After skillfully handling the role of a cinematographer, Amit Roy has stepped into the shoes of a director for the first time. His directorial venture Running Shaadi has gained some eye-balls in the media. Co-written with Navjot Gulati the movie stars Amit Sadh and Tapsee Pannu and is set Amritsar.

As the movie is playing in cinemas, we caught up with the first time director who has some interesting insights to share. He shares about the starting point and research went into writing Running Shaadi. Roy also talks about the cast, directing for the first time along with sharing his plans for future.

Amit Roy on the sets of Running Shaadi

Amit Roy on the sets of Running Shaadi

Along with directing Running Shaadi you have also co-written the movie, so what was the inspiration and starting point for the story?

The starting point was when Navjot Gulati (co-writer) had an idea about this character from Amritsar and who starts this service called Running Shaadi. I thought it was a great idea and we improvised like I thought of creating an online portal so that it’ll be a contemporary and modern which is more relevant. This idea got us very excited.

Then we went to Amritsar to research the kind of life these characters live and what is their world. We spent some time in Amritsar where we met a lot of people and couples who had eloped and got married. Our idea was to try to understand every aspect of their life.

First, we decided to understand the business idea, in terms of what this portal can offer. We met a lot of couples to understand some of the problems that they face and went to the marriage registrar’s office, the court where we met some lawyers. We got a legal advice like what all is required for registration. During our research we found that one of the most important thing required is that once the couple run away where can they hide. After they elope that is the most heated time, so the couples need a kind of a safe house for a week or two to lay low. We gathered all these information and then we started writing the film.

What about Amit Sadh and Tapsee Pannu convinced you that they were best for the role?

After the script was ready, we started looking for the right person to play the characters. We couldn’t identify with the existing so to speak Bollywood actresses that were there at that time there wasn’t anyone who completely fit in.

Then Navjot Gulati said we should check out Taapsee. She is a big star down south and she has done Chashme Baddoor. I had not seen any of her movies and I missed Chashme Baddoor, so I hadn’t seen any of her work. We decided to meet Taapsee and this casting director Abhishek Banerjee organized a meeting with her; like immediately. We met at Marriott’s coffee shop, she came and sat down.

The moment she started talking, I swear in 30 seconds I knew I have nailed it. I thought if I captured this girl in that very moment it would be the character itself. That is how Taapsee worked out, and then of course I gave her the script. She is very at the moment person and doesn’t procrastinate; you can get an immediate response from her. I gave her the script and a couple of hours later I got a call from her and she said that she loved the character and wants to do the film.

As for Amit, his movie Kai Po Che! had come out which I saw and I was blown away by his performance. He had the most complex character in the film and he brought you into the film. He was the victim and also the aggressor in a strange way. But I had not thought of him for Running Shaadi, but Mukesh Chhabra, a friend of ours he organized a meeting with Amit. I met him in a Bandra restaurant.

In Kai Po Che!  he plays the role of a guy from a small town who is not such a cool guy and in that he had also played an older version where he had to put on some weight for it. But when he walked into that restaurant I saw this cool, hip young dude. I was stunned that this person as an actor has the ability to transform himself. You can see that Amit can transform his thought process, not just his mannerism for the character. It immediately struck me that this guy is an amazing actor and then I started talking to him and we clicked well. I gave him the script and he called me within few hours saying that he loved it. These two actors were the only ones that were asked and they said yes.

What were the challenges of directing a light hearted movie?

I have been a cinematographer for a lot of films, so for the last 15 years I have been on a film set and I understand the process of filmmaking. Also because I co-wrote the script the film became very internal.

Also, we were not confident about narrating the story, neither I or Navjot were confident about it and we were under the impression that in Bollywood no one reads script, they want narrations. Therefore, we started discussing about how we should pitch the film and for that we did two things.

One we took footages from other films and made a pitch promo from which you could get an idea about the film. And secondly, we decided to record this film as a radio play. We took almost two months to do this for which we got a bunch of friends who were actors to do the parts.

So at the end of it all when I was finally directing, it felt easy. Plus, we had rehearsed a lot so we knew everything. When you do not research then you take the scene in various directions and you are finally lost, but if you are well prepared before coming to the shoot then you are extremely sure of what you are going to do.

It felt quite natural directing Running Shaadi.

Amit Roy at the promotion of Running Shaadi

Amit Roy at the promotion of Running Shaadi

What is the idea that you want to convey or explore through the film?

Primarily, I wanted to explore this whole idea of constantly fluctuating feelings of young couples today. I wanted to explore this now-off-now-on or break-up- today-make-up-tomorrow kind of relationships.

Today the youth is thinking very differently, I met a lot of young people and their take on relationship is very different even if they are in a relationship, they are always on the lookout for something more interesting. I primarily wanted that thinking to come through in the film.

And how is your approach towards the actors different- as a director and as a cinematographer?

I have always thought that the actors are the most precious things in the film. I believed that as a cinematographer as well. Actors are like a god’s creature, there is something very special about what they do. I feel that it is very important to give them space and love. Even as a cinematographer I used to make sure that I should do my work so unobtrusively that the actors should not have any problems.

My objective used to be to capture the actors in the best way I could. That has always been a part of my persona. An actor should feel empowered to go and do the most ridiculous thing knowing that you are there to catch them and then they will flourish.

The moment you set restrictions, if you tie the actor you will not get anything and what you do get is very constrained performance that is mediocre and average, so it is important to empower actors.

Any advice for first time directors

Steven Spielberg once went to a film school and one of the students there told him that he is going to start shooting next day for the first time and asked for any advice.

To this Spielberg said to just make sure that he wore comfortable shoes and shot mainly in focus.

Comfortable shoes are very important and wear the right kind of clothing because you will lose yourself in the film set so wear clothing that lets you move freely (laughs).

Amit Roy

Amit Roy

What are your future plans? Will you be directing more?

Yes of course, there are two-three scripts that I am writing. They are all of different genres, one is a period film and then there are two sci-fi films.

Science fiction is one genre that I really think Hindi cinema has to explore.