“I don’t have any formal training in filmmaking but I am experienced enough to know what the consumer wants because I sat for hours in front of the ticket counter, trying to understand their taste,” says debutant director Saurabh Varma while talking about the making of his first film Mickey Virus. In an exclusive interview with Pandolin, he tells us about his journey into filmmaking, the inspiration behind this comedy thriller set in Delhi, the casting process of the film and his future aspirations.

Sv1How was your journey from being a Maketing Head to writing and then directing your debut film? 

I have around sixteen years of experience in the film business but I come from the commerce side of the industry. I have worked for PVR, INOX, Reliance etc. and marketed more than 500 films in various languages such as Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Bangla, Kannada, Gujarati and so on. But I have always been part of how to exploit the market and distribute a film. While I was working on it, this idea of making a film struck me and I struggled for about 3-4 years before Mickey Virus took shape. Though the transition wasn’t easy as I had to leave my job and the risk was very high. However, in order to pursue my passion, I quit everything and started consulting people.

Basically I used to consult people on the script in terms of their commercial viability. I was part of various films like Yamla Pagla Deewana, Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster, Not A Love Story, Malegaon Ka Superman etc. and in the process; I was struggling to make my own film. At the same time, I got to realize that there is a certain kind of content, which can be made available to the people, and probably there would be a demand for it. I was listening to a lot of scripts and found that most of the scripts were not working for me personally. Out of 100 films, the ratio of the unsuccessful films was 80 films. Now, if 80 out of 100 don’t work and the rest are studio nominated, I wanted to make a film based on totally my perspective. I don’t have any formal training in filmmaking but I am experienced enough to know what the consumer wants because I sat for hours in front of the ticket counter, trying to understand their taste.

How did the idea of Mickey Virus strike you and what is the film all about?

I am a graphic designer and have been working with computers since it’s first launch in India. The idea of hacking always interested me. So I mixed all of this and made this khichhdi called Mickey Virus.The film is basically about a hacking case, which Delhi police is trying to solve, and when they are not able to solve it, they take the help of this guy called Mickey Arora. He is also called Mickey Virus because he doesn’t work for anybody but enjoys destroying systems by creating computer virus. Reluctantly, he begins to help Delhi Police, only to realize later that whatever he has been doing is somewhere part of the case.

Did you derive any inspiration from real life while writing this film?

I have taken a lot of inspiration from real life because I believe the characters should be really interesting in a film. Since, I am from Delhi, all the characters in my film are based in Delhi. In fact I have taken inspiration from Manish Paul’s real life incidents as well.

AutoRIkshawSince it’s a comedy thriller set in Delhi. Please tell us how did you bring about the city’s lingo and humorous essence in your film?

Delhi is a khichhdi city where all languages are spoken. Here, you have a Punjabi with a mix of Haryanvi, Hindi with a mix of broken English and all this twisted taste makes the language very quirky and funny. Since I have been born and brought up in this city, I understand its language more than anybody else. As far as the writing part is concerned, it has got a very complicated script, which you will realize when you see the film. So, I have adopted a very structured way of writing, i.e. Act 1, 2 and 3 where all things open at the right time and close at the right instances. Besides, I emphasized more on the characters because my film has lots of new comers in it. Hence, the characterization and the story had to be very strong, which was the first thing that we thought of.

I have tried to say this story in the best possible and easiest way using the most convenient language. My target audience is not just boys but even girls and women who would not want to see a completely violent film. It’s a complete family entertainer just the way Yashraj films are made.

Did you have any apprehensions while casting a newcomer like Manish Paul and how was the experience working with him?

Manish really fitted the character very well. Besides, I was also a new comer, so I have casted everyone in the film only after auditioning them. It was absolutely great working with him and this is as much as Manish Paul’s film as its mine.

How did you go about casting the rest of the film? Why did you decide to cast Greek model Elli Avram as your female lead?

Since Mickey is a regular Delhi guy, we required a girl who is far beyond his reach and completely contrast in character. Elli Avram fitted the criteria as she is extremely contrasting to what Manish Paul is. She has a perfect figure, beautiful eyes, typical Aishwarya Rai meets Katrina Kaif kind of look, a girl, every young Delhi guy would want to fall in love with. In fact, all the actors in my film are so good that half of my work was done by them. Also, I believe, if performances are good, all other flaws are forgotten by the audience. We have Manish Chaudhary, Pooja Gupta (Vicky donor fame) and especially TV actor Varun Badola, who is playing a role that people would not be able to forget for a while.

What was the rehearsal process like? What was the brief given to the actors?

We had three months of workshops and get-togethers where actors got to know each other and became familiar with the team. We improvised a lot of things in the workshop itself. My brief to the actors was – just be yourself, just be the character and live it. Also because it was their first film, they lived the character so intensely that the character and the people became one.

photo4Are you more methodical or spontaneous as a Director?

We already did our homework before going on the floors. There’s been two years of working on the script and I did everything possible, including story boarding, scripting to make sure everything is prepared well. Being a first time director, I couldn’t afford to go spontaneous as spontaneity comes with experience and not before that.

Which areas of Delhi did you shoot the film? How many days did it take to complete the filming?

It was shot in areas like Nehru Place, Govindpuri, Delhi Haat, Vijay Ghaat, Connaught Place, Tolstoy Marg, Gurgaon, Dwarka, Chandni Chowk, Paharganj and many other old Delhi spots. It took us around 43 days to complete the film.

Which camera equipment did you use and what was your brief to the cinematographer for the overall look of the film?

We used Arri Alexa and Red Epic along with various types of lenses. We rehearsed everything including the camera movement because we didn’t have enough time. We kept provision of multiple camera setups with extreme wide as well as very tight frames. My brief to the cinematographer was very simple because basically, I wanted to have a very colorful film, something that is interesting and not very dark or difficult to understand in terms of the visuals. The main crux of my film is storytelling so I didn’t want the story to be faulted at any cost. Therefore, the shots were designed to compliment the story and not the other way around.

What were the major challenges faced by you while shooting this film?

Film making itself is a challenge and making a good film is even more difficult. So, there were always different challenges that we would face, for example, once, around thousands of people landed up in the shot. Then there were weather restrictions and time limitations too. Also, once Manish Paul got injured but ultimately we managed to sail through all this.


MickeyVirus_1Where did the postproduction and DI of the film happen and how much VFX has been employed in it?

Post production and DI both happened at Future works. However, for VFX, I hired a bunch of enthusiastic people who know their craft instead of going to a big studio. Also, it’s a first film on hacking, so you will see a lot of VFX in it.

Tell us something about your future film projects after Mickey Virus releases?

Next, I am trying to work on a super hero comedy titled Rafter Singh Super fast. It’s a comedy film revolving around a super hero, who eats samosas and gains powers.