As Krishna Bhatt gets set to turn director with a web series, father Vikram Bhatt speaks from the heart
In a week you are going to be directing your first ever story in the form of a web original. A story is a story regardless of what platform you choose. I imagine very often that in centuries to come people will watch our content material, like we watch the cave paintings, and figure how our world used to be. And yet don’t let that word “posterity” bother you too much, for after all we are entertainers and not historians.
I remember I was fourteen when my father gave in to my desire of wanting to be filmmaker and ferried me along to meet M ahe sh Bhatt. I can never forget the question Mahesh Bhatt asked me that day. ‘Why would you want this thankless misery, Vikram?’ he posed. I had no idea why he called filmmaki ng a thankless misery but as the years went by, and I have been here for thirty-five years now, I realised what he meant. It is not misery, as one understand s misery, but the misery of continuously grappling with changing circumstances and attitudes around you. However, it is what I call job profile and every job has a unique one.
I was wondering what gift I might give you from one filmmaker to another, on the eve of your big step, and I recognise that I only have my limited insights of this business to share with you. I would very much like to bundle them and give them to you. These may not be your truths and I urge you to not be coloured by mine, but should my truths be of any use to you I would consider my journey to be of some u se after all.
Firstly, remember, filmmaking is the business of entertainment. People come to us to be entertained. People don’t come to us for education, moral science classes or civic lessons. Don’t talk down to people or claim to know more than them. We really don’t know more than them. We just have a skill that is all.
So, don’t listen to people who say you have a responsibility to do this or that. You are only responsible for good, fun entertainment. You may regale some and of fend others at times. That is the business. You will never be able to please everyone in any case. Don’t even try. There will be some people who will never like your work. Don’t work hard to win them over, for you will find that a pointless exercise. Work hard on the ones who already like your work or show the willingness to like it.
There will be some who will call you a product of nepotism and run you down. Don’t try to pretend that you are not. You are the product of nepotism and that is fine. I have worked hard all my life so that you have it easier than me. If someone rue s that, too bad! Screw this game of fairness. Nothing is fair. But nepotism will only give an opportunity and not success. Success depends on talent and not opportunity. There are scores of examples of nepotism in this place that have failed, some even after more than one chance at it, so remember it’s only your talent that will get you by in the final analysis.
The toughest thing you will face is criticism. Everyone knows what you should do and what is right for your story and that is the quirky thing about entertainment, so don’t take it seriously. On professional critics, know that like you and me, they get paid to do a job. Their job is to more often than not dislike stuff more than like it. If they like everything it makes for boring reading. The fun i n any reading is disagreements, and that i s what critic s are paid to do, to disagree. But remember if you take them seriously when they praise you the n you will have to take them seriously when they bash you. They will control you by applauding you and control you by denying you applause. Don’t fall for that trap!
On that note, know that there will be other elite clubs and lists as well, that will do quite the same thing. There will be awards and power lists and elite societies; they will make you yearn to be a part of that elite club. These are just clubs of the successful. Know that, in the entertainment business, success in nothing but delayed failure. Fail you will. And when you fail these clubs will oust you. Join these clubs at your own risk and if you do become a part of them, please know that you are in transit. Don’t move in bag and baggage, just take your over-nighter!
There will be times when you will want to prove yoursel f to the trade or your peers. When you would want to prove to them how good you are. Don’t! They really don’t care about you. H ere is the golden rule for any fi lmmaker, make films for the people who pa y to watch you r films. Don’t listen to anyone who does not pay for it, and has no investment in you or your work. Take it with a pinch of salt.
Stories, storie s and only stories work and nothing else works in the business. No stardom, no marketing, no praying and no gimmicks. L ike Elia K azan said, “The audiences are like blood hounds. They smell a good story miles away. You cannot fool them.”
Try new stories. You may fail and that is okay. Don’t be scared to fail. With time this place will make you fear failure, but don’t fear it. Dare! It’s better to fail at trying something new than succeeding at the same thi ng, for one day suddenly the cheese will move and you will fi nd yourself out-dated and irrelevant, if you dish out the same stuf f. This ha s happe ned to many unfortunate filmmake rs. Stay current. Stay innovative.
Most importantly have fun.
You will make frie nd s on a fi lm or a project and more often than not these friends will dri ft away when the project is over. Don’t misunderstand them. This is the nature of the business. They are just busy doing some other things, that is all. They are not selfi sh.
R emember that people don’t want to be mean to you, be nasty or ignore you for that matter. People are not against you. P eople are just for themselves. In an industry where success is rare, people are ju st tryin g to pick the winning side for their ow n survival. Don’t fault them for it. You will find actors, moneybags and some techies doing this all the time. L earn to respect them for their choice of not wanting to work with you.
Try to an swer calls and return call s when you can. Don’t humiliate people by not answe ring their calls. There will surely be a person who will not answer your calls and when that happens save that feeling in your memory and never dish it out to someone else. Unless of course you have a stalker!
Love your crew. They will love you back. Try not to hurt anyone, especially the one who needs a job bad and has to take your insults quietly. That would be a bigger failure than the failing of your film.
I have seen some great filmmakers who are terrible human beings. P lease don’t be that filmmaker, my darling.
Lastly, m y love, don’t get caught up in this hall of fame business. Everything fades with time. H owever successful you are toda y, there will be a time when you will be forgotten. So live life to the fulle st. Don’t go through life struggling and dealing with heartache just to be remembe red forever. Forever is today. Prepare to wrap your fame and fortune with you when you leave this place. Immortality through your work will happen if it has to. Don’t try to seduce immortality, she is a trick y customer.
I love you…