At Shoojit Sircar’s office, there is a commode shaped wall clock reminding you of his last, quirky film, Piku. Now, as he dons the producer’s hat for his upcoming film Pink, he tweets:
It's so unfortunate that filmmaking as an art form, needs so much money.. Any art form should not be burdened...
— Shoojit Sircar (@ShoojitSircar) September 8, 2016
His words resonate with the times in the Indian film industry when big film studios like Disney and Balaji’s film division, are reportedly shutting down operations. Ahead of Pink's release, Firstpost indulges in a candid conversation with Sircar, on this very "burden of art forms", on Pink, Amitabh Bachchan and much more.
The trailor of Pink is very disturbing and different. But then, each of your movies is different from the previous one.
Yes, that’s true. Its not deliberate, I naturally choose stories that have affected me, inspired me. It takes a lot of emotional turmoil: the storytelling and the craft. My inspiration is who I collaborate with. My hero is always the writer. Ritesh Shah, the writer of Pink, has done a great job.
So as a producer this time were you involved hands-on?
I was creatively, completely in charge of it. I collaborated with the story team, I went location hunting, I did acting training with the actors. A film is bigger than everyone else and is a collaborative setup where everyone has the right to pitch in. Am happy that the director (Anirrudha Roy Chowdhury) didn’t mind my interference
What made you take up the project as a producer?
Aniruddha had approached me and wanted to make a Bengali film, but I thought it’s a very important subject for the national audience so I suggested a Hindi one and placed it in Delhi. When you see Taapsee in this role, you will find that I have taken you to Shakti Nagar, where you have met this girl.
The way you did with Piku?
Yes, it was landing the audience in the middle of the drawing room. I have done the same thing in Pink. I have landed the audience in the middle of a court.
So Delhi features again in your film?
I have lived in Delhi for 20 years, I know the people, the characters, the language. You have seen Lajpat Nagar and Daryaganj etc. in my previous films but this time you will see a dark Delhi.
How far did you go into the darker treatment of the subject?
When the censors saw it, they were so moved, they were shell-shocked. I don’t titillate with goriness, I don’t make it dark for the sake of it. I work in a minimalistic form. My cast felt the gravity of the film, that’s why all the girls look so genuine in the trailor.
You recently tweeted about art being burdened. What made you say that?
Ever since I have been making films, all I want is an ideal situation. Someone tells me ‘Shoojit, you keep making your films, we will take care of your family’ . But no other art form involves this kind of money to simply express yourself.
The success of the film in France is judged not by the monetary returns but the number of footfalls. My films are unconventional which studios will not understand, so it becomes difficult.
Why do you feel that studios will not understand?
My first few films were rejected by studios even after Vicky Donor. They came to me quite late. They have to trust a director. A film is a director’s medium. You cannot make a film trusting an actor. That’s why things go wrong. At the end of the day its an art form, how can you make it commercial?
What caused Disney to shut down, in your opinion?
That is extremely unfortunate. They will have to introspect what’ s gone wrong. Recently I read a report — ‘an insider’s truth’, which is so true. Your success of the film depends on the cost of production. We are burdening the films too much. The studio possibly had wrong people. You need the right people for the right job. Film is about heart, film is about instinct, film is about trusting the director, film is not about calculations. Nobody has a formula. Who will take that call? You need someone with a vision.
Where do you think this takes the Indian industry?
Indian industry will stay. If I have control over creative, I have control over costs also. That’s going to happen. Individual producers and productions houses have to be trusted for their expertise.
Being a creative person, how do you view marketing a film?
I am not a marketing guy. My team keeps pulling me. This marketing budget is so obnoxiously wrong. There is more money spent on it than the film. My job is to make and show the trailer. You talk about the film and the content. Why do gimmicks?
So did the need for marketing bring about Bachchan’s letter to his granddaughters?
Yes. Since he was part of Pink, he was affected by it. If he can talk to many granddaughters, why not?
You have worked with Mr. Bachchan in 3 films. What’s your observation of him, over the years?
Our trust has increased. I have always believed in a healthy working relationship. Actually, since my first meeting with him 10 years back and now, there is no change. He is as respectful, he gives the director as much importance.
You must understand, he has 47 years of experience. You cannot just go to him and talk just like that. He will look through you. In one look, he will understand, "beta kiske liye aaye ho, samajh mein aa raha hai". I have never taken undue advantage of him.
What did you tell Bachchan when pitching Pink? Apparently, he agreed in 5 minutes.
He says, it was not 5 minutes, it was 3 minutes. (laughs). I was not sure if he would do it. I told him, ‘sir I am doing this film; I would like you to be a part of it. The film is about 3 girls what happens one night, there is a lawyer who gets involved’. He just agreed. I was shocked. He must have heard thousands of scripts, he simply senses it.
He can see the depth; where we are coming from. He is like a 12 year old boy who holds his script like a toy and does not want to let it go. He would bother me, call me at 2 a.m. and for 20 minutes he would tell me how what he wants to do a scene and I would just listen to him. (smiles)
Pink releases this Friday on 16 September.