There is always an audience for a good concept
Debutant Director Rikhil Bahadur is all set to make an entry into the industry with his first feature called Time Out. The film that features newcomers deals with an unconventional theme. Read on to know what the filmmaker has to say about his filmmaking experience, his views on the evolving Indian audience, future ventures and more.
How did you start your career in the film industry?
While I was in college, in Delhi, I started working at this production house that made several corporate films, documentaries, etc. I worked with them for three years during my college life. I then went to UK to do my Masters in Film Direction where we worked on a lot of films. When I was doing my final project we had to make a short film according to the university mandate, which included proper production quality and had to be made with proper permissions, actors, etc., unlike normal student films. So, I made a 12-minute film which was also called Time Out. It won the best film at the university and was also received well in 25 film festivals and was screened at Cannes too. Post the film, several people told me that I must make it into a feature film. I wrote Time Out – the feature film right after the short film. We then pitched it to Viacom who loved it and that is how my career kickstarted.
Tell us about the cast of the film. Why did you choose to work with newcomers instead of established actors?
It was a conscious decision to go with newcomers. The story is about two boys who are in school and since they were such young characters, I wanted them to be as real as possible. It is difficult to find established names that belong to that age group; you don’t know of any such actors. So, we decided to go with complete newcomers. We took a good amount of time for casting before we finally locked our actors. Also, I didn’t want any big names to overshadow the characters. We wanted a very fresh, neutral and real feel.
What are the advantages of working with newcomers?
I think there are advantages and disadvantages of working with newcomers. We had to do a six month workshop with the newcomers to get them to understand the characters and the nuances of acting as none of them have acted before. Whereas with an established star they know the character they have to play. They have done their research, they know how to handle the camera and all of that. So, it just comes very spontaneously. But with newcomers the big advantage was that they spent a lot of time learning their skills. The film has got a lot of music and basketball and they dedicated a lot of time to learn these skills. One of the characters plays a state level basketball player and he practiced the game every morning for three hours for two whole months. The kids all learnt to play musical instruments and are playing live in the film. Being a first-time director and getting that kind of commitment was a big advantage. They came in with a very fresh perspective as well.
Why did you choose to pick schooling and education as the subject for your directorial debut?
When I started the film, I didn’t really give it a very conscious thought. But when I started thinking about our country I realized that when we are young, we are always told how to do things, never treated as adults and never taught responsibility. I’ve always felt it. As a kid when I said that I wanted to get into filmmaking, all my teachers told me “No beta get into science, you have to go to IIT and earn a lot of money”. It would always irritate me because we weren’t allowed to take any decisions on our own. Why can’t young people do things that they want to do? Even before I went to film school, I knew that my first film would definitely revolve around school and teenage years and the rebellion that we all feel while growing up.
I really feel that there are many things,, like sexuality that are not discussed in a healthy and encouraging conversation. All these things were a big factor for me to choose this subject for my first film. Also, I feel that since I myself am young there is a connect with the subject. Had I waited a little longer (to make this film) a generation gap would have come in and I wouldn’t know what the younger generation is doing, how they talk, walk etc. So, I wanted to capitalize on that feeling and connect with them. Even in this stage of my life, I can feel the rebellion.
We are so Bollywood-driven, we need action and drama; do you think the Indian audience is prepared for a film like Time Out?
The beautiful thing about our country is that there are so many people. If you present a good concept, there is always an audience. I do know that the majority of the audience wants that typical Bollywood masala with action and all of that. But I feel that there is a big part of the audience that is also changing now and films like Masaan and others are proof of it. Look at recent films like Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Mardani, even films like Wake Up Sid, they were purely content driven and had nothing typically ‘Bollywood’ yet they were received well. I think people are opening up and things are changing. Also, if you look at next year’s lineup, there are 2-3 major studio films that revolve around the theme of homosexuality. I feel happy that I am setting a trend here.
How did Viacom come on board? Were they creatively involved in the production?
I had already written the script and my mentor from UK had also helped with it, so the script was in very good position when we took the film to Viacom. I am an Army officer’s son and have no connection with the film industry. So I had reached a stage where I thought that since I have a script, know some people who will help me make the movie, so why not go ahead and make the film and then see where it goes. I started the casting process, began location scouting, and also got some sponsors on board. One fine day we got the opportunity to pitch it to Viacom. I showed them the short film and they loved it. They then read the script of the feature and it suited their sensibility. So they were happy to support and back us. We had a couple of sessions where we sat down with the creative director and she shared her inputs for the film. She added some nice nuances to build on but that was it. There was never any major creative interference from Viacom. I think they were very happy with the film. There was a lot of production support and the studio backed us completely. They sent us everywhere possible where we got to meet top people from the industry.
You started out as an AD. Tell us about your shift from an AD to being a director?
I have and haven’t been an AD.There is a very strong short film culture in UK where I was studying. So we would keep assisting on all our friends’ films. But we were all essentially training to become directors. When I finished my course I understood that the job of an AD is very different from that of a director. I never really worked on a feature film as an AD but have worked as an AD on several short films and that was an important learning exercise for me. From how you schedule things to the admin of the film, how the set works and so on; all the learning comes handy.
Tell us about your future ventures.
We have actually got the rights on Pullela Gopichand’s (India’s top badminton player) biography. My partner and I are currently working on his biography to make it into a biopic, which is our next project.