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Maiden Over

As the biggies line up for the second half of the year, debutant directors who made the first half of 2014 enjoyable tell us how life has changed for them

Several new directors made their debut in the first half of the year. While some hit the marquee with successful films, others didn’t match up to the competition. However, these newbies had a clear run at cinemas in the first half of the year, which was devoid of big releases except for a few like Salman Khan-starrer Jai Ho and Akshay Kumar’s Holiday.

As we embark upon the second half of 2014 and the holiday season begins, smaller films make way for the box-office biggies. We take a look at the lives and careers of these first-time directors, before and after their maiden ventures.

Divya Khosla Kumar, Yaariyan

Life Before

Since I had directed many music videos, I was groomed as a director and also to handle film production. My ultimate dream was to put my creativity and vision into a film. I started working on the story and screenplay of Yaariyan with my writer Sanjeev Dutta, who did Life In A… Metro and Page 3. It took me quite a while to develop it although the casting took one and a half years. After that, I edited it on a laptop and re-edited it before starting the actual shoot. I shot it in a very Hollywood style. I had everything down on paper. Since there were so many characters, things could easily have gone haywire. But we had it organised down to the very last detail and started filming only after that.

Life After

After Yaariyan’s release, I became aware of my strengths and weaknesses, and I think one of my strengths is that I am good at making love stories. So my next film, which I am currently working on, is also a love story. Like Yaariyan, it will also be about young people. The film will go on the floors in February 2015.

Vinnil Mathew, Hasee Toh Phasee

Life Before

I have made 250 commercials in the last 12 years. Although I began my career with ad films, I have always wanted to make movies. I believe every filmmaker wants to make a feature film, to tell a larger story. I had a few scripts but everything fell in place only a year ago, when I decided to make my first feature film Hasee Toh Phasee.

Life After

I am very happy that Hasee Toh Phasee did well at the box office. I have just started writing my next script and it is a little early to talk about it. It might take a year or two to develop. I am simultaneously making ad films as well.

Umesh Bist, O Teri

Life Before

A show called Manzilein was my debut project in television. As a director, films are the logical next step. I had written a script with a friend which we called O Teri. The industry reacted very positively to it. After Salman Khan approved the script, he introduced me to Atul Agnihotri, with whom I had worked during my career in television. That’s how the film materialised.

Life After

My film got a very mixed response from the audience. And although it failed to garner collections at the box office, I people who have watched it still comment on the film.

I co-wrote the script of the Hero remake, along with Nikhil Advani. In terms of direction, I am done writing my second film, which is a love story. I will now start approaching producers and looking for a cast.

Akhilesh Jaiswal, Mastram

Life Before

I met Anurag Kashyap along with my friends, with the script of Gangs Of Wasseypur, and he agreed to direct it. Then we wrote two parts for Gangs Of Wasseypur, which changed our lives overnight. During my first film, I had worked with the Bohra brothers, so it was easy for me to approach them. When I pitched the story idea of Mastram to Ajay Rai and Sunil Bohra, they loved the idea and decided to make the film.

Life After

I am now writing my next film, which I want to direct myself. It a road trip film, but it’s too early to talk about it.

Samir Tewari, Mr Joe B Carvalho

Life Before

I started my career as a copywriter in an ad agency and then shifted my focus to television. I worked in the TV and advertising industries simultaneously. I had watched Arshad Warsi in Seher and I thought he was an underrated actor. So I approached him with a serious, dark film. I had no idea whether he would agree. I sent the script to him and, one day, he called me to say he liked it. But the film didn’t go on the floors because it was too dark and it had a lot of erotica. Then I developed another script, which didn’t take off. So we worked on yet another script, which also didn’t take off. Arshad finally said, ‘Let’s do a comedy film’ and that turned out to be Mr Joe B Carvalho. Bhola (Malviya) agreed to produce it. I have written films like Anthony Kaun Hai? and Hum Tum Aur Ghost

Life After

I’m working on my next. Wait for the announcement.

Arif Ali, Lekar Hum Deewana Dil

Life Before

My friend’s dad, Shridhar Kshirsagar, was making a television serial called Khaandaan and needed Hindi writers who could translate from English and I got the job. After that, I joined Cinevista, for which I wrote a detective show called Sanjivani and then I started producing and directing independently. I also worked with UTV as a creative director, with Vikas Bahl, who always encouraged me to write a film. When I developed the script of Lekar Hum Deewana Dil, I first sent it to Vikas Bahl, who told me I should direct it. That’s how I decided to turn to direction. If not for that, this may not have happened. I knew Dinesh Vijan from Love Aaj Kal, so I shared the idea with him and he loved it and came on board as producer.

Life After

There were many factors that might not have worked for the film. People didn’t like the story or perhaps they simply didn’t connect with the cast. The problem with my film was that people didn’t even come to cinemas to give it a chance. That means that either the promo or the music didn’t attract them. But I accept failure. Also, all eyes were on me, being Imtiaz’s brother but even Imtiaz’s first film was not a hit. He gradually started delivering hits. If the audience had watched the film and then trashed it, I would have been oaky with that.

I don’t intend to direct love stories only. I also want to direct horror and action films. Right now, I am taking it easy. I don’t know who will produce my next, whether it will be easy or not, but I know I am good at writing. That’s my strength.

Samar Sheikh, Bobby Jasoos

Life Before

I hail from Muscat, where I studied architecture. After that, I shifted to Mumbai, where I joined Yash Raj as a storyboard artist aka an illustrator, and worked in films like Fanaa, Dhoom 2, Tashan and Chak De! India. I had the idea of a female detective for a long time and shared it with Sanyukta Chawla (writer). I had told her that I wanted to direct this story some day. Sanyukta was working with Dia (Mirza) and Sahil (Sangha) on their first film, and she shared my idea with them. Dia-Sahil loved the script and agreed to produce it.

Life After

The response has been very warm and people have liked the film. But, in the end, we all look at box-office collections. In this case, the number was pretty small. However, I am satisfied that it was not a bad attempt and that people did appreciate what I had created. But I would love more people to come and watch my next film.

Devika Bhagat, One By Two

Life Before

I attended the New York Film Institute and then moved to Mumbai in 2004. I joined a film crew as an assistant director but found the job stifling. So I decided to write films. I had written for films like Manorama Six Feet Under, Bachna Ae Haseeno, Aisha, Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl, Jab Tak Hai Jaan and I, Me Aur Main. My first film, One By Two, came to me very easily because Abhay Deol approached me when he was planning to produce a film and decided to ask me to direct it.

Life After

I am currently working on my second script.

Syed Ahmed Afzal, Youngistaan

Life Before

I have a B Tech degree in Mechanical Engineering from Delhi. One day, I sent my script to a director who asked me to come to Mumbai. I have lived here ever since. I knew Jackky Bhagnani through a common friend and when I went to meet him, I narrated four ideas to him. He liked the fourth one. It was merely the germ of an idea then but he liked the concept and so did Vashuji (Bhagnani). My two co-writers and I wrote the script and we were up till 2 am, writing. We completed the first half of the first draft. I took it to them and they asked me to write the second half. We achieved that in 10 hours flat! The whole film was written in just 22.5 hours!

Life After: I am writing my next film.

Sajid (of Farhad-Sajid), Entertainment

Life Before

We hail from a middle-class family and have no relatives in the film industry. But we were smitten by the filmy bug. So, from writing lyrics, to screenplay and dialogue, we have come a long way. We are fortunate to have delivered hits in Boss, Chennai Express, Bol Bachchan, Ready, Singham, Golmaal and many more. Akshay Kumar was the first to encourage us to achieve our dream and told us to get into direction wholeheartedly. That’s how Entertainment took shape.

Life After

We have written Singham Returns, which released this week and our next directorial venture is Housefull 3. A major part of the casting is done and we will soon go on the floors.

Nitin Kakkar, Filmistaan

Life Before

My dad was a photographer and I am from Mumbai. I always wanted to get into films. I had assisted a few filmmakers in directing music videos and films. But it was a really tough journey for me. After traveling to several festivals like MAMI, the film created a lot of buzz and we decided to show it to Shyam Shroff of Shringar Films. Shyamji acquired the film immediately and asked UTV if they wanted to come on board. As much as I hate the term ‘Bollywood’, it is a brand associated with our films. This film is a tribute to our film industry.

Life After

I am very happy that after waiting for so long for my first film to release, it was worth the wait. My film has been appreciated by the audience and the industry alike. Soon after Filmistaan, Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra approached me to work on his production Mirziya. So I am all set to direct that.

Aman Sachdev, Kuku Mathur Ki Jhand Ho Gayi

Life Before

I had been working with ad films for eight to nine years and got acquainted with with Bejoy Nambiar. So when I decided to make the film, I approached Bejoy, who really liked the script and took it to Ekta Kapoor. She agreed to produce the film.

Life After

I am now taking it easy. I am shooting ad films currently and working on my next script.

Tanushri Chatterjee Basu, Purani Jeans

Life Before

I have an advertising background and, like every ad filmmaker, at some point, you want to tell a longer story. Little did I know what an excruciating journey that would be! Making a film is an entirely different ball game. Eventually, after six to seven years, I finally made the film.

Life After

It takes time to make your mark in the industry. My first film didn’t fare too well at the box office butI have started working on another script now.

Akshay Akkineni: Pizza

Life Before

I was working with Bejoy Nambiar on his film David. I have always been fascinated with technology and was interested in making a 3D film even before Pizza came along, or even before David came along. The idea was to not just enjoy watching movies but to take it to the next level, both in terms of sound and video. I wanted it to be an ‘experience’ so that people would want to watch it again and again or talk about it for years. We wanted to blend content and technology and make it a great project.

Life After

After Pizza’s release, I am writing my next film, an original unlike my first film Pizza. It is also a thriller. I haven’t pitched it to any studio yet but will do so soon.

Sai Kabir, Revolver Rani

Life Before

I was assisting Kundan Shah and I also wrote some scripts for Aziz Mirza and Saeed Mirza. I wrote films like Kismat Konnection and my take on comedy is very different. I was very fortunate to get the right producers to back my debut film. I am so glad the audience is now open to genres like these because new directors like me can get a platform.

Life After

First, I am grateful to my producers (Tishu bhai (Tigmanshu Dhulia), Rajnishbabu (Rajnish Khanuja), Nitin (Tej Ahuja) and my brother Rajiv Malhotra) for my directorial debut. I have been making films since 2010 but was unable to release any of them. Thankfully, Revolver Rani did.

Now there is a craving to achieve higher aesthetics, both in life and work. I didn’t have a story to describe this feeling until a philosopher friend narrated a story about Tulsidas… that his father tried to kill him just after Tulsidas was born because an astrologer suggested that he was unlucky for his father. Many years later, when Tulsidas learnt of this, he cried and felt so compassionate towards his father that he wrote the Ramayan. That’s called ‘good revenge’ and that’s philosophy.

I am very happily working on Divine Lovers starring Irrfaan and Kangana Ranaut. I would like to add that Revolver Rani gave me my best friend, Kangana!


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