5 lessons I learnt from my mentor Nagesh Kukunoor
My experience with Mr.Nagesh Kukunoor, whom I started my career with and who mentored me during Shor Se Shuruaat, has taught me some invaluable lessons from the noted filmmaker.
As much as this point reads like a school lesson, it is one of the most important things I learnt from my mentor. He has always done what feels true to him, right from the stories he writes to how he approaches each scene and I have observed and absorbed every bit of that thought. If you feel a sense of connect with your story and a sense of passion for what you want to say through your film, you will find a way to make the film as best as you can. If something about the whole process does not feel right and it does not come naturally to you, somewhere your story loses the essence and alters what you set out to create.
Mounting a film and getting the process started is a huge task and every time you face a new set of challenges. As crucial as it is to get the funds to produce your film, it is equally important to utilize the time to your best potential. It is not about how much money you can spend on a day of shoot but how you make the most of your and your team’s effort and potential to get the job done right! There was constant stress about simple things as we made the films on a shoestring budget and had to rethink every single requirement, it always helped to know that as long as I had these amazing actors and such driven team members, and we did our best, it would be a good day. When the shoot was done and we finally completed the film, it did not matter how we struggled to spend every rupee wisely but how hard we worked every single day to create our film.
Find a way to do it and go for it. My mentor has always guided me to find solutions not excuses. It is rather easy to say ‘it’s not possible’ but the fun lies in pulling out all the stops and making things work in your favour. Knowing our limitations well, for this film, I did just that. By requesting nicely, asking for favours and sometimes by just being persistent, I not only got my dream team on board but I also got two of my favourite actors Mr Sanjay Mishra and Mr Vijay Maurya to agree to share this journey with us. From creating the set in a day, to working in the peak of Mumbai summer to even having friends and family run a million errands every single day, we constantly found solutions and had fun.
As a director, you need to have clarity and you need to know what you want and this is something I learnt from Mr Kukunoor. We had many conversations about the script, the significance of silence in the story etc. and every time, with the right questions or guidance, he made me think deeper and helped me focus on the essence of the story. Once you are clear about the foundation, the rest of the process is simple even with all the improvisation on set, contribution of ideas and execution of each shot. However, if there is a lack of clarity, each impromptu change can throw you off guard. Clarity of your vision can help you a lot in keeping things simple and composed.
During the process of editing I had a hard time cutting shots or scenes from my timeline. Editing is not only an amazing process where your film finally takes shape but it is also a tool that helps you restructure your idea. It is also that stage of filmmaking where you see which scenes or shots work best for the film and which don’t. For me it was absolutely crucial to use each scene the way I shot it so I remain true to my story hence I was often unable to eliminate the extra bits without feeling a sense of loss. I know it sounds dramatic but it happened. What I learnt from my mentor is that you can and should take out what is not helping your film move forward objectively and you can still keep the essence intact. At the end of the day, the film needs to hold the attention of the viewer. Just clear your head and revisit the edit with no baggage of that one expression you loved or the line you wrote that absolutely worked. If it is not helping the moment, it does not need to be there. Hence I finally cut the film from 20 minutes to less than 15.
(An independent filmmaker based in Mumbai. She is the writer and director of Dhvani, one of the seven shorts in the anthology Shor Se Shuruaat, during which she was mentored by filmmaker Nagesh Kukunoor)