There is not a dull moment when you talk to Shekhar Suman, primarily because the actor and filmmaker has so much to tell you. After his directorial debut ‘Heartless’ tanked at the box office, Shekhar took break to learn from his failure and is now pumped for his new movie ‘Pattharbaaz’, which will be a first-person account of a young stone pelter in Kashmir, who chooses to turn his life around after a series of setbacks.
When asked why he chose this such a sensitive topic, Shekhar says, “When you go to Kashmir they talk like ‘you and I’, which means you are Indian and they are Kashmiris, it shouldn’t be this way. It has become very complicated, I don’t have any agenda and want to show the turmoil there. They talk about ‘azadi’, what if they get their azadi can they support themselves? They have been surviving due to grants provide by the Indian government. They have no business, no infrastructure, and very little economy.” Excerpts from the interview:
What made you make a film on Kashmiri stone pelters?
This is a major problem in Kashmir and I wanted to know why has this not been solved yet. The issue cropped up in the early 90’s and then after few years there was a lull, then after Burhan Wani’s death they started cropping up again. Now they have become huge numbers, even kids as young as four years’ old are taking this up and asking for ‘azadi’. These kids don’t even know what azadi is. I just want to humanise this topic and showcase what is going on in Kashmir for so many years. I want to showcase their part of their problem as well.
Are you going to showcase the larger picture and the whole political scenario or just talk about the stone pelters?
I will touch upon each and every topic as this problem has come up because of the political disruption in the area. This started because of years of injustice and militarisation, due to which they haven’t been able to build industries have proper jobs. While I know that a film can’t solve all their problem, I just trying to find out how these pelters have emerged. I will not take sides, I want the people to see the film and be moved by it. I hope that it brings in a change of heart and all this blood shed stops. Every problem has a resolution if we want to solve it.
Since it is a conflicted area, how do you plan to shoot over there?
I will want to shoot where the problem is, that will make my film authentic. I am spending a lot of time and energy talking to various kinds of people like politicians, the locals, the pelters and their family. God forbid it there is a problem, then I have a back plan, if I can’t shoot in Kashmir then I will shoot in Uttrakhand or somewhere where there is a resemblance in the terrains. Moreover, there are shoots going on there and I am not trying to make a controversial film.
When do plan to start shooting?
I am still working on my script as it is the most important part of this film. I am sitting on it. I have to get the story and the characters right and then it will all fall into place.
Do you plan on casting your son Adhyayan as well?
I think so, as there are so many roles and he should be able to essay one of them. I also don’t want stars as I don’t want to take care of their paraphernalia. I will also cast locals Kashmiris; as sometimes real-life experiences make you a better actor.
Your last film with him did not do well, aren’t you sceptical casting him again?
I made a heartfelt film in a heartless world. Unfortunately, if you don’t make the right noises for such films, people disregard it. So, I have learnt from my mistakes, I still think ‘Heartless’ is good film but I didn’t know the art of marketing and PR. I will make sure that this film will be presold and a big studio is behind it. This film is in English and Hindi and has a lot of international interest so, I don’t think this time around I will have any issues.
While so many star kids who are doing so well in the industry today, Adhyayan has not been able to make it to the big leagues…
I think failure is a great teacher. In the end, it takes one film and one Friday to change your destiny. While Varun Dhawan has a 100% success rate, actors like Sushant Singh Rajput and Tiger Shroff have had so many failures but are still getting films. I firmly believe that destiny has a part to play, it will get you the right scripts and the right director. He is working on a script that he wants to direct and act in. He has offloaded everything that has happened in his personal and professional life and is moving on now. He has been though a lot and he is going through a low phase, and he will be successful soon. People will forget his past then.
Any plans to return to television?
I started my journey with a film ‘Utsav’ and then ‘Movers and Shakers’ happened. But I don’t think I will return to TV anytime soon, as I feel I over stayed my welcome. I want to keep experimenting, and venture into different mediums and do more films that depict real life. Even if I want to come back on TV I don’t think I will fit in anymore. TV has become very regressive.
How do you view the comedy on TV today?
I don’t view it at all. It has become crass, abysmal and has hit an all-time low. Comedy before has some thought behind it, today it is all mindless and cross-dressing. If you are not educated, then you will make such stuff only. I don’t have any respect for comedies now.
Are you interested in the web medium?
Yes, I love this new medium. You will see me on the web very soon, I am planning something. It will be a comedy and suspense as well. Also I am planning ‘Movers and Shakers’ on the web portal as well.