Producers Preety Ali and Pallavi Rohatgi, mentor Zoya Akhtar along with directors Amira Bhargava and Supriya Sharma, in conversation with Team Box Office India as their film, Shor Se Shuruaat hits the screens
Box Office India (BOI): How did the project come about? Who approached whom?
Preety Ali (PA): Humara Movie did a similar project in 2014, called Shuruaat Ka Interval. We promote upcoming talent and we met more than a hundred directors in the last three years. Last time, ‘Interval’ was the subject, and then Vinay (Mishra) said, let’s release it, we did, in 2014.
Then we wanted to do it again but we couldn’t repeat what we had done two years ago. It suddenly struck me that we should take directors who have already made their mark in the industry, and let them give a chance to newcomers who they think deserve a chance.
Initially, I was afraid that these established directors would reject the idea, which is why I was very surprised when everyone I approached accepted the offer happily. In fact, we even emailed some of them, those we didn’t know, and they too agreed to come on board. So, it was all about established directors mentoring and grooming up-and-coming directors. Of course, known names always help a project.
Zoya Akhtar (ZA): I have known Preety for years, and when they told me the idea, I thought it was really exciting. It gives an opportunity to assistant directors, newcomers, to have something concrete on their reel. So this was a fantastic opportunity for young talent. Your first film is always your toughest. After that, you tend to get work if you have a spark. I think it was incredible to facilitate that. And we had to choose someone, that was also really nice. She (Amira Bhargava) has been my DA (director’s assistant) and it is amazing to make a short film at this age and get this kind of experience.
BOI: Was it an instinctive decision to mentor her and not any of your other assistants?
ZA: Yes but, also, we work in a different kind of system… I mean, my first assistant director is not Indian and is going to become a producer. Among the assistant directors, very few want to be directors. Most of them are producers, whereas the DAs, director’s assistants, want to be directors. Also, I had worked with her when she was referencing work for me. She was part of the whole process and I thought she was very bright.
BOI: What was it about her story, Aamer, that grabbed you?
ZA: I liked seeing cinematic noise through someone else’s eyes. She made a very socially relevant comment on noise pollution in our city and on how immune we are to it, without actually talking about it, without actually saying we live in a noisy city. It is only when you see it from this perspective that you suddenly realise that it’s scary. I found that really interesting.
Amira Bhargava (AB): We were editing an ad film and she was already in touch with Preety. One day, she just looked up and said to me, ‘Do you want to make a short film?’ I said yes, without giving it a second thought. I had no idea what it was, I just said yes. Imagine being asked that by someone you have always looked up to, someone you have always admired, and then they offer you this opportunity. So I grabbed it without knowing what I was about to get into.
When she gave me the details, it was such an exciting project because I also had a friend who was directing for this film. Also, it is exciting to be part of a project that has people who are at the same stage of their careers as you are. It is less risky because you are not the only one.
Pallavi Rohatgi (PR): The interesting thing is that Mira Nair, who was mentoring Rahul Chittella, said that Zoya had been her intern and now, Zoya has Amira. It is such a small world.
ZA: Yes, my first film job was with Mira.
Supriya Sharma (SS): Yes, it was pretty much the same. I got a call from Nagesh and he asked me if I wanted to make a film. I said, ‘Yes of course!’ Then, he forwarded me the email that they had sent him and I got in touch with them.
PA: When we thought of this film, we had prepared a list of directors. We thought if these directors don’t say yes, then we would have to approach the next list of directors.
ZA: It was like casting for a film. (Laughs)
PA: Yes, it was.
PR: But everybody jumped on board.