A man of many talents Amole Gupte an actor, writer and director has always felt disconnected to the conventional Bollywood stories. After years of training at the Film and Television Institute of India, the filmmaker finally found his calling with films that centre on issues faced by children in India. With his new film Sniff! the director is in a familiar space, but his next film (based on Saina Nehwal) has put Amole in a new and exciting territory. Excerpts from the interview:
Why do you keep coming back to this genre of films for kids?
I have learnt about cinema as I have spent 12 years in the film Institute campus. Having got a taste of the world’s best, I didn’t feel that I fit into the conventional Bollywood system. Apart from that, I had a lot of interest in visual art form, so slowly build up the interest to make films for children. The issues brought me back to cinema. I had told myself I won’t come back, I had finished it in the eighties. Then in early 2000, I came with this story of learning differences and how the adult world is so indifferent to it. Then I found my calling.
Why isn’t there better content for children, they either have an international Superman or a Ramayana?
Once you have tasted the American Hollywood product which cost 1000crores then we have to match up to their palette which a very expensive visual palette. So, the only way to counter it is high content. We can’t make a Harry Potter in India, even with that cost. Although there were so many Indians working on that film, so we have the ability but we don’t have the market. The world has to recognise Indian film just like they like a Spiderman or a Batman.
So what is the Indian children market?
There is no market, which means there is no respect for children. Which is very shameful.
Then why in the ad world, children are the main source of market but in films, they are not?
In the ad world it is a consumable product, here it is a lesson in content.
What do we lack then?
Indian are so thakela, they want to take their children to a U/A film where the father is laughing at the adult jokes and the items. Children are wrongly influenced by all this.
Talking about children being influenced, the internet game blue whale has attacked the kids fancy, how can you avoid that?
See, the kids have not invented the gadgets. Adults complain that their kids are obsessed with mobiles and don’t go out to play physical games, but you have brought the gadget home. Although there is so much peer pressure that even if you have kept you child away from all these instruments, your child will suffer a complex when they are among friends. The society come together it in order to rain check on what is going on. But alas there is no such forum.
You recently came out against children working in reality shows. But you also make films with children leads, so even you are employing kids and keeping them away from school…
No, my films are like a workshop. We don’t take them out of school hours. No child in my film has never lost a school day. The workshop consists of discussions on cinema, we also do theatre exercises and much more. We are very careful about children and their education. On the sets of reality shows the children are kept in vanity vans and are pumped up on chocolates. My movies are like an annual play.
How is the prep going for the Saina Nehwal biopic?
In terms of prep I want the audience to be convinced that they are watching Saina Nehwal. Shraddha is putting in so much effort, she is not accepting any other work and focusing on her training. She is going to Matunga early morning to train with Jitesh Padukone. I am overwhelmed by everyone’s dedication, I just hope I can fulfil the promise for her that it is one of a kind film.
And how are you preparing?
I have been very involved with the family. I am almost their family member now. I have a great relationship with Saina, her family and her badminton buddies. I have also interviewed Gopi to know what goes into making of a girl champions. I want to show the steps that she has followed to replicate it by children and become an inspiring story.
Any plans to have a cameo by Deepika?
See, Padukone Academy was where she trained. So, Deepika’s father and Vimal Kumar are responsible to making her the champion she is today. She lives in that academy and she is very close to the Padukone family, but that doesn’t mean we require Deepika. Moreover, why would she waste her time in a cameo she is such big brand herself. I don’t think she would even want to do this favour for us when it is not even required.
How is the experience working with Shraddha?
I do have some morning memories with Shraddha as I am also there when she is training. When I look into her I eyes I find that sincerity, which is so difficult to find in this world. This it is a big encouragement for me. She is a very simple person and I appreciate that.
Any other biopics in mind?
You guys are branding it as a biopic but it is not. It is a story of a little girl from Haryana who made it to the number one in the international stage. The last time it happened was by Prakash Padukone in 1980’s. So imagine the scale she has brought to the stage. So now little girls look up to her.
Worried about the comparison to Dangal?
I’m not even thinking about all that, there are so many other things to do. Itna time kaha hai.