and actor to have a relationship of faith and trust. But at the same time, a director owe them a lot of explanations for having faith in them. But sometimes you have actors which are not on the same page, so at that time a director needs to negotiate with them.
- A) Director Karan Johar feels that actors are most vulnerable creatures that exist. And he thinks it is not possible for a director to just deal with them professionally. From a very young age he discovered, that a director is their counsellor, their guide, therapist, friend and everything else. He also says as a result of all this, a director knows what is happening in their personal life and that is going to have an impact on director professionally. In the morning when they come on set , director always have hint about the baggage they carry and the insecurity they have in the moment. So no matter how big a star they are, they are completely scared and looking for a nod from their director. So sometimes, director has to lie too, seeing the sensitivity of the situation. A director has to hold actor’s hand and then do their work as he is a part of their journey.
A) Nitesh Tiwari feels that actors need to feel warm and fussy on sets as they too are human beings with sensibilities. He believes that there is no one set formula for actor director equation. So, sometimes director is warm and cordial and sometimes, he has to take out a stick.
- A) Shakun Batra believes if the actor trusts director, then the equation and working condition of both of them becomes very easy and calm. He feels what mostly happens is that the director has to hide his own insecurity in front of the actor. Sometimes it is more important how you say things than what you are saying. Director has to use different motivational techniques for different actors.
- Q) When a director is working with a star who has a bigger career than the present director, how does then a director brings trust to the table for that big superstar?
A) Nitesh Tiwari says first and foremost, he wants to highlight the fact that when an actor is buying into you, he/she is buying into director’s vision. For example, if he talks about Aamir Khan, working with him means he has to buy into your passion. Whether a director is able to deliver or not, Aamir does a lot of homework. Also his and Amir’s sensibilities match a lot. So there was no problem of convincing each other in his case he says.
- A) Ali Abbas Zafar says that he has a completely different take with Salman. He also says that the strongest part about Salman Khan is that he is very secure as an actor. So, as a superstar Salman’s concern is only the content of the story, he does not ever question smaller strokes. So he thinks while a director works with superstars, it becomes very comforting if the story is good as they are secure about their positions.
- Q) Does director have any kind of fear or apprehensions when the trailer of a movie is about to launch?
- A) Director Shakun Batra agrees and says that it happened to him in his first film. When first day one walks on set and sees plethora of cinematic equipments, one realise the fact that someone has put huge money for all of that, the pressure comes automatically. Also, he has come from a team of assistant directors so these instruments were only meant for him to organise. But when one is main director, a pressure inside one to use all equipments becomes too much.
- A) Director Abhishek Chaubey feels that he fears more while he makes film than the time of trailers, because it is much more daunting managing people and their egos while a film is made. So, half of the time one is managing stuffs like spot boys, assistance, hiring etc. And in the middle of all that, one is trying to tell a story, that is more difficult for him than facing the launching trailer. So, he feels that the first skill that a director should know is how to be a good people’s person.
- Q) Is it hard to make money from movies now or does it worry producers where film-making is headed to in terms of box-office prospects?
- A) Karan Johar believes that contemporary times are crisis times for movie making and it is very hard to put a film together no matter who you are. As productions are dropped by nearly 40%, so footfalls are literally drowned very drastically. So, it is the biggest wake up call for everyone involved in movie making process including actors, writers, producers, directors everyone.
- A) Director Ram Madhvani believes as a director he has a different take. He says, now times are liberating as now director’s reputation is not based on the friday release. It is based on what is the content of movie. So if a good movie is made, and on first day, if it does not gets a grand opening, eventually during first and second week, it is going to collect money for what it deserves.
- Q) If you could make only one film what would it be?
A) Director Shakun Batra says that he has a script which he has been developing for a long time and did not make a movie out if it because at the time he was starting the project, Gangs of Wasseypur was out and his script was about mafia too. So looking at the similarity, he stopped that project.
- A) Ali Abbas Zafar says that he has one film in his mind, and it is since the time he first thought of making movie, it was a biopic on a girl from village. He would like to make a movie on that.
- A) Karan Johar says that he wants to make Agneepath again as his father literally felt burdened by its failure.
With all these films we feel that Hindi cinema is in safe hands and we are greatly looking forward to have a lot more from them in 2017.