We all have a story to tell, but few of us could narrate it as entertainingly as Aditya Chopra did in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge or Imtiaz Ali in Jab We Met. Film directors are people who can transport us to another place or time — another planet, even, if the film is sci-fi — and live in it for a few hours. Or like Luc Jacquet, director of the superhit documentary March of the Penguins, they can make a remote world come close enough to touch.
Ali, 38, who helmed the recent blockbuster Love Aaj Kal, describes his journey as a “series of accidents”. It all started with him sneaking into cinemas that his family owns in Jamshedpur — Star Talkies, Jamshedpur Talkies and Karim Talkies.
However, he did not go directly from viewer to filmmaker. “I don’t have any professional education,” he says. “I did a course in advertising and marketing in Mumbai in the hope of getting a job, which I didn’t. After a year of no jobs, I joined Zee TV and worked as a delivery boy.”
He rose through the ranks, directing Purushkshetra for Zee and then Imtihaan for Star Plus.
“I was doing some press and communication work for Zee TV and then wrote the concept and subsequently the show. I then managed all the creative work and execution, so the company that was producing it asked me to do a little more and just direct it,” says Ali.
With two hits under his belt, Ali is now undeniably a success. But he does not advise aspiring filmmakers to follow his example. “I learnt about direction after becoming a director,” he says. “I pretended I knew everything and I always feared public embarrassment.
However, I did learn that you have to chart your own course. You should have the passion to tell a story and tell it the way the viewer will understand.
“For example, I used to travel a lot on trains and wonder how the person sitting opposite would be leading his life. I used to make up stories about myself, which is how Jab We Met came along.” (The opening scenes show a young millionaire making a journey on a night train to get over heartbreak.)
Most filmmakers are of the view that while one can master the technique through a film school course, the finer points can only be learnt on the sets.
Kunal Deshmukh, 27, maker of Jannat and the forthcoming Tum Mile, based on the Mumbai floods, studied advertising and then “slogged it out for some years as an assistant director”.
There are some things you cannot learn in a film school, he says. “There is the creative side, but you are also the CEO on the set. Everyone is looking to you for directions.
You have to manage so many people and resources. It is like a war situation.
“You need a lot of patience, because if the shoot starts at 9 am, you have to be there at eight. Your actor may get it right in four takes and the actress in two. You have to strike that balance… and also remember the lunch break.”
Once a film goes into production, it is the director who works the hardest. Even a film with a modest budget can take eight months to shoot and eight more to edit, dub and wrap up.
“You have to remain in that groove throughout,” says actor-turned-director Atul Agnihotri, who assisted for four years before going solo.
“There may be a long struggle before you get noticed by a production house,” says Vikram Kumar, director of 13B. “Opportunities are sparse, but once they come by, it can be a great chance. You are constantly judged, so you need to keep refreshing your work.”
Source: HT Horizons