Starting his career in the movies as an assistant to Sanjay Leela Bhansali was nothing short of attending a "film school", says Vikramaditya Motwane, crediting the master filmmaker for teaching him the art of being spontaneous on set.
Motwane, the director of unique cinematic titles such as "Udaan", "Lootera", "Bhavesh Joshi" and web series "Jubilee", worked with Bhansali on his early films such as "Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam" and "Devdas".
During 'The Art of Getting Started' session at The Himalayan Film Festival (THFF) on Monday, the 46-year-old filmmaker described Bhansali as "an all-prep person".
"So, prep and to be spontaneous on set. What I've learned from him is planning, in terms of whether writing it or shot breakdowns. Also music sittings, how to work background score..." Motwane said.
Bhansali, also known for "Black", "Bajirao Mastani" and "Padmaavat", throws you in the deep end, he added.
"He would say, 'I want a rough mix of my film with birds for day and crickets for night'... You are a little like a deer in the headlights in the beginning and then you're like I'm going to figure this out. All that learning was fun. It's like going to a film school... (He said) the only place you'll learn is next to the camera. It's priceless advice," Motwane said.
What he also learnt from Bhansali was how a director never stops thinking about his film.
"You wake up every morning thinking about how you can change something that is bothering you. How do you execute a scene. It's an obsession. It can become a bit unhealthy after a point but you have to know when to stop and switch off," he said.
To not get lost in the process, Motwane said he likes to juggle between many projects in different capacities.
"What I like to do now is not just work on one thing at the same time but a couple of things. It helps you switch away from what you're doing in that moment, whether it's writing something else or editing." In a fun anecdote, the 46-year-old said when he got married in 2005 to photographer Ishika Mohan Motwane, he had asked for a video camera as a wedding gift from his in-laws.
"They first looked at me as if I was a little (crazy) like 'who asks for a video camera?'. But the best gift ever because all the years between getting married... when I thought I was ready to make my film till I actually made my first film 'Udaan' in 2009. Those four years, I would shoot friend's weddings. A cousin of mine went racing in Coimbatore and Chennai, I was following him with a camera," he said.
His OTT series "Jubilee", the two episodes of which were screened at THFF earlier today, also had an interesting journey.
"Jubilee" was greenlit by Amazon Studio for its streamer Prime Video in 2016, a week after Netflix gave a thumbs-up to "Sacred Games", Motwane said.
"It's a good problem to have but Aparna Purohit (head of India Originals, Prime Video) didn't talk to me for a couple of years. In 2019, when we released season two of 'Sacred Games', Aparna asks 'Now, done? Can we start?'" he recalled.
He started preparing for "Jubilee" in 2019 and then the COVID-19 pandemic struck the next year. The period drama show made its debut on Prime Video in April this year.
Motwane advised young filmmakers to get the audience back in the theatres by making "genre films".
"You can get the audience back in the theatres but aim for genres like action, comedy, horror. Aim for these visually interesting things that people are going to be excited to go and see in the theatre. Creating excitement for a movie in a theatre is paramount at this moment," he said.
The filmmaker believes Vasan Bala, known for critical gems such as "Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota" and "Monica O My Darling", working with Alia Bhatt for the upcoming film "Jigra" is a "sweet spot" between independent and mainstream cinema.
"You have an A-list star doing what is going to look like a very cool genre action film which is going to be a treat for the cinematic audience," he added.
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