IN THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR
Oct 25 2013
What is that irresistible desire that turns technicians into storytellers?
At the Mumbai International Film Festival (MAMI) held in 2012, one film that caught the attention of the viewers was a low-budget Argentinian thriller From Tuesday to Tuesday. It was the debut of Gustavo Trivino who has been a steadycam operator for 16 years till he decided to wield the baton. Speaking of his experience as a debutant director at the festival, he admitted that it was only after he had started making the film did he have a complete grasp over the entire filmmaking process; in all his years as an operating cameraman, he was ignorant of the bigger picture as envisioned by his directors.
That irresistible desire to tell a story and share it with millions of viewers is a call that a lot of technicians and actors working in the industry secretly cherish in their hearts, bidding their times to break into maddening activity. For some, like the Argentinian cameraman, the wait could be long and the process humbling. For others like Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt, it is a creative choice that they couldn’t do without very early in their careers, as they felt that it’s only their presence — both in front and back of the camera — that could do justice to their creative efforts. For Aparna Sen, it was a natural shift from being an actress in immensely forgettable Bengali films to a director of international sensibilities.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that there is a storyteller in every technician who works in the industry, including the spot boy who could drive an assistant director crazy with his insistence on narrating his ideas. Most lack the basic fundamentals of the craft and the persistence it takes to chase their dreams, beset by pecuniary problems that work as a major hindrance. But there are others who, if the circumstances are favourable, and there is that proverbial ‘fire in the belly’ — make the switch.
Rajkumar Hirani and Sanjay Leela Bhansali, like David Dhawan before them are qualified editors from FTII who decided to quit their practice and make films. Shimit Amin has been a New York-based editor before he decided to join Ram Gopal Verma in India, so inspired was he by his cinema. Govind Nihalani and Goutam Ghosh have been successful camerapersons before they felt the need to tell their own stories. Santosh Sivan successfully shuttles between being a cameraperson and a director.
At a screenplay writing conference held in Mumbai few years ago, Abbas Tyrewala, writer of successful films like Munnabhai MBBS and Maqbool drove home the point quite succinctly when it came to writers turning into filmmakers. There are three kinds of writers, he explained — writers who just want to write, writers who have failed in other professions (mostly acting) and ‘writers in transition’ who are waiting to break into filmmaking. He himself debuted with a delectable Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na soon after.
Anees Bazmi, maker of such commercially successful films such as Ready, Welcome, Singh is Kinng and the indie guru Anurag Kashyap are, perhaps, the most successful examples of switch from full time writers to directors. Atul Sabharwal, who debuted with his action thriller Aurangzeb or Habib Faisal, whose second venture Ishaqzaade created quite an impression, are more recent examples.
But, perhaps, the most unique switch is Vishal Bharadwaj; from being a successful music director with an edge, to a full-fledged director exploring the Indian hinterland in all its local flavours, is a rare event. It’s only the eccentric genius Kishore Kumar who had dabbled in every department of filmmaking with varying success way back in the 60s.
In Mumbaiya Hindi they call it keera, meaning insect, whose bite generates this overpowering desire to tell stories. Or is it the primal urge to leave your stamp on time so that posterity remembers you forever, because nobody remembers a technician?