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“I learnt that a film never fails, its budget does”

Where most people struggle to find a toehold in this industry, Karan Butani had it relatively easy. After graduating from Whistling Woods International (WWI) in 2009,  he began assisting director Tigmanshu Dhulia. Now, he is currently thrilled to be working on his first feature film.


I always knew I wanted to become a filmmaker so I enrolled with Whistling Woods International (WWI) for a filmmaking course. It helped me understand the art of filmmaking and the technical aspects of becoming a filmmaker.

Turning Point

In my final year, I made a film which was appreciated by Rakesh Ranjan, Head of Department, who was a reputed sound designer. He said Tigmanshu Dhulia was looking for an assistant and thought I was suited for the job. Since I had finished my course, I joined Dhulia as an assistant director on Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster. That was the turning point of my career – getting a chance to assist someone who is an institution in himself. I had also worked in the post-production of Paan Singh Tomar but Saheb Biwi… was my first film as an assistant.

On Tigmanshu Dhulia

Since we worked together, we developed a father-son bond. I knew I had come to the right place to learn. I also learnt how the industry works and the mindsets of people. He introduced me to the realities of life.

Dhulia has a formidable journey, from assisting Shekhar Kapur to writing for Rajkumar Santoshi; struggling to release films like Haasil, to making a film like Paan Singh Tomar. He shared all his experiences with me and told me not to repeat the mistakes he made.

He helped me realise two things. One, a film never fails; it’s the budget that fails. Hence, it is critical for a director to understand the budget. Second, he helped me understand that the script is always king that it is the content of the film that matters most.

On this industry

I got to do my first feature film quite early. I graduated in 2009 and my first feature film is releasing in 2013. I had this script with me when I graduated from WWI and had approached many producers who refused to support me. Later, after I worked with Dhulia, those same producers came back to me, saying they were prepared to produce my film.

On his film

I didn’t struggle to get a break but I struggled to make this film. It’s a love story based in the Chambal valley featuring Jimmy Sheirgill and Shriya Saran in lead roles. My film is yet untitled and is being produced by Vidisha Productions and Shailesh Singh, who became a great support for me. Sheirgill too stood firmly by me. There was a point when I couldn’t find someone to play one of the roles, and Shergill said he would play that character and I shouldn’t focus on finding the actors for the rest of the roles. How many people do that? Finally my film is ready and we plan to release it by the end of this year after Bullett Raja.

On shooting in Chambal

Shooting for the film was as difficult as it could get. We shot the film in Beehad in the Chambal, which is still home to many dacoits. The police refused to provide security after sundown and that was a challenge.

Future Projects

I am writing another script for the same production house. But, unlike the first one, this one is based in Mumbai. It is very different from my first film.

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