QUEEN’S ROAD:It is the season of awards in the Hindi film industry and it isn’t often that small films get their own share of confetti and applause on podiums reserved for glistening blockbusters. But director and actor Rajat Kapoor and the Ankhon Dekhi team were taken by surprise when their little film with a big heart garnered eight nominations at the 2015 Screen Awards. Kapoor, who has a special bond with Bengaluru and Ranga Shankara where he has staged many of his plays, spoke to City Express about the experience.
“Well, yes, we were surprised that Ankhon Dekhi was nominated in eight categories because normally these awards are pretty filmy, where only box office success and big stars are recognised...so, the initial reaction was one of shock. The award function was like they all are -- badly written, boring and loud! However, Ankhon Dekhi won the award for Best Story. Seema Pahwa won in the Best Supporting Actress category and the film also won another award for Best Ensemble Cast. The team was pretty thrilled.”
This felt like an acknowledgement from the industry that a film was made last year and deserved to be noticed. “That was kind of nice,” Kapoor concedes.
For decades now, he has been quietly pushing creative boundaries as an actor and director. Between travelling the world with his much loved plays like Hamlet-The Clown Prince and Nothing Like Lear, he crafts clutter breaking films like Ankhon Dekhi that also won a nod for Best Film at the Annual ImagineIndia Film Festival in Madrid.
For Kapoor, a Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) graduate, cinema and theatre are nothing more than opportunities to tell stories, though via different creative devices. Yes, it is never easy to make independent films but as Kapoor has said often, “I have been determined to make only those films that allow me complete freedom. So, each film of mine has my signature on it. If there are failures, those are also mine. I cannot blame the producers butting in and changing my brilliant plans, no!”
He recently shared the script of Ankhon Dekhi with his online followers who have watched the film’s journey right from inception to fruition on Facebook and Twitter. The film despite its modest release is acquiring a cult status, proving that cinema can connect with an audience even beyond the confines of cinema halls.
Says Kapoor, “After so much appreciation for the film, so much love.. there were many people who were curious about the process of writing, and filming- and wondered how much of it was improvised and how much was written. So I thought, it would be nice to share the script with these enthusiastic people. I am a strong one for sharing the process of creation- even demystifying it. One does it a lot in workshops, or lectures. Another example of this was the fact that we shot all the rehearsals of my play Nothing Like Lear and edited 40 days of rehearsal process, made five minute videos of each day- to share them online. I enjoy this process of laying it bare.”
Would he like to see the democratisation of content sharing in cinema?
He responds, “Oh yes, for sure. I even invite people to come watch rehearsals -- or the shoot, or the edit. I think an artistic creation is too much in a mythical space. There are no secrets about creating art. There is just a work process and each one finds their own process. The best I can do is to share my process. Maybe somebody else will learn something from it, or get inspired.’’
Kapoor is a prolific writer and jumps from plays to film scripts like an acrobat but he also believes that writing flows only when you allow an idea to mature. He smiles, “I have realised that ideas live within me for a long time. Ankhon Dekhi took about five years. You see sometimes the idea is there- but you don’t know how to say it, where to set it. And you keep going back to it- thinking about it, going a step further. But all this is still in your head, not on paper. You are doing this while you are writing other scripts. And then... boom, one day, in your dream, while you are driving, or during some other mundane activity, it hits you. The setting. Then you have it all. After that moment, I start writing. I finish a draft in 12 to 20 days. The setting up of a deadline works for me- and I manage to finish it...”
So is that first draft perfect always? He says, “It is just a first draft and I offer it to a few friends to read. They take me seriously and almost always they murder it. Based on their feedback and inputs, I go for a second draft- and then again, after a few months, I write a third one. After this, the script is ready to be shared with producers and others. Of course it would change again when we shoot it, and again when we come to edit it- but that is another story, another process.”
What would he say to those who want to write for films but don’t know where to start? He says, “Start writing. The most difficult thing about writing is the discipline. One must get in the habit of sitting at the desk ‘trying to write’. Everything else will follow.” He has finished three scripts after Ankhon Dekhi and says, “let’s see which one gets made first. They are all very different from each other and I do want to make all three over the next three years. There are promises from financiers, producers but you don’t believe anything till it is actually shot.”