Despite all the arguments, we all know that the film industry still depends on the stars, the mighty Khans and one solitary Kumar. If you don’t have them in your movies, then you can’t even dream selling your film, forget making a blockbuster.
Not a blockbuster, but there are instances that you can make a successful film with the stars. Ask Saket Chaudhary how?
For starters, he’s an alumni of the Department of Communication Studies, University of Pune, who landed up in the film industry, co-wrote the ambition but successful Asoka, before starting his directorial venture in rip-roaring comedy Pyaar Ke Side Effect starting Rahul Bose and Mallika Sherawat.
And Chaudhary is very candid about how he struck gold in his debut venture. To start with, “to understand the film industry, you have to be there, which I did. And I knew, I would get the big starts. Mr Bachchan wound not even look at my face, probably even after the success of PKSE. I did not get 10 crores to make my film.”
So when you don’t have the stars and your budget is small, the next intelligent thing is to think innovatively. And good casting is part of that innovation. “I got Rahul and my producers got Mallika. I was lucky that the pairing worked.”
The next agenda in the innovation is, people need to talk about it. Your film should be covered in the last page of Bombay Times and the middle pages of Mid Day. “For me, the title of the film did the trick.”
Chaudhary wrote the story of PKSE and directed it. How easy or difficult is it to be a writer-director?
“When Asoka was offered to me, I was stupid enough to do it. I was 25. But then I had things to say and soon I realised that I do not want to write for other directors. So I started writing for myself. I did two more scripts before PKSE, one based on the partition, for which I did to some research. I enjoy the part of doing research. PKSE was easy. It was mostly based on the experiences I have had and seen.”
But writing is an altogether different ball game, isn’t it? “Yes. For example, I need at least 6 months to write a script and this time, I cannot be working. And if you don’t have the money, it gets difficult. But writing is like if you have to do it, you have to do it. It starts with something that you really want to say.”
But what about writing for television. “Oh, that’s a different story all together. In television, you create a great character and put him in most ridiculous situations. That’s it.”
And what’s the best way to start writing for screen? Chaudhary offers his trade secret: “Start by adapting a book, it’s easier.”
Back to Chaudhary the director. How did the big bad world of Bollywood treat a first time director? “I know people who are still waiting for ‘the big break’ of their lives. But I know I had to start somewhere. The association with PNC was worthwhile. They paid me 50% of what I deserve. But I know they will package my film and market it well. This is very important for a small film like mine.”
So why and how Chaudhary decided to became a director?
“The National Film Achieve of India was my greatest teacher. I learnt watching the films of the masters. I wanted to be that person who creates magic on the out there.”
And for Chaudhary filmmaking is a personal thing: “You have your perspective and you put that on the screen. You can’t lie.”
And what about a making a Bollywood film? What about the proverbial ‘masala’ part of it? “I was not really a fan of Bollywood movies. Therefore, I could not imagine putting up a dance sequence with 100 dancers in the background. Anyway, Rahul could not dance. I have to in tune my aesthetics to suit myself to Bollywood. I had to take a big leap of faith. I think I did well, compared to many whose movies aren’t like Bollywood at all, such as, Black Friday, Khosla Ka Ghosla.”
This is the season of remakes? Is there a remake of PKSE in the offing? “Yes. My producers are keen on it. I’m working on the script right now. It would obviously be called, Shaadi Ke Side Effect.”
Can a course in media communication make you a successful filmmaker? This is a million dollar question. And the answer you may get can be even more debatable. But there are some who has proved, it can. For one, Saket Chaudhary is such an example. And when the alumni of the Department of Communication Studies, University of Pune visited his alma mater on the last day of Media Mélange on Sunday (Feb 25, 2007), it an afternoon of success meeting the aspirants. And, what was heartening to see the candid way Chaudhary, who tasted success in his first-ever directorial venture Pyaar Ke Side Effect, was giving away free advised to the media students who cared to listen to him. We did, and we even took notes!
Taking of notes, the valedictory lecture by John Matthew Mathan of Sarfarosh and Shikhar fame was worth all your pen and paper, when he set to discuss the art of narrative structure in films. And boy, he did it jolly well, showing the clippings from Sarfarosh to exemplify the subject, how he set out to make a movie to prove that your country comes before your religion. Sarfarosh was a success, but what about Shikhar which failed to create the magic at the box office? It was simply a marketing failure. He offers an explanation. “And if there was enough time, I would have loved to discuss Shikhar as well.” And we would have loved to hear it from you, Sir. Probably the next time round.