Once upon a time in Wonderland, lived a dork and a rimmed spectacle beast infatuated by the Cinderella beauty who oozed charm and sensuality. He waited for the day to seduce with chocolate, red roses, and mushy card to win her heart. The testosterone level rose higher and the body temperature level soared feverishly. He was convinced it was his chance to go for the kill. Valentine Day lurked closer to shuffle his card and play smart, believing that the beauty will bite the bait.
He waited for one whole year to propose and after all, don’t they say flower fragrance makes us loyal lovers. The euphoria died and the beauty slipped away from his hand. The flowers, chocolates, and heart-shaped card sashayed its way on Insta, Facebook, and Twitter. The male gaze counts the petal while the female heart longs for the prince charming riding high on the horse to steal her away. Our missed hero’s dreams went into tatters.
Luv shuv slipping behind the imaginary bed sheet and the mind became an enemy on the world’s Valentine Day. All roses sold like hot pancakes and no country too big to run away from lovers recovering from amnesia. Suddenly, we were in love with Valentine’s love toast and notes pe charcha poster boy, Nirav Modi who swept us off our feet and suddenly disappearing into the hole. Our Nirav Baba is the toast of the season, running away with the crores to make our Valentine yaadgar. We have just recovered from Valentine as if some bird flu made a silly comeback and offering company between the legs. Oops! Whose legs are shaved this Valentine Day and the priceless gift of Vaseline cream becoming balm to our broken hearts? Who has got this crazy idea of forking apna sapna money money to make a hole in the pocket…naughty mind I said pocket hole not some other hole! Nobody does Valentine like this Nirav man who has nicely got away with all the crores while we emptied our dime and cents to woo lady Valentine. He is the new teddy bear in town. Ever ready to give Nirav Modi a bear hug selfie to post on social media with Happy Valentine and professing love ke liye kuch bhi karega!
Our beast is nursing his misfortune. He could have impersonated this Modi chap to win over his beauty. She could have found him sensitive. So what he is ugly! After all, she could have been the valentine in exchange for crores. No lover is cheap, after all. They could have sung the duet, mein ladki Po Po Tu Ladka Po Po doing a velfie dance on Facebook. Inspiring love! What say!
Valentine Day is all about hope and kicks in the bum to send aspiring lovers’ adrenaline rushing on spotting a tiny estrogen. Wait! Chai per charcha! Mann ki baat! Hell! No Valentine pe Charcha! Our PM could have turned into love guru and all mitrons making a beeline, listening to his speech on how to seduce on Valentine Day and demonetize love. So many love stories would be churned by cross-dressing and cross legging a la Baba Ramdev in splitting position. The various sex asanas on V-Day would make unfortunate and ugly duckling like us sip the solo wine and wait for her to pull back the streaky hair with a smile and invite us to heavenly bliss. Why should women have all the fun on V-Day while we men can show our cleanly shaven legs wearing the RSS Khaki shorts, parading our assets in the name of love and flowers?
Now, I badly need a date after being women dutch for years! Single just doesn’t pay. I am really believing in God Valentine now for sending Priya Varrier’s viral teasing smile to win over my heart. Valentine Day has reignited hope in my heart. If Priya Varrier’s winks can, why can’t I? Valentine is over. Sniff! Sniff! Now delete all those mushy smooches, kiss in the air, declaration of love for Sunny Leone is passe and our Priya (tamma) Varrier is in. Never ever underestimate a Valentine smile, I tell you. Almost died of diabetes on Valentine with so much sugary love spread all over the place like Naan butter quenching my hunger for love. A matter of wink, Modi, and Valentine pe Charcha after all. I hate Valentine Day! No promise me Shiv Sena, Karni Sena and Bajrang Dal you won’t break my legs for I am no lass.
I am lazing around. Sitting still and idle is very therapeutic. There is no compulsion of doing the running around, working round the clock, preparing interviews and pitch for the client’s deadline or scribbling in the agenda diary. Life is a race, we are often told. Every day is sheer madness in running against time and obsessively trying to wrap up things for work never ends. We are caught in a seamless and entangled web where the adage, ‘Tomorrow never comes’ holds true for us.
The pressure is relieved today and a choice to take things easy. We all need this one day in life. This week, there were two public holidays, one on Tuesday for Maha Shivratree and today, Spring festival. I worked on Tuesday from home, sorting the client’s weekly newsletter and reading cum gathering for the corporate’s magazine where the deadline is fast approaching. At times, I don’t know where to put the head and choose to give myself an off today. We all need to slow down to figure things out.
At times, I wonder what social media is turning us into, the over obsessive who doesn’t shy in posting selfies every nano-second and showering our Valentine love going all over the place. The world just went gaga, crazy and weird to an irritating level on Valentine Day. It irked me to see so much of love splaying like virus in the atmosphere. It’s such a fake world we live in and we wouldn’t leave our smartphones to check notifications. It makes me wonder about the definition of happy individuals or healthy couples needing social media validation. I am also guilty of constantly checking notifications on the phone and high time to do some soul-searching, albeit cutting the phone chord momentarily.
What has happened to genuine human bonding and interaction where we would pick up the phone to call our loved ones? Zilch! One can count on the fingers the number of times we actually indulge in quality conversation with real people rather than being enslaved to gadgets or a life controlled with the daily stress of work which is stripping us of our real emotions. I feel that every week, we must choose a day to be with ourselves, chucking out the pressure of doing better than the self or the world, learning to take things easy and not doing anything. Just be with the self in a state of awareness. Breathe fresh air and meditate.
I connected with a friend on WhatsApp just now, R who was a classmate at Fergusson College and speaking after a decade-plus which feels like crisp and beautiful memories. We both agreed. At times, I am amazed how technology ushered in our lives and there was a time when we would send messages on SMS and nothing on earth would lead us to believe that one day, something like WhatsApp would make us connect again. The college friends are bliss and pure blessing for me and can’t even imagine life without the people who played such an incredible part in making me who I am today. I love such surprises for there is a hidden meaning that the extraordinary will soon unfurl. Hidden surprises have always been part of my life.
Now that what one calls a fulfilling and productive day in life without doing anything. I started reading Rishi Kapoor’s Khullam Khulla and like the book’s title suggest with the tagline uncensored or the initial pages, no stone or controversies would be left untouched right from personal things into his childhood days or his father, the iconic Raj Kapoor Sahab. It makes for a spicy read on the brash kid that he was and the book is a candid take on the lives of the Kapoor or the biggest showman’s offscreen romance with Vijayantimala and Nargis.
The weather been very hot today and sweated it out by doing 30 minutes of yoga to keep one healthy and fit. Yoga has brought me closer to my inner self and bringing so much peace, harmony and tranquility.
Shall be back to the grind tomorrow. I know it’s a Saturday but there is work that needs to be fleshed out and appointment sorted out before hitting the road in full gear next week. Time to accelerate things since I really hate the last minute rush that puts so much pressure on the head. I shall come with a fresh episode for Pune Memoirs super soon.
At a time when we should be celebrating the achievements of women in society who battle against all odds in both urban India or rural countryside, it is a human tragedy that we are nurturing prejudices on something as natural as menstruation. Women cutting across social class face enormous discrimination when it comes to periods on the part of so-called learned religious scholars, families or obsolete patriarchal norms that reingineer guilt and shame to a unique human biological aspect.
R Balki’s Padman not only carries a powerful message to chuck out all prejudices about menstruation but also seek to educate the masses that there is no shame, guilt or ostracization for women to go through this cycle and in using sanitary pads. The film surprisingly starts at a slow pace but more than the narrative, it is the inherently strong message sent by the maker and the lead actors which successfully makes the cut. In short, the real star in Padman is the message conveyed to flush out social ostracization in celebrating a woman in her unique firm which makes the film a winner.
There is no denying the fact that in stark villages and even cities for that matter, women going through menstruation suffers a huge deal of discrimination and are regarded as dirty. Akshay Kumar plays the real-life hero, Arunachalam Muruganantham the man credited for making low-cost sanitary pads for women and quite surprisingly, the star underplays himself in this natural act and at no point, he tries to rise above the script. He slips easily into the role of the village bumpkin and large-hearted man with utmost ease shining in several scenes, helmed expertly by R Balki. As Lakshmikant Chauhan, Akshay Kumar portrays a sensitive man who loves his wife Gayatri dearly but is also sensitive to the cause of women.
I have always believed that among the young crop of actors, Radhika Apte is one of the finest we have in the Indian film industry and as Gayatri, she is simply terrific playing the conservative ‘village belle’ who is ashamed to use a healthy pad at the cost of her health because ‘auraton ke liye sabse badi beemari hai sharam.’ As Gayatri, Radhika lends credence to the character and dons the submissive, naive women to perfection who has one argument to thwart her husband’s effort, ‘You don’t interfere in women’s matters.’ Given that she has relatively few scenes in the movie, Radhika holds her own forte and sparkles in several emotional scenes and particularly the ones where she breaks down.
Sonam Kapoor makes an entry post-interval where she plays the modern, chic and urban Delhi girl with perfection injecting freshness in the film. She simply owns every frame in donning a character so close to what she probably is in real life and does full justice to it. Sonam gets the best lines and gives a fitting reply to Akshay Kumar in every scene. It’s her best performance after the hard-hitting and memorable Neerja. So many of us will be fida over Sonam.
Stand out scenes:
There are several stand out scenes in Padman, particularly the ones where Akshay Kumar speaking in an accent-laden with broken English during the UN speech in America or the instance when he explains the sanitary pad machine to visitors through both sign language and broken English. Secondly, the scene where he wears a pink female underwear, a risk that very few actors with his superstar status would be willing to take and attaching an animal blood pouch, not only touches hearts but packs a punch.
The romance between Akshay Kumar and Sonam Kapoor was unnecessary and hard to imagine someone of the calibre of R. Balki to indulge in such a cliche. It is not only forced but works against the film’s spirit. Of course, there are several moments in the narration which is slow and tedious, particularly the start and post interval moments that make the flick, at times, look like a documentary.
R. Balki’s Padman is an honest effort in portraying the sensitive issue of menstrual health and tackling shame or nurtured prejudices that women are subject to in our society. The director has successfully pulled all strings together in weaving the thought-provoking message, beautifully marrying reality and mass entertainment as well as extracting brilliant performances from its lead cast. Of course, the maker pays a fitting tribute to Amitabh Bachchan in the cameo where he not only plays himself but lends dignity and charm. The megastar is debonair personified. The cameo fits beautifully with the film’s theme. Padman is a must watch and should be lauded as a very honest effort in creating awareness, educate and break the taboo on this sensitive issue that afflicts women.
The song Garam Chaha is a unique concept, conceptualized by singer Aashish Vilekar and award-winning filmmaker Sankalp Meshram who speaks to us about what went behind the scenes into the making of the video. Sung by Aashish Vilekar and Shruti Bhave, directed by Sankalp Meshram, Garam Chahe is a Marathi song produced by Audumbar Arts and released by Zee Marathi which has been garnering rave reviews since its release. Welcome to the duo Aashish Vilekar and Sankalp Meshram giving us a peek on what went behind the scenes during the making of the video.
Freshly minted tea leaves and brewed flavor not only offers a ubiquitous feeling to beat the Mumbai blues, albeit India but to wade through the sweltering heat. Chai or Garam Chaha in Maharashtra is eponymous with emotions and identity for the masses. It equates minimalist with maximalist, a juxtaposition of tea and emotions. So Mumbai, so India! To constantly live on the edge and bearing a contrasting simplicity to quench our emotional thirst with tea. Just imagine for one day that our quest for Garam Chaha is relegated to dreams and ruins of the past where our favorite beverage would mysteriously flicker in the air. Can you imagine tea or Chaha to go out of our lives?
Tea is simply banned from our lives. Yes! You read it well. It’s the message behind the Marathi song ‘Garam Chaha’ produced by Audumbar Arts and released by Zee Marathi, beautifully crooned by the multi-faceted Aashish Vilekar and talented Shruti Bhave, languishing on the dearth of tea in our lives. The video has been shot aesthetically by the award-winning editor and director, Sankalp Meshram.
Today, we feature on the blog the duo behind the making of Garam Chaha Aashish Vilekar who lent his voice and director Sankalp Meshram, two creative souls bound by mutual admiration, having a long creative association but also started their career at more or less the same time.
As its name implies, Garam Chaha swept through the vistas of Indian cities and showcases a concept tapping into the pulse of middle-class India. Aashish Vilekar terms the concept behind Garam Chaha as simple and multi-layered at the same time. “It is the ignition and inspiration we all need for it represents a slice into the life of middle-class India. It is the moment we soothe, share and breathe free over a cup of tea. Chaha is the commoner’s drink which inspires us, the artists, a perfect, simple and sweet companion. A taste that inspires the promise of a release which is not catharsis but a creation,” he says.
Music became the calling card of Aashish Vilekar not by pure accident but laden with deep symbolism. He narrates: “One early winter morning in 1983 was the first time a beautiful pattern of melody and verses was heard and I found myself humming simultaneously from within while sipping my favorite tea. The time my inner voice gently stroke touched the soul that I can compose a song. Time has flitted but I continue to compose songs and pen the lyrics for them.”
Award-winning editor and director Sankalp Meshram who won several national and international awards as well as being a visiting faculty at Whistling Woods International reveals that the making of the concept was initially planned to revolve around a simple story telling the tale of a group of art students who are out on a day trip doing landscaping painting led by their professor that would be played by Aashish Vilekar.
He explains: “The concept was about students somehow finding it difficult to get tea on their way, feeling listless and uninspired without India’s favorite beverage. It wasn’t a bad idea on paper but I felt that something wasn’t clicking. Somehow, the idea was incomplete for we know that in India, there is no dearth of tea.”
Brainstorming with the self and the FTII alumni asked himself, how realistically anyone would accept the premise of being unable to get tea. The director shared how the creative team doggedly kept working earnestly on the idea, planning the shoot and shot division before going for the final kill.
“We were a fortnight into the project and suddenly during the dead of the night at 1 a.m, this totally crazy idea flashed inside my brain. The kids couldn’t get any tea to drink for the simple reason that it was banned in the country!!!”
The big idea struck Meshram like the big bang theory perhaps. “I called Aashish ( Vilekar) at 1.30 a.m to share this idea and poor guy was so groggy at first but it didn’t take him long to understand the new angle. He was ready to incorporate the same,” he says. The director makes no bone about his admiration and perks of working with Aashish Vilekar, saying, “It’s one of the greatest payoffs for Aashish is very sharp at grasping a new idea and has the courage to fly with it. It’s his conviction which allowed the song to become what it is today. We were both kicked off with this idea and convinced that it would arm Garam Chaha with a strong narrative that we were looking for.”
For Meshram, the idea germinated beautifully on two counts. Firstly, it solved the problem of realism to give their story the correct futuristic and dystopic background, allowing the fantasy plot to become believable. Secondly, the song lingered on the contemporary and garnered the excitement. He says, “The concept became a slight comment at the season of narrow-minded politics where various ‘Bans’ became order of the day. We showed through the song that in some absurd Kafkaesque way that drinking tea has been banned. The music video portrays a day in the life of this art professor taking the kids on a study tour and just cannot find a single drop of tea. Or, perhaps, he imagines everything.”
Garam Chaha is touted as the comeback song of Aashish Vilekar after almost a year. Aashish defines the concept which is a sort of rebellion brewing with a dash of sweetness and Kadak that has seeped into the life of every Mumbaikar coupled with the song giving a feel of vibrant Maharashtra’s culture.
“Love alone is the most rebellious thing on this planet. I strongly oppose the idea of ‘Rebellion means being loud’ and it may be seen through the lens of scholars cum intellectuals. In my book, love can be sweet and kadak at the same time.”
Both Aashish Vilekar and Sankalp Meshram profess an undiluted admiration for each other and a friendship that has been going strong for more than 25 years where they started their journey together from Nagpur. It wouldn’t be wrong to call it a collaborative friendship that evokes awe and admiration at the same time looking at their career highs. The director harks back to those days, “From Nagpur, Aashish (Vilekar) went into art, music, and poetry while I ventured into films. Our friendship went through the ups and downs but we were able to churn some brilliantly creative collaborations and case in point is Aashish along with Shailesh Dane composed the music for my feature film, ‘Chutkan Ki Mahabharat’. The film bagged the National Award for Best Children’s Film in 2005 where Aashish penned all the songs and since then, following this brilliant, multifaceted career where he always keeps me in the loop about what he’s being up to.”
Garam Chaha first happened to Sankalp Meshram when one day his close friend Aashish Vilekar dropped to his house. “He casually played this new song that he has just recorded which captured my attention with the wonderfully catchy tune and soulful lyrics. I was simply blown away. I conveyed the same to him. When Aashish told me that there are plans for a music video, I told him that the song has seamless creative possibilities and I would be happy to assist him in any way I could.”
Meshram shares the grapevines: “There was a certain hesitation on his part in asking me to work with him in a direct professional capacity since he correctly guessed that I would busy with my mainstream assignments. The only thing that he requested to me was to look at the editing aspect of the music video and to offer my inputs on the same. I felt a strong connection to the song and acceded to his request on the spot.”
The idea of Sankalp Meshram filming the video happened during the rough edit which Aashish Vilekar did with his ‘very promising bunch of JJ college kids.’ Meshram who lauded the wonderful editing and shoot by the JJ School of Arts students said that along with his friend, they felt something was amiss, the story and a certain narrative idea that should be embedded in the song. “We agreed that the work requires some re-thinking and reshooting. I vividly remember that the decision to direct the video was an impulsive one and thankfully Aashish immediately agreed to my request. I also told him that Garam Chaha was a kick ass song which calls for an equally Kickass video. I cannot thank him enough for giving me the opportunity to work on this wonderful song that captures the senses. That’s how Garam Chaha happened to me,” Meshram tells.
Audumbar Arts’ Garam Chaha is garnering a terrific response from listeners and viewers alike which leads to Aashish Vilekar sharing some behind the scenes anecdotes. Firstly, he says, the song took birth while traveling through the serene hills of Sahyadri Mountain where he has this peculiar habit of humming words and composing a tune the same time that he writes.
“During the shoot, it dawned upon me that I was entering into the zone of abstracts as a painter where my narration may not show figuratively as a previously painted canvas but was turning more sensory”, Vilekar adds. Secondly, the all-rounder artist who wears several hats says that there is a transition in his own style which stayed with him for years coupled with transitions which are likely to be sensorial and simplistic.
On future projects on the anvil in both arts and music, he says, “The transition may create a newer possibility in the structure of my composition and painting, something which offers an aesthetic pleasure to both youth and maturity can give birth to something new.”
The medium of shooting a music video can differ from other genres such as feature and ad films where Meshram gives a first-hand account. He explains that the main distinction of shooting music or a playback sound lies in the fact that the source of one’s visual imagination is the soundtrack.
“The soundtrack is your master here which fits the context of visuals serving the master. As you allow yourself to respond to it, the soundtrack must be able to replicate images inside the head is the video that you visualize. Music can set fire to our brains which gets totally crazy coupled with weird imagery starting to pop up. The reason why music videos are cradle and laboratory for experimental film-making. There is a tremendous creative license to go berserk in music videos.”
The opposite was done while shooting for Garam Chaha where the makers didn’t allow themselves to go crazy. The visual style was restricted pretty much to a realistic grammar of visual treatment where the story unfolded in a proper linear time following the laws of cause and effect cum oriented spatiotemporal progression, Meshram explains.
He says: “It was a deliberate strategy as we were already dealing with a pretty absurd idea-something as benign as tea banned. I didn’t want the song to be visually absurd or crazy since there was a need to make our bizarre proposition not only accepted by everyone but believable at the same time. Straight-faced realism was the key for us to open up the black humor embedded in the song.”
Sound and crisp editing have always played an important role in film-making where many argued that being an editor is a stepping stone to become a director one day. Meshram says: “Everyone who attempted to make films knows that it’s during the editing that a film gets to be actually made. Having said this, one needs to understand that shooting a frame is a film-maker’s unpredictable contact with reality and sometimes the latter bends to our wishes while on other occasions, we have to bend. Everything is very unpredictable. A dose of reality has got its own way to surprise the best of us. The material which is recorded the time the image is acquired is filled with the mercurial nature of reality itself. All films are re-written and re-designed on the editing table. Editing is film-making.”
At the same time, he emphasizes on an important aspect implying that unless the director has understood the vast possibilities of its work during the shoot through enough ingredients, magic will not automatically happen.
“Without an iota of doubt, a deep and technical knowledge of editing really helps to hone their skills as a better director,” Meshram shares.
Aashish Vilekar is an all-rounder and versatile artist who has lent his voice to beautifully rendered Ghazals such as Ghar to Aakhir Ghar Hota Hai and the award-winning children movie, Chutkan ki Mahabharat’. Certainly, there is a force that makes him loaf the creative road and a force that drives him towards the creative pursuit. He says with a tinge of humility, “Frankly speaking, I am lesser known and the credit mentioned are negligible yet during the span of years, I have dedicated myself to the musical journey, something which keeps me going from strength-strength.
Aashish Vilekar says that he has kept away from the arc light but that didn’t deter him from being forever active with his creations and churning music, at times for others, like it was the case with the albums by Times Music and fountain. Being an advertising professional, he contributed 1800 plus radio commercials which serves as an incredible feat and a staggering record. A career milestone was reached, he says when Sankalp Meshram asked him to compose for his children’s film, ‘Chutkan ki Mahabharat’, a feeling that he cannot express in words. “Doing music for a full-length film is a tough task and that too for kids who are the most unpredictable lot. Sankalp had the inner faith in me and there was no way out but to prove to a friend who always supported and encouraged me. One thing that I love about him is how he puts a twist in the tale like in the story of Garam Chaha which was his idea. Sankalp has put his magical touch after seeing the rushes in the first shot that fired his imagination since he has always told how much he loved the song. That’s how Garam Chaha happened,” he says.
“The time I was away from singing was something I sorely missed because it was my mother’s gift to me and I know that she is watching me somewhere. I must keep this promise,” Vilekar says.
Aashish Vilekar career is filled with incredible achievement not just as a painter, poet, singer, lyricist or musician but also the fact that he is the Head of Photography at JJ School of Applied Arts in Mumbai. His paintings are often showcased at the Jehangir Art Gallery but he says with a whiff of humility that it’s all about his inner nature and whittles down to him being the creation of God. He explains, “I carefully observe myself with a critical eye so that my creations are not trapped in trends and influences.”
He rues the unfortunate trends and fashion-phobic mentality which is a real tragedy and a dampener to encourage artists in India. There is a dire need to give a shot in the arms to popularize art. Vilekar explains, “All platforms are crowded and the need to garner TRPs have become more important than the genuine promotion of artists. The sad fact is that people are most interested in sales. How can we promote art and create an artistically cultured society? There are platforms but to produce a song or painting calls for financial support and in the context or circumstance, a good melody may die before reaching its audience. A lofty thought expressed through the creative medium such as painting may never see the light of the day,” he explains.
Society is ever evolving and we are at the crossroad. Arts and music make the perfect blend offering sensory pleasure but this mixture must be understood properly for us to be able to achieve virtually art expression and give birth to better creations in future, Vilekar argues.
The need for aesthetic expression to revolutionize our thoughts and ring change is emboldened by the words of the art connoisseur. “Contrary to the perfect blend of art, demonstrative painting on live raga or music performance can be a gimmick and a shallow way of interacting between the two forms of arts. It’s not the interpretation of the text in another language but it is the way we think, understand, appreciate and react to weave pure art.”
He says, “Music is a catalyst in doing painting. Similarly, music and colors are catalysts to give shape to a song. Aesthetic experience is a mental blend and physical incarnation. The aesthetic experience that I express is bound to transcend from my own work of art to entertain and enthrall the audience’s allegory experience.”
Garam Chaha echoes a revolution which needs not be violent and the same thought is echoed in the appreciation of arts as a form of expression where the artist reiterates, “There are beautiful possibilities around us to alter orthodox concepts, patterns, and cliché thinking. Art is such a beautiful ambassador of peaceful pleasant revolutions,” Vilekar emphasizes.
Tushar Tawde is a risk-taker who dares to follow his dreams as an independent director and calls everyday a challenge but fun at the same time.
Today, we feature on the blog, the multi-talented and award-winning director of Ad films, short films and assistant director who worked for leading brands such as Rajshri Productions, Tushar Tawde. The director recently bagged the Digital Crest Award for his digital film on UTI Mutual Fund, ‘Take on Tax’ and was recently exclusively selected for Kyoto Filmmakers Lab 2017 in Kyoto, Japan. Tushar shares his success story, challenges and dreams as a director in the Indian film industry. You can check his incredible work on his website here.
Beyond the over-popularized and huckster world of glamour and films, there are innumerable tales of survivals connecting the dots. In today’s times, films are undergoing a turbulent wave of change. In India, where web TV is gaining momentum, we also see the churning of meaningful content that has gained the upper hand in mainstream cinema. We live in a country where there is no dearth of talent zooming into the cut-and-thrust world of Lights, Camera, Action!
Tushar Tawde is one such young talent in Mumbai. An emerging film-maker, he has dabbled in various genres and roles, right from being an Assistant Director to directing short films, corporate flicks and ads. With his digital film for UTI Mutual Fund, ‘Take on Tax’, he also bagged the coveted Digital Crest Award. Brimming with ideas, he recently won laurels at the Kyoto Film Lab 2010. The upcoming talent in the film industry narrates his story, laden with fire in his belly towards achieving his dreams.
Embarking on a journey that’s distinct from the world of conventional engineering or medicine, he confesses that the path he set upon wasn’t clear initially. “After I cleared my junior college in Science, my parents wanted me to pursue engineering, but I chose arts to buy time to understand my priorities. There was no clear-cut answer,” Tushar says.
He landed his first job as a faculty, teaching Adobe software. One thing led to the other when he discovered editing or rather the art of story-telling. His first attempt at a short film never got edited and he humbly admits that he didn’t do a great job canning it. “I joined a film-making course at the University of Mumbai and gravitated towards my life’s goal of making it as a director,” he explains.
Now, film-making and the world of shootings can be intimidating for someone armed with dreams at such an early age. Tushar started with an internship on a TV serial and the first day itself made him lost on the vast sets filled with huge equipment. He hobnobbed on Day One itself with established TV names. There was no way he would understand the craft instantly but the people around guided him into the world. But his biggest learning experience came on his first film as an assistant director, where he brushed shoulders with Marathi stalwarts like Nandu Madhav and Satish Tare. The film which never saw the light of the day was directed by the late Yashwant Ingavale, a man he calls his Guru.
He rues, “Unfortunately, the film never hit the theatres but I can tell you that it was a great film.”
From a happy-go-lucky dude, Tushar slowly learned the intricacies of making it big on his own, which he describes as the most difficult phase in life. He found himself assisting different directors to understand the craft and art of filmmaking. He says, “I have a house in Mumbai but mostly lived outside, where I sacrificed no less than an industry struggler.” Things started to fall into place when he joined a production house to direct corporate films and yet, he was wary of getting stuck in a rut. “After those years, I finally mustered the courage to do things on my own as a freelancer and to make commercials with some beautiful people. Now, every single day is a challenge and fun.”
The young filmmaker boasts of a rich career graph in seven years with more than 100 short films, 50 corporates and 200 + Food webisodes to his credit.
“In the entire process, be it short films, corporate or film episodes, the difference lies between the budget and target audience. Every story demands its own budget and each one of them has its limitations in terms of equipment hired. So, it’s paramount to understand the needs and available resources at hand to make the film,” he unravels. “But above all, your story must stand out. If you lack the creative nerve to tell a good story, no matter how advanced your equipment is, the narration will lose its sheen and will not be good enough.”
Talking about some of his professional highs, Tushar says: “The UTI Mutual Fund ad film, ‘Take on Tax’ was directed by me as part of an amazing campaign with iCOntract and Good Fellas Studio. It won the Digital Crest Award. The moment our names were announced, we were on cloud nine, for all our efforts finally paid off.”
“The 100 Day Challenge is also very close to me, in which I made 100 films in 100 days. Throughout this project, there was no money factor involved,” he shares.
The scripts were written in such a way that production costs would be less or even zero. The biggest support system while making these films came from friends,” he lets the cat out of the bag.
The moment of reckoning arguably came when Tushar was selected for the Kyoto Filmmakers Lab 2017, where he was roped in as Director for Toei team in Japan. It came as a career milestone that recognized his talent as a filmmaker. He narrates his experience, “I shot a three-minute short film with the Japanese actors and crew at the legendary Toei Studio in Kyoto, where filmmakers across the globe were selected and split into two teams. The entire crew was lent the support of major film studios in Japan- Sochiku Studio and Toei Studio.”
“It’s been a great learning experience. Time is valued on Japanese shows and every single minute delay is accounted for”, he says. “From guided access to Samurai costumes, martial art trainers, swordplay and art direction, everything was in place and minutest attention was paid to detail -and perfection.”
Tushar couldn’t hide his awe at the professionalism prevailing in the way films are shot in Japan. “We were given scripts set in the Edo period and unwavering support to translate them on celluloid in the very same setups where the great masters of Japanese cinema worked.” Looking back at his journey so far, Tushar says thoughtfully, “You never know where the next filmmaker will emerge. Today, the person who has a story and appropriate funds can go ahead to make a film or set the release date. The sprouting of various websites, which help makers to pool funds and pitch a story worth narrating, is encouraging. It is empowering when a filmmaker like him can afford to worry less about finding traditional producers.”
In an industry driven by camps and known names, what role does a brand play in the career of a young filmmaker? Tushar sees it as helpful to start with or being associated with a leading brand as it instils confidence among potential producers “At the end of the day, it’s the quality of the film which matters the most but a brand definitely helps one to gain a foothold and first impression,” he says.
Tushar also believes that web series are here to stay and will give tough competition to traditional TV shows, but at the same time, the latter won’t be extinct as many are arguing. “Digital content will be on par with TV as far as viewership is concerned. It will set the stage for film-makers like me in opening an unchartered medium to explore. Nobody can tell you what to make. There is only a moral sense for us to decide on censorship, which, I guess, is working right now for us. It gets difficult to enter the TV arena being ruled by our established seniors but digital remains our turf since no one except the viewers can claim to rule its content,” he quips. The year 2017 belonged not just to meaningful cinema but also proved that regional films like Sairat, can set the cash registers ringing. The young gun says: “It’s not easy to defeat Hindi cinema but regional cinema has come up with beautiful concepts to win hearts. There is no denying the fact that regional cinema will not only survive but thrive in the ongoing process of making content-driven films. There is also a tectonic shift in this direction by the Hindi film industry. The applause for Newton is proof that content-driven films will work, no matter the medium or language,” the thinking director says.
In some of his short films, Tushar donned the mantle of both the director and actor, Bossturds being a case in point. “Acting in films was never a motive. In fact, I acted in my films since I couldn’t rope in artists for free. I would love to work with actors who can do justice to the roles,” he smiles.
When asked to offer an advice to aspirant filmmakers, Tushar says with a laugh, “I am myself a young aspirant filmmaker. At the same time, I understand that I have been able to survive in the industry by making good content. My only advice is to students coming with the notion of making lots of easy money. Be prepared for the unknown and, like they say, expect the unexpected.”
Making a feature film in the near future is the only logical step. Like many, Tushar has always nurtured such a dream right from the start, but at the same time, there is a difference that separates him from the crowd. “I am not in a hurry. I firmly believe that when I am ready with the perfect script, my sub-conscious mind will push me towards that goal. Writing preoccupies my life a lot. The entire process of writing and re-writing scripts, then scrapping them altogether is what I do all the time. The day when I’m not able to scrap the script is when I know I have to make the film,” Tushar says.
Hard work and perseverance can be said to define the film journey of Tushar Tawde. Waiting for the young film-maker to direct his feature film on celluloid, aren’t we?
PS: The interview wouldn’t have been possible without the invaluable inputs and help at the editing table from my dear friend Meghna Dutta.
Cast: Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh, Shahid Kapur, Jim Sarbh, Aditi Roa Hydari, Raza Murad, Anupriya Goenka and Aayam Mehta
Rating: Four stars
Now, that the unfortunate hooplah surrounding Padmaavat with an i is behind us and the raging debate on whether history has been distorted or not has been put to rest, we can all breathe. Movies depict various forms of artistic expression, prose or poetry in motion, entertainment, education or a narration taking us on an experimental spree. I call Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the master of opulence and extravaganza. Pandits have discussed at length on the magnum opus Padmaavat(i), at times questioning the movie’s logic laden with open letters or contrarian views accusing the maker of garnishing his stories with grandeur by twisting history. Why not? I shall argue. After all, brand SLB is about grandeur, decor and stunning visuals that make his stories credible and an experimental affair lapped by the audience.
Padmaavat was bound to create furor or raise eyebrows since history can be fictional or, for that matter, the filmmaker’s right to make use of creative freedom in his depiction of Queen Padmini. A little bit of history. Sanjay Leela Bhansali has always been passionate to bring the story of Padmavati on screen since a decade and in the year 2008, he directed a 2-hour theatre version in Paris slithered with western classic and operatic music to create the visual imagery. It was a live opera that wooed and charmed an international audience.
Padmaavat on-screen is no less than a live opera and herein lies the charm of the film marrying grandeur, epic battle, magnificent visuals, intense love and hatred in one frame. The entire picturization repose on a cinematic experience in form and essence bearing the signature style of the master storyteller and a stroke of genius, Sanjay Leela Bhansali. I am always sold on period and costume drama. At one shot, Padmaavat is an enthralling affair bringing to the fore sheer magnificence, stunning visuals and splendid camera angles moving at a frenetic pace that drags the viewers instantly into the world of Queen Padmavati. The Ghoomar song is Bhansali’s ode to celebrate the spirited and free woman lent tremendous grace by Deepika Padukone where the picturization has been done in a colossal manner marrying a ballet and grandiose spectacle at the same time.
A piece of art whipped in a super majestic manner where 3 D technology has an overbearing and powerful impact on the audience. One is simply transported into the world of Padmaavati like a trance. The battle sequence is epic and made it on par with classic Hollywood movies coupled with fantabulous camera movements cum decor which simply haunts in a delightful manner. That’s brand Sanjay Leela Bhansali for you. He captures emotions and style with elan. Jaw dropping sequences and a marvel to the eyes. Magnificence has a name. One watches in awe at the splendor with which he captures theatrics, visuals, and drama like jazz.
Ranveer Singh as Alauddin Khilji simply owns and aces every scene on celluloid and he is menacing, passionate and sadistic. The body language spells doom and evil in form to wreak havoc in this bravado act that not only pays a fitting tribute to dreaded villains lost in translation on the Hindi silver screen but brings it back with elan. The act adds to the soul of Padmaavat. He has come a long way right from his first outing in Band Baaja Baarat to taking his Bajirao Mastani act a notch higher and now defying all logic in this period drama. Ranveer is simply haunting in this stupendous act. He has challenged himself as Khilji and pushed the self to the brink which shows on the screen.
Queen Padmaavati is Deepika Padukone in form and spirit. She slays it with both intensity and subdued at times where she wears the character of the Queen on the sleeve like a magnetic force. Deepika gives grace and dignity to Padmaavati, the various emotional nuances displayed makes her shine and sparkle like rare diamonds. She is one of the rare artists who is in competition with herself and this act testifies the capability to play a demi-goddess in the most convincing manner.
The force of Shahid Kapoor lies in his effortless and superlative performance as Maharawal Ratan Singh and delivers a royal performance with the costumes sitting on him like glove, facial and eyes’ intensity that gels beautifully with the character. He holds his own fort in a flawless manner that runs high in the body language. The real surprise is Jim Sarbh who delivers a memorable and wicked performance. Aayam Mehta adds zing and is superb as the crooked priest while Aditi Rao and Anupriya Goenka are decent.
Except for Ghoomar, the songs in Padmaavat lack the shine that could have adorned magnificence and stunning visuals for that matter. There is a dearth of spark in the music that fails to match this enthralling cinematic vision which is quite a surprise considering that SLB has always made them an intrinsic part of his films.
On the whole, Padmaavat is cinematic brilliance and shot in an aesthetic matter which makes it a soulful journey and experience on the silver screen. The director has concocted a breath-taking and pulsating finale particularly the scenes where Queen Padmaavati descends into the fire, shot brilliantly like poetry in motion as well as the epic battle between Khilji and Ratan Singh making it magnificent and stunning at the same time. Padmaavat (i) clearly belongs to one man and he is none other than Sanjay Leela Bhansali who whips a visual treat. It is not a film but an artistic expression rendered bigger through an enthralling cinematography, splendor in scale, nail-biting climax, aesthetic visuals, and power packed performances.