The film industry is very accepting today

Making his debut opposite Sunny Leone in ‘Ragini MMS 2’, Saahil Prem shares his impressions of the industry with Shweta Kulkarni.

My perception of the industry has not changed at all because of my mom (journalist Nishi Prem). She kept it very real for us since we were kids. You know, she always told us how it was, so we always had a kind of perception through her.

 And till today it remains the same. For some reason, my brother and I were not that fond of Bollywood as kids, maybe because it was something we were used to …so we lost interest. I was not interested until I went to the UK to study and I came back.

When I returned, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Doing an acting course just seemed cool to me, so I went to acting school and after that I became very curious about how films are made and how things are done from scratch. So I asked Mom if I could go assist someone. She spoke to a few people, and I did too. I went to Vipul Shah, and ‘London Dreamns’ happened.

It was really crazy because they took me in without knowing whose son I was, and before I knew it I was the eighth AD on the film. There were some issues regarding some visas and many got cancelled.

Luckily, I already had a visa because I was a student, and even though I was never supposed to go to London for the shoot, I ended up going there, because I had the visa. I ended up being the only assistant there! It helped a lot as I learned so much from that experience.

When I was studying in UK, I used to go and dance at these underground circuits and battles. After going there for a week or two, people started asking me where I was from… And when I’d tell them India, they would be shocked.

They’d be like, ‘No, no Indian people can’t dance that well.’ I took that as an offence as I am kind of the patriotic types. I have been wearing this tricolour band (gestures to his wrist) for the longest time.

I was told to remove it for ‘Ragini MMS 2’ but otherwise I have been wearing it for a long time. When I returned to India, I came back with the story of M.A.D (Mad About Dance) in my mind.  I had no idea I was going to direct it …it was just the story. I wrote for months and once it was ready, I went with it to Mum.

But she didn’t read it immediately. So I had to force her ki please padho, padho, and then she read it. At that time films like ABCD had not even been conceived.

Also shows like ‘Dance India Dance’ and all were not around. Mom obviously was like, ‘Who will watch this kind of dance film?’ But I was adamant and, to cut a long story short, in a year or two we slowly started the project. I got in touch with the ‘Step Up’ choreographers and they said yes. Mum too started taking interest, Salah came on board later and finally we started shooting.

It was extremely tough directing, acting and producing the film, because I’d had the experience of just one film. However, I had a really strong vision as to what I wanted. We had a director on board initially but after three days unfortunately we had to part ways.

So we had no crew, we had no light-men, no make-up people. I didn’t want to waste any more days, so somehow I managed local people from there and I managed to make a team and start shooting. I still don’t believe that it happened… People still ask me, ‘How did you do it?’ And I have no answer, I can’t explain, because I was directing it, and I was acting in it, so whatever stress I had, I couldn’t show it to them.

The minute I showed any stress everyone else was also going to get stressed. And there was no one there except for me as a producer too. The whole crew was depending on me so I couldn’t afford even one frown. But now that the movie is soon going to be released, I am happy.

I feel the film industry is very accepting today… there is acceptance now, which was not there earlier. Now people are more ready to accept something different, so today maybe if a guy is not good looking but a very good actor, he would still have a chance, compared to before. Now I think anyone can be a hero. Talent is being noticed today. I really like that.

What I do not like is the fakeness. I do not like that at all. I also do not like some norms that you have to follow. Like if you do certain films, you will be typecast … it’s very cruel like that.

Also Bollywood is about going to parties, and I think I am not of that school at all. I mean, I can go out for parties with my friends, I can go for parties seven days in a row but I can’t go for parties for networking.  So that’s how Bollywood is today and I am still not in it at all. I know I am a part of it but I do not have any friends as such here…

That said, I do know a few good people. Especially Shah Rukh… I had met him when I was a kid. I had heard a lot about him from Mum; Mum always talks very fondly of him. They have been friends since a long time. I was never star-struck, but when I was sitting with Shah Rukh and now when I met him again I was charmed by him.

He has this quality in him… he makes everyone like him. And he has been very helpful to us. He was involved with our film and has been very kind and very nice to us.  I will always be indebted to him. I have also known Farah Khan since a long time.

I think she is an extremely chilled out person. She is not at all fake; she will tell you whatever it is straight to your face, that’s why I get along with her. I like such people.

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