After Warning and Gulaab GangMushtaq Sheikh is back with his third production, Zid. In an exclusive chat, the well-known author, screenplay writer and producer talks about creating an erotic thriller, the future of the sensual genre, and Indian TV shows.

Mushtaq Sheikh

Mushtaq Sheikh

What made you consider producing Zid?

We (Anubhav Sinha and Mushtaq Sheikh) were scouting for new and different ideas, and that is when Zid came along our way. It is a very edgy film, which explores the theme of unrequited love and its consequences. The audience will find the emotions in the film very identifiable and that is exactly the kind of stories we are looking forward to tell.

What was the experience putting together an erotic thriller? What were the challenges?

The challenges were not specific to the genre, but rather to the production process. We are working with a fresh cast and with money running on it; your belief goes in for a slight wobble. It is an internal challenge to back up the conviction further when that wobble occurs. As it is a small film, it is essential that production costs fall within the budget otherwise the recovery plan goes for a toss. At the same time, we need to preserve the essence of the film. The challenge lies in balancing both the sides. On the production side, rain plays a central character in the film and we have tried to use as much natural rain as possible. So that added to all the other stress that comes in the way of a producer. In this case it was difficult to adjust to the tantrums of a force of nature, which had a mind of its own.

What does the future hold for the erotic thriller genre in Hindi
 Cinema? How will it evolve?

Erotic thrillers are just starting out in Hindi cinema. With the erotic thrillers making money, the filmmakers will be more confident to tread the territory, as its risk factor would come down. Storytellers will begin to experiment with the narratives and the finer nuances will be explored.

Mainstream Indian cinema has travelled the globe. Does an Indian erotic thriller have any traction outside India?

We were the ones who gave Kamasutra to them. So shouldn’t we be the ones who dictate the standards and not the other way around. Cinema around the globe has the luxury of approaching the genre on a larger scale as the cultural and social preferences ensure there is an audience for the movie. On a global scale, our USP is still our strong colour palette, emotions, dance, and song routine. It will be difficult to break the larger picture, but with the kind of narratives that are emerging from our country of late, I am very optimistic about the future.

Being a screenwriter were you involved in the writing and/or
 development process of Zid? If so, what was it like?

I haven’t worn both my producer and writer at the same time till now, so that helps me with the perspective I approach the project. As a producer, I have to oversee the development process as opposed to being pedantic about the details of the world within which the story takes place. As a producer all I have to be is the hawk who comes to play the hawk’s eye. But apart from that as far as the story and screenplay go that’s entirely the writer’s prerogative and I have written enough to know and respect that.

What was the casting process? Why were newcomers’ chosen as the lead
pair and how did they do?

When the script came first to me I was very clear that this one demands fresh faces. The subject was such that we need actors who are brand new, without any cinema legacy. I knew the freshness would add another dimension to the film while at the same time, have enough acting chops to translate the emotions in the script onto the screen.

What makes Zid different from the previous erotic thrillers?

Beneath the glitz, the story has an emotional core that is well brought out by our trio of newcomers. We have a soul-stirring soundtrack to aid you through the journey. It is a fresh film with the right mix of thrills, emotions and oodles of sensuality.

It appears that erotic thrillers have initially worked at the box-office 
but eventually lose out to movies with strong content. Comment.


They had a strong start with films like Murder doing well at the box office. The focus was mainly on the sex quotient. Everyone jumped on the bandwagon and led the genre quickly into a saturated zone. But now the genre is resurging with the storytelling gaining as much importance as the sex quotient, giving you a better cinematic experience. I am hopeful that Zid will contribute to the resurgence in its small way.

As a producer what attracts you to a project?

The same set of factors that attracted me to Zid. It has to be something edgy, exciting and resonant. Stories can be rehashed but you could always spark it up with new ways of storytelling. But having said that I would like to add that every story and film has its own destiny, they seem to find their own makers.

mushtaq (1)

Earlier you produced Gulaab Gang  and Warning. What propelled you from writing to production? Would you like to continue producing?

After all the writing, I figured I still had energy to spare. So I thought of using it to generate more content by creating a platform for the ideas from other heads to thrive. The joy of incubating an idea and seeing it finally on screen has always been exciting for me. But being a producer is going one step further and I always believe in doing so. Production is about owing up to your creative instinct. It’s about putting your money where your mouth is.

You have written books, TV shows and movies. What do you enjoy the most?

At the risk of sounding diplomatic, I like them all. They are all my babies and the parent cannot be partial to them. Each one comes with their own set of highs and lows. As long as they are venues for my creative energies to manifest, I am a happy man.

What other projects are you working on?

I have written Mastizaade which is next up on my sleeve as a writer.

It is a sex comedy – which was great fun to write. It has Sunny Leone in a double role, Tusshar Kapoor and Vir Das as the principal cast. Milap Zaveri, who is a master of this genre, is directing the film.  In short, a guaranteed laugh riot.

Occasionally the Hindi film industry has generated original writing but typically the formulaic blockbusters rule the box-office. As a screenwriter do you think original scripts are getting tougher or easier to make and
 sell?

These so called formulaic movies are blockbusters because there is a large section of audience out there who are on the lookout for such fare. With so much content exploding in front of us, I think it is more difficult to write an original script in the truest sense these days. But that said, production houses are opening up to a larger variety of content so I think it is just the best time to get these scripts made. As far as selling goes, the market dynamics are simple. What is in demand will continue to be made. So be it the so called “formulaic” folks or the so called “original” people will have to deal with this ultimate truth of the box-office.

In the television world we had 24, Yudh and now Everest, all associated with big names from the Hindi film industry. Obviously it is an attempt to
 elevate the standards. Do you think this trend will last long enough to change the way Indian shows are made?

Rather than elevating the standards, it is an effort to introduce new content to the television audience. The TV that’s existed before they arrived also was awesome. Awesome in the sense, they are made to attract the maximum eyeballs and the maximum TRPS and they have not failed on all counts. Every night the country sits opposite their TV set completely mesmerized. So they were certainly doing something right.

True, Yudh and Everest are a new step in that direction to introduce new content. But it’s still untested, unproven and unaccepted. Long time before it becomes a staple diet. The numbers these shows have garnered prove that they have been rejected outright by the viewers. How far do these channels stick to the new genre and how much money they are ready to stake at the “newness” altar will decide the fate of such content! It is a step in the right direction but one has to wait for a long, long time before it will find its rightful space among the Indian TV audience.

Summary
Article Name
EROTIC THRILLERS ARE RESURGING WITH STORYTELLING GAINING AS MUCH IMPORTANCE AS THE SEX QUOTIENT: MUSHTAQ SHEIKH
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The well-known author, screenplay writer and producer, Mushtaq Shiekh talks about creating an erotic thriller, the future of the sensual genre, and Indian TV shows.
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