Within the inner circles, the Hrithik Roshan-led Agneepath is being increasingly looked at as Karan Johar’s Rs 50 crore “gift” to first-time director Karan Malhotra. Apparently,
Karan was so impressed with first his work as assistant in My Name is Khan and then his idea of remaking Agneepath that he offered his namesake a film of his own within months. Karan Malhotra is just one of the many new talents which are exploding on to the Bollywood horizon. Around 30 new directors made their debut last year and in 2012, more enterprising new names are bracing for their tryst with first-time success. Shakun Batra is another debutant from the Karan Johar camp whose upcoming rom-com Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu stars Imran Khan and Kareena Kapoor. When Shakun wrote his script, it wasn’t tough to get it through Karan who was immediately drawn to produce it.
“Earlier, getting Karan Johar to produce your film would have been virtually unthinkable. But avenues are opening up today and if you have talent, there’s no dearth of work,” asserts Shakun, Delhi-based son of a businessman with no film connection. Those following the movies would know that Karan has time and again expressed his eagerness to fund films for new directors. “He’s definitely encouraging and a very liberal producer to work with. Come on, how many people have faith in newcomers?” queries Karan Malhotra.
Karan is just the tip of the iceberg. Yash Raj has launched many new names in recent years, including Sanjay Gadhvi, Vijay Krishna Acharya and Maneesh Sharma and their quest for new talent has resulted in the creation of Y-Films. Aamir Khan has been instrumental in launching Kiran Rao, Amole Gupte, Abhinay Deo and Anusha Rizvi. Mahesh Bhatt has always played godfather to the young ‘uns. To add further, Farhan Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Rohan Sippy, all filmmakers of different temperament and vision, are encouraging new directors and giving them a break within their fold. Anurag, in fact, is on record to say that he doesn’t want new directors to struggle the way he did, explaining his decision to launch Bejoy Nambiar with Shaitan and now, Ribhu Dasgupta with the upcoming Michael.
Calling Anurag the “backbone” of Michael, a psychological drama set in Kolkata, Ribhu observes, “Lately, a lot of films have worked which are content-driven and made by new directors. That gives big producers a reason to at least hear out new ideas. We didn’t have this choice before.”
A boy from Raigad who escaped home for further studies, Rajesh Mapuskar says a decade ago someone like him (with no “godfather”) wouldn’t have even dreamt of making a film. He’s an associate of Raju Hirani and all set to release his first film, Ferrari Ki Sawaari which has the backing of Vidhu Vinod Chopra. No less.
He laughs, “I remember, once we were having dinner at Raju’s place and Vinod asked me, ‘So, what are you going to do now?’ I said, ‘Make a film.’ And he heard the script, and we worked on it for a while and all along there was an unspoken gesture that he will produce it. Isn’t it unreal that you have Vinod not only producing your film but doing so unconditionally, as a friendly commitment? If it’s not a dream, tell me what it is.”
When London-based Anu Menon, armed only with a critically-acclaimed short film, came to Mumbai knocking for work, she didn’t have to struggle. She met Goldie Behl who agreed to finance her first project, London Paris New York, a coming-of-age story set in the three cities mentioned in its title. Anu believes this change has been dictated largely by commerce. “Newcomers have come and totally changed the language of films. The segmentation of markets with the rise of multiplexes has definitely made all kinds of films possible. Today, one can have his film released alongside legendary directors on whom one grew up. Everything is possible.”
Adds director Vishal Mahadkar who’s being launched by Mahesh Bhatt in the thriller Blood Money: “This has cut down the struggle phase—if you have a story, you can go straight to the producer. It really depends on how good your producer is. For instance, Bhatt saab has been so accommodating and didn’t interfere at all in my work.”
Most believe such opportunities will only swell in the future. “More doors are opening up and this is certainly the most exciting time to experiment. This combination of experienced producers and young directors will continue to work because it combines instinctive commercial knowledge with new ideas,” ends Anu.