The art of storytelling has assumed many mediums overtime but perhaps the most popular of them today is film. Filmmaking as an art form has been vivacious in its evolution. Many filmmakers have added to its development, and have created their own language of cinema. We delved into our archives to dig up what some of the filmmakers had to say about their own brand of filmmaking.
Life is often the best inspiration. There are infinite stories and experiences to create from…the good, the bad, the ugly, all of that shapes how one thinks. That informs my work as a filmmaker. I’m interested in the detail and the spice in human relationships and that’s how my first film (English Vinglish) came about; and the second film (Dear Zindagi) was about the finer nuances of life, small joys, and an inward journey.
I write with Reema Kagti and we have our own process. We don’t put pen to paper until I finally know what I’m making. I need to know where I’m beginning and where I’m ending, only then do we move forward. So that’s kind of our process, and the characters just develop along the way—I need to know roughly how I want them to start and where I’d like them to end—and then the characters just start developing a life of their own. Also, when you work with really good actors, they bring in a lot of ideas as well. They also hone the characters they are playing, so at the end of the day, the film is a co-creation.
My creative process starts always with the germ of an idea that I obsess about till it becomes a script. And then I obsess about the script till it becomes a film.
The inspiration of making the film comes from the inherent passion I have for telling stories, be it writing or directing but if I had to narrow it down further I would say I was hugely in-spired by Ang Lee, who I got to work with very closely in Life of Pi. His stories and struggles that he encountered in order to make his film inspired me greatly. And I decided that I would wait as long as it took to make my film.
My script development process is intensive, laborious and instinctive. I like to draw my writings from the characters I pick up. I interact with them extensively and engage at workshop lev-els with structural layers. This process then helps me to give shape to the script. As we conduct the shoot, I follow instincts, drama, reaction and mood. Using these, I then begin to add layers.
I’ve always been a fan of the sub-genre of drama films called reunion films, where everyone comes under the same roof usually during holiday season, and then secrets from the past start to spill out. And in Indian families, there’s no sense of privacy. Everyone walks into every-one’s room…you could be discussing the most important thing in the world and someone will just walk in. The only space that you get for yourself is the bathroom! We are accustomed to seeing glamorous locations and that’s something I wanted to go completely against through my filmmak-ing.
All art is a means to an end. For me film is an integration of all arts, and I believe that you must use it to its highest social, cultural and artistic end. And this is not so easy, unless you sensationalize an idea. The idea has to be part of your journey of realization.
I don’t want to tell an average story. But I thoroughly enjoy capturing love in its most stark, bare, naked and real form and that is invariably my central theme. I am very happy with box-office success. In fact that gives me way more pleasure than having a big star in my film. I am from a small town and I feel like I know exactly what gets the aam janta’s pulse racing. On the other hand I am also exposed to multiplex cinema, so I know and understand the expectations from this strata as well. I keep both of them in mind and I guess that’s how I manage striking a balance be-tween both worlds.
My tradition of making films comes from theatre and mainly from acting and im-provisation because I've never been a screenwriter or director, I've been an actor foremost onstage. Within acting on stage what I found the most interesting was clowning and improvisation and those were really my moments of creation. So my filmmaking tradition is to Improv.
I’m very spontaneous, I get obsessed with things. Whatever is happening in my life at that given time and moment changes the material I’m working with. I think it has always happened that way. So many people write to me telling about their life stories. Certain ideas inspire me. Incidents I read about in the newspapers inspire me. Sometimes the possibility to explore an actor inspires me.