Free Press Journal

The ‘Phantoms’ of cinema


Anurag Kashyup

Shubarna Mukerji Shu applauds the four pillars of Phantom for creating and merchandising superlative cinema with elan!

‘Bombay Velvet’, ‘NH10’, ‘Hunterr’, ‘Lootera’, ‘Queen’, ‘Ugly’… are movies that released in the last couple of years under Phantom Films, Their dream, they say, is to make the movies they like to watch. Phantom, namely Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Vikas Bahl and Madhu Mantena, has made ph se films something the educated revel in rather than refuse to acknowledge! The four pillars on which Phantom reigns supreme, each has a unique story, which speaks of the wealth they bring into their cinema…

Anurag Kashyap
For a long time his proudest asset was a room filled with film DVDs, a library that was his sacred temple, a temple that evoked his passion for movies like nothing else possibly could. While film still is a passion for him, the time he could spend in that sacred temple has certainly diminished. …And to think the man wanted to be a scientist till Vittorio De Sica’s BICYCLE THIEVES happened to him. Today he is called by many names. Mostly respected but sometimes slain due to his own words that he so carelessly throws around that they grow into weeds. He is known to have said things like ‘I think I made Salman (Khan) a bit nervous!’ when he was unceremoniously ousted from Khan’s film TERE NAAM, which initially Kashyap was to direct. He apparently had asked Salman to grow his chest and armpit hair as the men in Mathura aren’t seen with shaven chests!

His tongue hasn’t changed and neither have his ideas of cinema, though those accusing him of fence- sitting often reprimand his ways of playing to the gallery from time to time. He is growing beyond what was once deemed possible for him. With films like BLACK FRIDAY, DEV D, THE GIRL IN YELLOW BOOTS, GANGS OF WASSEYPUR and BOMBAY VELVET, this zoology graduate has a secured place where cinema and posterity are concerned. And with all this working out for him as a director he has moved the vision forward with Phantom Films, producing films like HASEE TOH PHASEE and HUNTERR too proving that there is clearly no stopping this whirlwind of cinema. What is commendable is that despite the presence of all these directors on the panel, it is not necessary that one of them will be directing their next outing.

Vikramaditya Motwane
Vikramaditya Motwane
The man who debuted with something as sensitive and honest as UDAAN is one of the head honchos of Phantom. He seems to be thoroughly enjoying all things cinema when he directs, writes and also produces now under Phantom. Though his third film BHAVESH JOSHI has been shelved he has two excellent films, the aforementioned UDAAN, and LOOTERA starring Sonakshi Sinha and Ranveer Singh, which have already given him a status in Bollywood which brands him as one of the finest auteurs of Hindi cinema.
The new daddy, who was recently blessed with a baby girl, could be called a jack of all trades just by virtue of the many things he has delved into in his career in Bollywood. From assisting Sanjay LeelaBhansali to directing song sequences for Anurag Kashyap’s PAANCH, Motwane has done more than just write and direct films. Having closely worked with Anurag on DEV D and PAANCH, one would think he would have got influenced by Kashyap’s style of story-telling and direction but nothing Motwane has done could be called inspired by anyone but his own style and sensibilities.

Vikas Bahl
The solo ventures of the third pillar of Phantom has thus comprised of just one film and a short film but the sheer magnitude of appreciation his vVikas bahlentures have garnered silences any doubts one could possess regarding his capabilities. This client servicing guy from the field of advertising quit his job to join UTV Spotboy, and over the years worked with directors like Vishal Bhardwaj, Anurag Kashyap, Rajkumar Gupta and Vikramaditya Motwane. He co-directed CHILLAR PARTY which went on to win the National Award for Best Screenplay. And the flurry of awards, critical appreciation and box office returns created by his next, QUEEN was unprecedented. His next, SHANDAAR is about a destination wedding held in Europe. As frivolous as it sounds, his films are anything but that. For someone who calls himself old school and is said to enjoy his music best on the long playing vinyl players, Bahl might stand apart from his partners at Phantom but that’s the beauty of these filmmakers coming together.

Madhu Mantena
Currently making news more on the personal front with his engagement to Neena Gupta’s lovely daughter, designer Masaba, Mantena stands out from amongst the four because he has never really directed a film. His area of expertise lies squarely on the business front and that’s something that doesn’t come second to creative genius. The man who began his career by launching his own music label at a tender age, Adlabs and SaReGaMa are just a few of the places he has headed before he made his debut with GHAJINI. Very often all their collaborations be it with horror films production house Blumhouse or the multi-film tie-up with Reliance Films are his brain child which is most impressive.

So while Phantom is growing creatively and commercially, there is a sense of achievement even amongst those who are not directly associated with the banner… Simply because it says people, no matter how diverse, can do wonders if they have a passion they can share.

Kangana bribed her way through

Indian Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut poses for a photograph during a promotional event for the Hindi film 'PK', directed by Rajkumar Hirani and produced by Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra, in Mumbai on late June 10, 2015. AFP PHOTO / STR

We have all seen the versatility of Kangana Ranaut with her phenomenal acting skills in her recent hits. However, this time around for her next film, we will see the actress step on the other side of the camera. We hear that the actress has directed the first seven minutes of her upcoming film, KATTI BATTI, in which she will be seen starring opposite Imran Khan. The shots directed by Kangana feature both Imran and Kangana herself.

It’s a sacrosanct belief that no one on sets can touch the camera apart from the cinematographer. So Kangana took the cinematographer’s blessing and bribed him with Re 1 to allow her to use the camera!

The scene was shot in one take. The director of the film Nikhil Advani and Imran Khan were impressed with ‎Kangana as it is not simple to handle the camera, act, and shoot.

“It’s a seven minutes uncut sequence, I had to shoot it by holding the camera in my hands which was the demand of the script. It was nerve racking but actors can do anything for a director who shows trust and faith in his actor abilities. Nikhil is one such director,” confesses Kangana Ranaut.

Director Nikhil Advani who has directed films like KAL HO NAA HO and SALAAM-E-ISHQ, adds, “One of my favorite scenes in the film is one in which Kangana’s character is shooting Imran playfully with an iPad. I wanted the scene to be organic so Tushar the DOP suggested that we should allow Kangana to shoot it herself. The lighting was completed, the set was cleared out and Kangana has shot the scene like a pro adding one more talent to her already overflowing basket.”