His films touch the innermost part of the heart and give you the ultimate happy high when you walk out of the theatre. But what really makes Shoojit Sircar happy? He tells Viraj Sawant.
His forte is to blur the lines between commercial cinema and films with a message. Nobody does it with the ease that Shoojit Sircar does. Yahaan, Vicky Donor, Piku, Madras Cafe and now Pink. Eleven years in the industry, he still has his sensibilities and sensitivities intact. Not losing himself in this glamorous quagmire, this gifted filmmaker manages to bring out the emotions with the simplest films we see and he lives for this high in life.
Eleven long years in this industry, how has your journey been?
It has been quite satisfying. The general perception of Bollywood is that you have to compromise a lot on your freedom. So far I have tried to protect myself, as much as I could. I won’t say I wasn’t polluted by the conventions of the Hindi film industry or Bollywood. I am glad I’ve been able to do the kind of films I’ve wanted to make.
Did you anticipate the level of success that Pink received?
I did not anticipate this level of a movement or a revolution that happened after the release of Pink. People everywhere were talking about the film. I knew this film would have an important place in people’s hearts but I never imagined this kind of euphoria.
I thought it would be accepted partially. The film was very hard-hitting. I expected that a portion of the audience wouldn’t accept it because it’s so harsh. I was also scared thinking of how women’s organisations would react to the film.
It takes many years for directors to establish themselves in this industry and work with the finest actors here. Within four years, you have already won the trust of some of the best actors in the business. John Abraham trusted you with his first film as a producer and Amitabh Bachchan has worked with you twice in less than a year!
With John, it’s a friendly collaboration which started from Vicky Donor. He wanted to start his production house and I was working on Vicky Donor at the same time. Then a few mutual friends knew that I was working on this idea and hence they suggested that maybe we should work on this film together.
Then Madras Cafe happened for us where I directed him as an actor. I still feel that Madras Cafe is his best performance. With Mr. Bachchan, it’s more like a family. Also there is a certain Bong connection with him.
He’s the kind of person who has seen the industry for 45 years. You can’t just go and tell him whatever you are doing because he understands cinema much more than you. His experience is incomparable. He has worked across all genres of films. He has worked with so many directors.
Whenever I meet him, I go with no agenda. My agenda is my cinema. When I approach him, I go with the agenda of convincing him with only my story and how I envision him in the story. It has been a great experience working with him on two films till now.
I am fortunate and privileged that he has always agreed to listen to me and my stories. You feel important and that makes you deliver a fine product in the form of a film.
Most of your films have a social message. Does delivering the message through your films rightly give you a high?
The films I have done, I am not particularly sure how well they will be perceived by the audience. I am not too bothered about the reaction of the people and box office numbers. My subjects are very unconventional.
I go ahead with films or scripts only after I am convinced by them. It is a responsibility because you are asking the audience to come to the theatre and watch your film. The audience comes to the theatre thinking it’s a Shoojit Sircar film so definitely that’s a responsibility.
Also somehow I also like the responsibility that comes along, it makes me work harder. I am able to cater to what the audience is looking for – that gives me happiness.
A lot of filmmakers would die to know your formula for making touching films. Can you reveal it for us?
It’s not like the formula works for everybody or for every film. You need to have the insights into the story you are working on. If there are no insights into a story or script then I don’t usually touch them.
The research that goes into a film and the smaller details and nuances shown on screen make the film look more realistic. Otherwise there is no formula to make a film; you have to go by what you see around.
What do you think makes the audience high with happiness after watching your films?
In the case of Piku, a lot of girls told me that it was their story. They could relate to the story. A lot of ladies said it was their father’s story. Any woman working in a corporate set-up has her parents at home whom she takes care of.
In PINK also we have chosen characters that are relatable to the girls of today. A girl works till late at office and then she walks back home alone at night. Somewhere down the line she has been questioned by society on her character. Relatability is the key of my films and characters. They are so real that people feel it’s their story.