Line production was a key to enter the film industry – Chandan Gill
When most people of his age are still confused about their goals in life, 20-something Chandan Gill follows just one rule – never say never! And this approach is making him enjoy a fortuitous phase in the film industry as he never grew up with the dream of becoming an actor or a line producer. A complete outsider to films, Chandan made his acting debut with Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and has been the line producer for various Bollywood, Hollywood, Punjabi and short films such as Danis Tanovic’s Tigers, Mozez Singh’s Zubaan etc. He is currently on cloud nine as his comic character in the recent film Jugni has garnered him a lot of appreciation. Chandan gets candid about his journey so far.
Tell us about your initial background and your foray into films.
Line production and acting, both, happened coincidently to me. I haven’t learnt line production during my journalism degree nor have I been to any acting school. I used to do theatre with the Alankar Theatre Group in Chandigarh. It was during those days that Sanjeev Mauraya who is the associate casting director of well-known casting director Dilip Shankar came to Chandigarh scouting for Punjabi actors for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Since my friends and I were actively doing theatre, they asked us to help them search a few characters for different roles in the film. We started by helping them but the association grew into a professional collaboration as they hired us for the casting coordination of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. From Japtej Singh who played the younger Milkha Singh to me landing the role of Sampreet Singh – Milkha Singh’s childhood friend; a lot of the main characters were selected from Punjab. So my production and acting career started simultaneously.
Did your casting experience during Bhaag Milkha Bhaag draw you towards line production?
My close friends and I were never interested in a 9 to 5 job. After doing our mass communication degree, though all of us got jobs, we eventually left them. We formed our company Friday Arts and Production much before we got into mainstream films with Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Under our banner, we started making documentaries, short and corporate films. I initially started this with two other friends – Varun Khokher and Vivek Sharma. With time and as projects grew, our team started getting bigger.
Presently we have bunch of team members who excel in different departments. We are group of passionate people who see their future in direction, acting, editing, art direction, music or cinematography etc. So line production was just a key to enter the film industry because neither of us had any connections in Mumbai.
Tell us about the other projects that you landed after Bhaag Milkha Bhaag?
We have worked on films such as Anoop Singh’s Qissa, Oscar-winner Danis Tanovic’s film Tigers Viacom18 Motion Pictures’ short films – Shlok Sharma’s Hidden Cricket and Anubhuti Kashyap’s Moi Marjaani and upcoming Punjabi film Needhi Singh. Besides films, we have also done World Amazing Race – an international reality show, Fox’s Big Crazy Family Adventure, Roadies (Season X and XI), ETV Kannada’s Indian – a South Indian reality show, Sony TV’s Power Couple. Some of our forthcoming Bollywood projects are Aayi Bala Ko Taal Tu starring Rishi Kapoor, Divya Dutta, Konkana Sen Sharma, Ram Kapoor and Zubaan featuring Vicky Kaushal and Sarah Jane Dias. We have worked on different formats from serials, reality shows, ad films and short films to feature films, music videos etc.
What kind of an experience has it been?
The variety of our projects has made us travel a lot. We have shot at different locations such as Jaipur, Manali, Agra, Delhi, Mumbai etc. When you travel, you meet all sorts of people and that gives you a lot of exposure. You learn so much when you work with different kinds of directors. Being in the production department, you are somewhere involved with every other department. So you get to observe all the departments. And there is so much to learn because we are constantly working behind the camera – from scouting locations to security permissions, transport, local casting etc. But the fact is that line production demands a lot of hard-work. Every film has its own production requirements and a different strategy to follow. Even then it is not considered as a main technical department and is a very thankless job.
Since we are still establishing ourselves, our future and growth eventually lies on the film’s success. If a film gets a release or does well, it adds to our profile. When any film gets delayed, it also affects our work.
Coming to acting, how did you land a role in the recently released film Jugni?
In December 2013, I had gone on a road trip to Mumbai and a mutual friend referred my name for the character of Jeeta Jazbaati in Jugni. Jeeta plays Anuritta Jha’s brother who is part of an orchestra group called Mastana, which he manages and also plays the dholki for. I have some amazing comic scenes in the film. When the first trailer of Jugni came out, I was amazed since it was hard for me to believe that even an independent film can appear this great.
From Bhaag Milkha Bhaag to Jugni, what growth have you seen in yourself as an actor?
Since I used to do theatre before I was chosen for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, the film was more of an experience to understand the craft. It was my first exposure to a grand set. I attended a script reading session with Dilip Shankar with all the main actors, which was a very different and amazing experience. My character Sampreet and approach to it was very different from that of Jeeta in Jugni. With time, I have learnt that you have to be as real as possible and follow the technique of the craft. There is a lot of scope for learning.
Most upcoming actors keep giving auditions but still don’t get projects whereas you have managed to act in five films without even shifting base to Mumbai. What has worked in your favor?
The main thing was that I never said no to anything that came my way and made sure that I did it whole-heartedly. Though I want to be a director, it doesn’t mean that I just stick to that and refuse other interesting things. The characters that I have played so far are somewhere close to my real personality. Jeeta Jazbaati of Jugni shows the rustic side in me while my character Prakash in my next film Shreelancer is an urbanized version of me – someone who cracks jokes, is over-confident and believes in having fun. So every role is related to me. While taking auditions and casting for other films, I learnt that it is always better when you are your real self and don’t have to act.
Production is a tough medium. What keeps you motivated?
Production gives you a lot of mental and physical stress due to the endless efforts it demands. In comparison, acting is a relaxed medium. But there is so much that one learns on the ground that it keeps me going. With every film there is a different excitement and learning of a different kind. For instance, Shreelancer is the first film that I’m shooting with a minimum crew. There are no big sets, vanities or any hoopla. It just has a good director who is passionate about the film.
In the coming years, we see ourselves becoming one of the best studios in Punjab. We see Friday Arts as a platform that will ultimately make its own films, market and release them. That gives you a different kind of thrill.
Don’t you see a limited scope in Chandigarh? Wouldn’t Mumbai offer more scope?
We started line production to get into films. And we did a couple of films without shifting our base. Line production has been a learning experience and through it each one of us wants to enter an area of filmmaking that interests us. Soon we wish to start making our own films. So might get more films to line produce if we shift base but that is not our ultimate aim.
And Chandigarh is not behind in anything. It has much more scope than what meets the eye. Mumbai doesn’t have open locations to shoot. That’s why we often see various Hindi films being shot here. From havelis to green farms, mountains; Chandigarh is very location – friendly. If we move to Mumbai, we might be one among thousand other line production companies that already exist. Whereas in Punjab there are very few companies in this sector. So instead of getting lost in the crowd it is better to shine where you are.
What are your upcoming projects?
I’m acting in Sandeep Mohan’s Shreelancer, which is story of a person whose name is Shree. In terms of line producing, we’ll be part of Pan Nalin’s next Hollywood film and Ben Rekhi’s Ashram. Then we have also started working on various short films.
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