Making a film is easy, writing it is difficult: October director Shoojit Sircar

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Avid footballer and director Shoojit Sircar spends most of his time in Kolkata, his native city, nurturing scripts which he feels is of utmost importance in filmmaking. His films including Madras Cafe, Vicky Donor, Piku and Pink are based on simple storytelling but have unconventional subjects. They all share high emotional value.

However, in his Friday release October starring Varun Dhawan and Banita Sandhu in the lead, the narrative is towards the dense side of emotions, a genre of cinema the audience is not used to from Shoojit. Was it difficult for him to get into a different mind space?

The celebrated director took these questions and more from PeepingMoon.com:

Q. You spend a lot of time on scripts…

A. Making a film is easy for me. The difficult part is writing. I give utmost importance to writers. For me, writing is the main process of filmmaking. It’s like a cooling down period where I prep myself mentally. I only collaborate with few writers who match my sensibilities and who can see life in a simple way. I focus on everyday life, simple nuances of the character, nothing over the top. From Madras Café to Vicky Donor and Piku, my sole concentration has been on scripting only. That’s why, for the first time perhaps, someone has given credit to a writer in a film’s trailer. That’s what I have done with Juhi Chaturvedi in October.

Q. Your films are far removed from the glitz and glamour of Bollywood…

A. Yes, because I do not live in Mumbai, I live in Kolkata. I am basically a footballer, I love football, but I also love to make films. I have no commercial pressure in making a film. So I am fearless about the subjects I choose. Instead, I try and tell the story nicely and make the audience stay in their seats for two hours. That’s difficult. A compromise is inevitable as every minute there has to be some drama in the story for the audience to stay hooked.

Q. Karan Johar says intervals in the film challenge storytelling…

A. When I write a film, I do not keep the interval in mind. I did tell my producers during Piku that I don’t want an interval. They said, “Even if you do not want one, the theatre owners will cut the film anywhere in middle!” But an interval does break the flow. For me, to again re-start and get the audience in the mood is a big task and unnecessary. It doesn’t matter if a film is intense or not. Piku was not an intense film but my first scene after the interval was so important and 90% of the audience missed it because they were out in the popcorn line. Piku has one of the best-placed intervals. It wasn’t written like that. It was my editor’s call and because I had no idea or thought about it, I said, “Let’s go ahead with this.”

Q. So is it like writing two separate scripts?

A. No, I write it like one unit. In October, we did debate about the interval. But, I am not worried about my theatre audience. I am worried about my digital audience which comes from Netflix, Amazon, Hotstar and other digital platforms. I’m more concerned about that. The edit will be the same but my concentration is on the other set of audience as well. And how can I do that? By building a peak twice? It is like writing two different scripts.

Q. You read a lot of stuff and make sure your actors do the same... 

A. What I go through, I make my actors go through. I live the entire process (of making a film) for three years but the actors only live it for four to five months. That’s the duration of their shoot. I believe they have to live in the world I have lived. Only then the connection comes together. And then I have one more advantage. I act my characters, though I am not an actor, because I know how much the characters can do. I believe that helps an actor. It is a process which goes for five to six months to create an environment. An actor wants an uninhabited place, where there is nothing but the camera. But on a film set, there are thousands of people. So de-cluttering is most important. I try to give space and comfort to my actors. Not a lot of people watching the show. That I do not allow.

October releases on April 13, 2018.

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