Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota director on mentor Anurag Kashyap's mantra and how it helped him make his second film
Vasan Bala represents the indie story in Hindi cinema. Peddlers, his first film as director, won praise at the Cannes Critics Week and Toronto International Film Festival in 2012. Although, it never got a commercial release here in India. Six years on, having written and assisted on films like Bombay Velvet, Raman Raghav 2.0 and Gulaal, Bala is ready with his second feature, Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota. Made with an almost entirely new team of actors and technicians, the film travels to TIFF 2018 for a premiere.
But its making has come with its struggles and challenges — pretty much home ground for indie filmmakers. Bala and Prerna Saigal, the film’s editor, became parents before the film got made. Bala recalls, “Prerna, my wife and the film’s editor had to be admitted to the hospital on 14 May, 2017. Saiba, my daughter, was on her way. There was a narration lined up for a financer that very morning. Prerna said, 'Don't worry. Go for the narration, Saiba will come out only when I come back.' Prerna has seen my struggle to make a film since Peddlers (2012) and she really wanted me to grab any opportunity. I don't know what I was thinking, what I was even feeling, I was numb and hazy. Mid-way through the narration, Abhilasha — who is the costume designer on the film — messaged me: 'It's happening.' I left the narration. I was sure the financer was relieved too as he seemed really bored. Fatherhood is the best thing to have happened to anyone. Saiba has grown up with the film. The pre-production, the shooting and with her mother editing the film with her on the lap and sometimes feeding; Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota is a special film.”
From its trailer, Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota looks small, but funky and promising. An indie in character, RSVP, Ronnie Screwvala’s company, has replaced the bored financier and produced the film. “As a belief and as an ideology, I would call my film an indie but it is 100 percent studio funded. RSVP will do the distribution and release. They are empowering varied voices across genres, picking up films that don’t really fall into any studio template. Ronnie Screwvala is of an extremely fierce and independent mind, and that encourages us to be the same,” Bala says.
The film stars newcomer Abhimanyu Dassani and Radhika Madan in lead roles, both having waited patiently for Bala’s project to fall in place. “Abhimanyu and Radhika breathed life into Surya and Supri and stood by me for 2 years, through those years of unpredictability around the film. They could have done other things and maybe not wait. They would have been right in doing that. Sometimes during the delays (I had spoken to them about the film in 2016) and uncertainty, I would secretly wish they come to me and say they have got better films. They stood by me and they stood by the film. I am touched by their belief in me…. They, along with Gulshan Devaiah, have literally given their sweat, blood, broken bones and torn ligaments to this film (sic).”
Not having stars has not deterred RSVP from backing Bala’s action flick. The director has drawn inspiration from his VHS movie viewing days to make this small, quirky entertainer about a young man that has a rare disorder that makes him feel no pain. So he sets out to learn martial arts and hunt down muggers. He credits RSVP for taking the lead on backing new ideas and cinematic voices. “Ankur Khanna (who is like a brother to me), and the film’s associate producer put blind and utter faith in my project…sometimes in life, you don't really need people to advise and give gyaan, sometimes you just need people to say, 'Don't worry, you are amazing'. Ankur will keeping doing that till you lose all self-doubt… RSVP has a very healthy and strong culture of associate producer and filmmaker dynamics. While making Dev D, I have seen Anurag Kashyap and Vikas Bahl (then with UTV) share an us-against-the-world dynamic. The associate producers (of RSVP) are out there, hearing everyone and doing everything that they can to bring and empower new voices. I hope to keep making films there forever.”
Mahesh Manjrekar, Loveleen Mishra and Jimit Trivedi bring in their experience in key character parts. But most technicians in the film are relatively new, which was a conscious decision by Bala to keep costs low. That’s a mantra that his mentor Anurag Kashyap taught him early. “Keeping costs low was the first rule of filmmaking that Anurag Kashyap set (for his team). Your stories, your ideas, your dreams, guard them, don't sell out, be fiercely protective about them but keep costs low. Keeping costs low can be creative and liberating and not restrictive and straight-jacketed as one might feel. The best solutions come out of it. There is respect to the art and commerce and everyone is on with their A-Game on the set….. Believe in discovering talent in all fields. DoPs, music directors, actors, sound designers, art, action, editing…..costs can only be lowered if you as a filmmaker take 100% responsibility of the delivery of all departments….If a filmmaker can't spot raw, unproven talent then it'll be difficult to make any film within a particular cost. Especially ideas like this. On paper it won't say Rs 100 cr or Rs 300 cr, on paper it can only say unpredictable, fresh and exciting and 'unpredictable' can be anything. The opportunity needs to be respected and with that, the cost. And I lucked out with an incredible team, not just talented but good, nice people.”
Bala’s success in putting together Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota against all odds, is a reflection that the time for the indie film has slowly but surely arrived. Streaming has a big part to play in this. And with RSVP adapting a future first approach to Hindi films, hopefully unique voices like Bala’s won’t always have to wait in the wings before they can make a typical Hindi film.
Updated Date: Aug 27, 2018 16:14 PM