Producer’s Next Gen: A Talk With Vikramaditya Motwane, Nikhil Advani and Prernaa Arora
Halfway into the Jio MAMI 19th Mumbai Film Festival, Anupama Chopra had an interesting session with filmmakers and producers Nikhil Advani, Vikramaditya Motwane and Prernaa Arora. All three have been in the Indian film industry for a long time and have contributed indie hits to blockbusters. While Nikhil Advani is best known for Kal Ho Na Ho and D-Day, Motwane has made Udaan and Trapped. Both filmmakers have also been producers on different films and Motwane is a partner at the Phantom Films. Prerna Arora is one of the youngest producers working currently, with hit films like Rustom and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha already under her belt. Film critic Anupama Chopra spoke to them on various topics and below is an excerpt of the same:
The One Quality that a Producer Needs
Prerna– The ability to provide. In every area. The director has to be happy. Being available. I never put my phone off. I am there for everyone. There are times when you have to handle the media for the actor or the director. As a producer, you also get involved emotionally. I don’t work mechanically, I work according to my heart.
Nikhil– It’s a bit different for us since we are directors also. When you’re working with a director, the first thing you have to do is resist the temptation to yell, “cut!” In our setup, I have to stand like a wall between the director and everybody else, sometimes between my partners. A certain amount of objectivity is involved too. But the most important thing is to have a lot of patience.
Vikramaditya– Totally with Nikhil; patience and resilience. See you’re dealing with creative people. The director might flip at the actor and you have to be the person who says, “It’s okay, we’ll find a solution”. You have to keep people calm. You have to be able to deal with actors, directors, cinematographers, writers; everybody has a different temperament, a different way of dealing with things.
On Amazon & Netflix
Vikramaditya– Feature films are still working within the three act structure. When you read something short, you can say yeah this can be made it into a movie. But if it’s a book or something longer, something that you feel could span many seasons, then you should look at it as a series. It is really instinctive. At this point I don’t know. Amazon has just had its first series out. Netflix’s Sacred Games will release sometime mid next year. They are putting in more productions in place. So much debate hinges on the success of these series. Because these guys (Amazon, Netflix) could easily walk away saying ‘this market is not working for us’ or ‘the budgets we thought we could allocate to these guys is not giving us our bang for the buck’. There are enough disruptors in the market today who are willing to do web content for a tenth of the budget that Amazon or Netflix is going to put in. We’ll only know a year from now whether they are here to stay or it’s just a phase.
Some Stories From The Set
Nikhil– I can say this and she’s a lovely person; we were taking a shot in Salaam-e-Ishq and we had 12 actors. Priyanka and Salman were in that shot and we were waiting for the sun to come down, for the magic hour, when suddenly I notice PC has vanished. Salman is standing in a corner laughing at me. Because I was gloating since afternoon about the magic hour shot. But she was nowhere to be seen. She had gone for a coffee or a walk, and we even had Micky Contractor on the set. All my ADs were running around and when they finally got her back, the sun was gone already! I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to scream at her. So I turned around and screamed at Arjun Kapoor, who was my AD on the film! (laughs)
Vikramaditya– So a couple of interesting ones. I can’t take names. I had an actor call me up early one morning and he said, “do you know the director came drunk on the set?” Thankfully the director had told me a week ago saying, “one day I’m going to go drunk on the set.” So I was kind of prepared for it. That day there were only a few shots that were supposed to be picked up and he did it just to get the actor really riled up.
Addressing the Bombay Velvet Failure
Vikramaditya– I think the most important thing is that we’re here and we’re here to learn. In the case of both Velvet and Shaandaar, they were trainwrecks we somewhat saw coming. For different reasons completely. I think Bombay Velvet, when we read 5-10 years ago, we were really passionate about the film. Something during the filmmaking process happened, and it happens sometimes, you cannot explain it in words, something was missing. But then you see the first cut and you realize that it is not the film you intended to make. Then you try to salvage it. Eventually the film was out there; there was a marketing campaign that just didn’t work. When we look back at Velvet, maybe we lost objectivity, since it was with us for over 10 years.
The most interesting feedback that Fox gave us as to why Bombay Velvet didn’t work was because people didn’t like Ranbir Kapoor’s hair! They said they didn’t like his look because he’s a young, sexy star, and we took away all his sexiness from the film.