Mirror reader and wishful filmmaker Ashish Desai gets a primer on filmmaking from director Abhishek Kapoor
Ankit Ajmera (MUMBAI MIRROR; January 20, 2013)
When we land at Abhishek Kapoor’s sprawling ninth floor Khar residence, Ashish Desai’s first words take the Rock On!! director by surprise. The 24-year-old tells Kapoor that he has been following his work since the time he starred in the forgotten romantic drama Uff! Yeh Mohabbat (1997). “Oh, that was a long time ago. Good to know that you remember,” beams Kapoor.
Aspiring filmmaker Desai, who has tried his hand as an assistant director for movies like Mirch (2010) and Zokkomon (2011), was so impressed by Rock On!! that he has been keen to meet Gattu, as Kapoor is fondly called, ever since. Desai is curious about how Kapoor convinced Farhan Akhtar to act. “I didn’t. I was looking for a lead actor who could also sing,” says Kapoor. “Though I had known Farhan for some time, I didn’t know he could sing. When I met him at a friend’s place, I told him about the script. He liked it and offered to produce it. We were hanging out at a studio when Farhan got his guitar and began strumming. That moment, I realised I had found my hero. It was pure luck.”
Knowing how Kapoor made a transition from acting to direction without prior experience, Desai wonders if it was tough for him to make the switch. He says, “Soon after completing a management course, I got into the film industry. I have faced rejection multiple times. People have told me I am not qualified to work in films” How did he tackle failure? Kapoor tells Desai that failure teaches us what nothing else can. “When you see success after failure, all your negative experiences start getting validated. But until you see that ray of light, it’s dark and depressing. You need to be strong and have faith in your abilities. Above all, your love for telling stories has to be unparalleled — irrespective of whether you are good or bad at it,” he says.
Kapoor recounts how back when he became a director, films ran on the success of top billed stars rather than the story. “Boss, it was difficult to make a film till you bagged a big star. Writers had no value. When I wrote my first film Aryan (2006), I got Sohail Khan to act in it because he was a friend. But I couldn’t find a heroine. Eventually, Sneha Ullal agreed. Later, the producer, who ran a telemarketing company in Bhandup, refused to put any more money in the film. I’d travel for two hours to reach his office and beg him to finish the film. This went on for two years and somehow we completed the film,” Kapoor says.
Desai asks him if things have indeed changed today. “Today writers can come up with hard-hitting stories, which are likely to get funded. It’s also because of the multiplex boom and how that has built a bank of a thinking audience. I think freshers like you have a lot of scope,” says Kapoor.
Desai nods along but points out that Kapoor’s current film Kai Po Che, an adaptation of the Chetan Bhagat The 3 Mistakes of My Life, doesn’t boast a big star cast. “Did the thought ever cross your mind that your film may not work because there are no known actors in it?” he asks. “Like I said, times have changed,” Kapoor responds.
“I was a failure in the first 14 years of my career. So failure doesn’t scare me anymore. I can always go back and rethink my way around. Newcomers should be smart about the budget of their films. You can’t spend Rs 50 crore with a new star cast. If the film is made in Rs 20 crore and it makes Rs 50 crore, you are getting a 150 per cent return on your film.”
Desai asks Kapoor about his favourite films. “In recent times, it has to be The Dark Knight. If you observe the narrative, you feel as if Christopher Nolan is talking to you. Desai asks Kapoor to share tips on filmmaking. “If you are directing or writing a film, it’s critical to maintain the consistency of every character. Otherwise, the film becomes lopsided. It’s not important to go to film school to learn direction. Watch as many films as you can, and one day your passion will have a voice of its own,” he says.