Sneha Shetty on being Rohit Shetty's Chief AD and discovering her own directorial voice through music videos
Sneha Shetty has been Rohit Shetty's Chief Assistant Director but also credited with directing music videos like 'Naagin,' 'Hermosa,' and 'Ankahee.'
Rohit Shetty's cinema may come across as a man's world. Given his films like the Golmaal franchise and the extended cop universe are dominated by larger-than-life men like Singham (Ajay Devgn), Simmba (Ranveer Singh), and the upcoming Sooryavanshi (Akshay Kumar), Shetty has often been criticised for the lack of feminine energy in his films.
Of course, there are exceptions like Chennai Express (Deepika Padukone), Dilwale (Kajol), and Golmaal Again (Tabu and Parineeti Chopra), but the larger impression remains the same. But there is one female force in his direction team, who has been making waves slowly and surely, and leaving her imprint on both his cinema and work of her own.
Sneha Shetty started her stint in Rohit Shetty's team as the last Assistant Director (AD) over 10 years ago in his 2009 comedy All The Best: The Fun Begins. "I was in charge of things like clapping and costumes then. Gradually, I went on to become the Chief AD. My first project in that capacity was Chennai Express (2013). Since then, I've held the same position at Rohit Shetty Picturez," says Sneha, in an exclusive interview.
Below are excerpts from an interaction with the aspiring filmmaker.
How has your journey with Rohit been so far?
The journey has been amazing for me. What I've learnt is beyond my imagination. I'm grateful to have a mentor like him. When you join his institution, he doesn't treat you as a junior. He nourishes your vision, and teaches you how to go about things. There's no first, second, third AD over here. He asks each one of us, "Achhi lagi film? Nahi lagi toh kya achha laga?" (Did you like the film? If not, what did you not like about it?). He makes you feel very important. There's no senior-junior hierarchy. It's a human-to-human talk.
Now that you have turned a director, what have you picked up from him as a filmmaker?
The one thing I've learnt from him is consistency in your work, and never take things for granted. He has always taught me to think out of the box, and beyond. For my vision to get clear, he supported me a lot.
How did you get your first project, a music video called 'Ankahee' by Sona Mohapatra?
I had some break between my films. I was lucky to get an offer at that time. I just listened to the song, and pitched how I visualised it. The label liked it, and so we went ahead. It was all very smooth, and happened quite quickly.
While the Rohit Shetty Extended Universe is dominated by men, the three music videos you have done so far ('Ankahee,' 'Naagin,' and 'Hermosa') are full of women (Sona, Aastha Gill, and Akasa). Why are you more drawn towards women personally?
Honestly, I didn't plan anything. I'm really lucky to get the best of both the worlds. I really love Aastha and Akasa. They're so talented, and very beautiful on screen. Men are crazy about them. I'd say the same for the actors I've worked with. I haven't taken any decision to work with only women. I'm just going with the flow.
After you discovered your directorial voice, how has your growth been as a filmmaker?
When I directed my first music video, I didn't realise I didn't know so much. If you see the three videos visually, you may think they have been directed by three different people. I'm luck I've got to work with three strong women who are very different from each other. I've learnt so much from them while directing them. There's always an artistic exchange between the director and the artist. Sona is such a senior person. For her to trust my vision was so special.
In practical terms, what did you learn from the first music video?
I think my left brain was completely off till then. I was high on creativity and emotion. I didn't think about logistics at all. I learnt how to switch on both sides of my brain in all my music videos. Logistics and creativity must go hand in hand. For example, in 'Naagin,' I couldn't just have concentrated on the two women in the front. I also need to take care of all the back dancers. I know how many I'd want, how many costume changes they need to have, what the shift timings of technicians should be, how many cameras to have, all these minor details are very crucial. I've also learnt to take care of them from Rohit bhai. Visually, my videos have only gone bigger from the last one. I hope I go even bigger with the next one. Let's hope!
Can you walk me through your creative process as a director of music videos?
I listen to the song when I workout. That's the time my brain is at the optimum. Later, I write down all the visuals that came in my mind. I would write the shot breakdown and chain up everything. My crucial points are the beginning and the ending of the musical video. And artists like Sona, Aastha, and Akasa give you so much in the moment. For example, Aastha and Akasa looked so hot on the car and the bike. And Sona looked so good in the truck. So I kept those shots. But I go planned. I don't take anything for granted.
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