Never thought that Interior Cafe Night would give back so much: Adhiraj
If you are in your mid-twenties and have directed veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah in your debut short film, if your videos have gone viral with over 5.5 million views and you have assisted filmmakers like Vishal Bhardwaj, there is every chance that you might have a certain air about yourself. But filmmaker Adhiraj Bose is an exception. While his work is sure to impress you, so is his down to earth and humble nature. Meet the young lad who indulges us in an interesting conversation about his journey, love for filmmaking and more.
After assisting on films like Ek Thi Daayan and Talvar, you directed two short films that have made you a known face in the short film circle. This is a very rare case because most youngsters often keep assisting for years. It seems like a very well planned decision.
Yes, I didn’t really want to assist too much. I wanted to assist to get an idea about how things work. And one film was good enough to learn that and get the whole idea. In fact, Interior Café Night was made two and a half years ago, which is before Talvar. I worked on Talvar as my last film as an assistant director. They needed someone at the time, and I thought it would be great to end the journey of assisting with the same people that I started with. Talvar was a very good project where I got to learn a lot and was glad that I actually did it, but my plan thereafter was to make my own films.
Sometimes your projects choose you before you can choose them
You have also done a few filmmaking courses before you started assisting.
Yes, I have done a few. Even at my undergraduate level, I had subjects like photography, filmmaking and editing. Later, I did short screenwriting workshops from Whistling Woods, which had the same faculty as FTII. I also learnt on my own by reading books etc., as far as direction and writing were concerned. Being on set is a different kind of learning, so I spent more than a year trying to learn on my own what they taught at FTII and other film schools. I never got to go there, but I used to do their assignments and learn.
What were your learnings in this process?
One of the main things was reading the screenplays of films that I have already watched, and sometimes of the films that I have not yet seen. Then I would watch them to see how different the visualization of the director is from what I had been visualizing. I would watch a lot of films and read a lot of books about film direction. Reading articles and watching videos on the Internet was also a part of my learning. I would then write my own scripts for feature or short films. After all this, there came a chance when I had the opportunity to make a short film, so I thought why not? The plan was always to make films after all.
Once you decided that you want to direct your own film, how has the journey been?
I knew there would be challenges, so that wasn’t very surprising. At that stage you already know that you have to face challenges like budget and time, and you don’t have too much technical support. So I knew what I wanted to do, and how I would work around the problems.
I never thought that Interior Cafe Night would give back so much, but it is one of those things that fell into place and gave rise to other opportunities
In fact, you have even directed a sketch for AIB and the extremely funny commercial ‘Creep Qawwali’ for TrulyMadly. What was your criteria in choosing such diverse projects?
Sometimes your projects choose you before you can choose them. After Interior Café Night, I made a short film called The Last Day for Terribly Tiny Talkies. They had invited five filmmakers to make one film each of under five minutes. Interior Café Night wasn’t out then and The Last Day came out on the Internet. So that’s the film that most people got to see first. AIB had seen it too. This was when they had taken a break and were developing a lot of interesting content. They made me hear some of the ideas, and I really liked them. The first video that I made was called ‘Unoffended’.
Post that they decided to start their own ad agency called ‘Vigyapanti’ and one of their first clients was TrulyMadly. So we made the ‘Creep Qawwali’ for them. I really enjoyed directing that. While choosing my projects, I look for anything that sounds interesting and fun to do and would also give me some learning. The phase when I worked with AIB was a learning in terms of humor, because comedy is not easy to pull off. You really need to do a lot of work. And that will hopefully also help me in my feature films where I always have humor.
Interior Café Night was made in 2014 and is still traveling to festivals. This also seems to be a well thought out initiative.
The film has been to around 22 festivals, but our festival round was over about a year ago. Its recent screening at DIFF was an exception. Today, short films do not follow the traditional rules where they first travel to film festivals and are then released online and then it’s done. It can also be the other way round, that’s how Anurag Kashyap’s film That Day After Everyday also played at DIFF. He made it three years back just for the online platform but festivals liked it and picked it up. When the organizers of DIFF called and said that they wanted to play our film, my first reaction was that it is already online, so why would they want to play it? But they did a Q&A with Naseer (Naseeruddin Shah) sir and me, and I also got to interact with a new set of audience who watched the film for the first time. Plus, I had never been to Dharamshala before, and that was a great experience too.
How has life changed after Interior Café Night?
Life changed to some extent even before the film had released online. Not many had seen it then but whosoever would, they would often be interested in working together. Everything that followed, like The Last Day, ad films, or AIB videos, were all somewhere a result of this film. Thankfully the digital space also bloomed at that time. After doing a lot of short length content, I decided to come back to feature films because that’s the reason that I came into this in the first place. I wrote the screenplay and dialogues for Bejoy Nambiar’s remake of Mani Ratnam’s Agni Natchathiram, which also in a way happened because he had seen my short film. I am also completing the screenplay of my own feature film. When I was making it (Interior Café Night), I never thought that it would give back so much, but it is one of those things that fell into place and gave rise to other opportunities.
Films like Wake Up Sid and Dil Chahta Hai are the kind of films that I saw and aspired to make
Tell us more about the screenplay of Bejoy Nambiar’s retelling of Mani Ratnam’s Agni Natchathiram in Hindi.
I mainly worked on the dialogues, the screenplay was guided and co-written by Bejoy. The original was a Tamil film that came out in 1988, so quite a bit of it needed to be contemporised to suit today’s syntax. The core of the story is about two half brothers and the relationship dynamics between the family members. The adaptation is completely Bejoy’s brainchild, and it was a new experience for me to write for another director’s vision. I got to learn a lot of different things. He’ll mostly be shooting it in the coming year.
Coming to the film that you are writing, what is it all about?
It’s a feature length film and is a little different from what I have done so far. I have been writing it for a long time and the reason that it took so long was because I was involved in other things. So I took a break from short content and decided to focus only on this for sometime.
Tell us more about yourself – what kind of cinema and filmmakers inspire you? What is the kind of cinema that you intend to make?
You know, I may have been attending a lot of film festivals of late, but honestly my taste is a little more mainstream I guess. Films like Wake Up Sid and Dil Chahta Hai are the kind of films that I saw and aspired to make. Also, directors like Raju Hirani, Imtiaz Ali, Ayan Mukherjee and Zoya Akhtar are the filmmakers that I follow more in the Indian context. Of course, I attend MAMI every year and watch films from all over the world, but I equally enjoy mainstream Hindi films. For now I would just like to make what I know how to make. I know I’m not too good with thrillers, horror etc. I’m better with the genre of relationship dramas, so I guess it’s better that I stick to that for now.
It was a new experience for me to write for another director’s vision. I got to learn a lot of different things
For most youngsters, who want to have a future in films, how would you describe this glitzy world since you are an outsider who is doing well for himself now?
There is a positive and a negative side to every industry. What I have noticed personally is that it’s about the intention with which you enter the industry. I know films are known to be a glamorous industry, but if you are coming here for the glamour and glitter, then it could be a problem, especially for directors. If you are coming to this industry because you genuinely want to tell stories and are passionate about filmmaking, then it gets easier. If you get excited about working hard and doing good work, then things often fall in place. Your age and background is not as important, but the motivation and the reason for which you enter is crucial. We need to be clear about what drives us.
Would you say that the industry has accepted you?
No, it’s too early to say that. I have not even made my feature film yet, and I don’t know what will happen when I do. So far I have just worked with the short format and the audience has been very kind. If the work remains good and honest, then I think things should fall in place in the future as well.
Watch Interior Cafe Night here –