ZA: It was quite easy for me. I used to just keep showing up and bouncing stuff off. My entire process was mainly just meetings, from the first time she came with the idea, then we spoke about it, then I read the script and we spoke about it. Then she would go and write it and come back. Then it was time to cast and she’d be, like, I like these people. She did everything.
So it was just, like, I went into the edit and, as part of the mentoring process, I would give her my feedback, or ask her certain questions, or make her think in a certain way. She would find her flaws herself. But that’s the point. It has to be her film. You can’t take over. You can’t tell her what to do. You can suggest, you can say what you feel and have a conversation. But, eventually, it has to be her essence.
BOI: Was it the same for you, Supriya with Nagesh?
SS: It was pretty much the same. I have worked with my mentor for more than 10 years and it’s, like, I know I can approach him. I used to email him drafts as he was in the US then. I used to Whatsapp him, saying ‘please read and get back.’ So, yes, it was the same thing. He used to ask me questions, like, why I wrote a particular scene the way I had. He was available to give his reviews or feedback such as does this make sense, or does that make sense? After every scripting process, we used to show the draft to them. And they would say what they felt about it.
BOI: Have you watched each other’s films?
SS: Many times. There were so many screenings. I really loved it. When I watched it for the first time, Amira wasn’t there. I watched Azad and Aamer and I really liked them.
AB: I loved her work. I was telling Zoya before she came here today. I love her as a director. Her film needs such a steady hand, and she had a very established actor in her film. That can be intimidating if you’re a debutante.
SS: When I watched Aamer… the way she has shot and used colours even in those parts of Mumbai.
PA: For a first-time director working with Sanjay Mishra, you need to have the ability to direct someone like that. In her film, she picked up the boy and made him act so well. That was fantastic. Both of them have done a fantastic job. That, I think goes to the director. And both of them have a thin storyline. There is no story, as such, but it’s done so powerfully. It shows that they’re good directors.
PR: It is very interesting for us too. It’s seven films but just one topic. It’s so amazing because each style is unique. And then you have the Zoya, Nagesh Kukunoor of tomorrow. Five years from now, you might see them sitting as mentors with their assistants!
SS: We met each other for a few months only, once or twice for the first round. Then we disappeared, did our own thing, and we tried to meet two weeks or so before MAMI. I don’t know how she felt but I had butterflies in my stomach, wondering what the other films had turned out.
AB: I had submitted my film long before all of them did, so I had sort of gotten over that feeling.
BOI: What’s your release plan?
PR: We have done a theatrical release across several cities, Bangalore, Delhi, Pune, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Kolkata, 25 screens across India. In Mumbai, we have Andheri. All the PVRs. The PVRs are partners.
PA: All PVR, Cinepolis. All the prime locations.
PR: And we have been given good timings. We are hoping to launch it on Amazon Prime Video shortly. So those are the two distribution models that we have.
PA: We are happy that a film like this has managed to break even. We have seen so many films like this that have not even released.
ZA: Usually, short films go directly to digital. Getting a theatrcial release is outstanding.
PR: Concepts like these need to be kept alive. We had amazing partners like FutureWorks, which helped us a lot in the post-production. We had plenty of constraints while delviering a project like this but it is amazing how much support we received, that too in an industry that is perceived as being unhelpful.
PA: The sounds, the DI everything. I cant thank them enough.
PR: Everyone came forward to help us. For example, Zoya, Imtiaz Ali, Sriram Raghavan were in town and went the extra mile to help us get here. Even in PR. It is imporatnt to be visible in marketing because, at the end of the day, they are new directors and people don’t know them. People who are known are giving them a platform to be seen and I think that’s important.
PA: Nagesh Kukunoor and Mira Nair were not in town but they replied immediately, every time we sent them a question.
BOI: What kind of expectations do you have from the release of the film?
PR: it’s a niche film but there is an audience for films like this. People who have watched it are all praise. And there are seven films, so there is something for everyone. We expect it to do well in the niche market that we are targeting.
ZA: Watch this film if you are the kind who is interested in watching a film beyond just entertainment. You should be inetesrted in film, you should want to be in a film, want to make movies, want to see what’s coming up.
ZA: The kind of money you need to have a theatrical release is sometimes more than the budget of the film. Posters, publicity, yeh woh, taking the prints everywhere… So a digital platform like, say, Amazon allows you to release your film and it cuts out the rest. There will be a lot more content coming out, there will be a lot more voices being heard, there will be a lot more cinema, there will be a lot more actors working, there will be more work because there won’t be any expensive propositions.
The other thing that is very enticing about the digital platform is the lack of censorship. So you can push the envelope and be completely honest. There will be more honesty and there will be more rawness. I feel it wil bring out many exciting filmmakers. The tools have changed from our time. You can make a film on your iPhone and you can upload it on the Web. I mean, it’s insane and very, very exciting.