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“When you over-commercialise something, it doesn’t work”

Coming from a marketing background, Saurabh Verma is ready with his first directorial release Mickey Virus. The director talks about how he decided to merge commerce and creativity in his first film

From Marketing To Direction

The filmmaking business is like a pyramid, where you have the writer on top, followed by the director and the consumer at the bottom. From a consumer’s point of view, there’s cinema exhibition and above that, film production. Then there is distribution and above that the person making the film. The journey actually begins with the person who writes the story; then the person who makes a film; then distribution; and finally, it reaches the consumer. I came from the bottom of the pyramid, where I was a consumer. Then I joined the cinema business and worked with Reliance for a very long time in the production department.

That made me realise that there was a huge gap between the content-maker and the consumer. I realised that filmmakers were working on the basis of myths and perceptions. Many producers assume that if you add three item songs to a film, the film will sell to the Bihar audience. Since I had launched films in many cities, it became much easier for me to understand the audience. That’s how I started writing and pitching scripts to studios.

On Mickey Virus

The studio liked the script and I started making the film. Never in my wildest dreams had I envisioned myself as a director. I was more of a commerce guy and filmmaking is an extreme creative process. I studied the art of filmmaking in all its detail while I was working with directors and producers, and thought I would give the art of story-telling a shot. We’ll find out whether I have succeeded or not on October 25, when Mickey Virus releases.

I came up with a story that focuses on the street-smart youth of today and placed it in a context that was funny. I travelled to Delhi as I wanted to contrast two generations… the old generation who used to travel by bus and who was very practical and the new generation who is obsessed with their iPad. Then I found Manish Paul who fit the bill perfectly.

Challenges I Faced

There is no set formula to make a film, so the biggest challenge for me was to delete the excel sheet from my mind and open a drawing book. Everyone suggested that I make a film two hours long and add an item song. But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt is that when you over-commercialise something, it doesn’t work even if you have A-listers acting in your film. So I had to find a balance between commerce and creativity. I also had to keep my film from going over-budget but did not compromise on creativity. Switching from my commercial side to the creative side was my biggest challenge. I had to learn more ‘don’ts’ rather than ‘dos’. My commercial background stood me in good stead.

Target Audience

I have made a film that doesn’t cater to a specific audience like the youth. I want it to draw in the family audience. I am a believer in the Yash Raj Film school. If the family comes in, the youth is an added advantage. It’s a fun story with twist and turns.

Future Plans

I love being a director so much that I would love to keep making films. I already have a few ideas. I am aware that one’s career largely depends on one’s first film. So, if Mickey Virus works, my second project, which is about a superhero, will happen.

Response So Far

I have received a favourable response from the trailer. When I wrote the script, I targeted 500 screens. But distributors tell me it can go to 900 screens. When 70 per cent of people give you the same response, you know it’s the truth. But that doesn’t mean you ignore the remaining 30 per cent of the audience.

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