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Aesthetics Count

Cinematic sensibility and the importance of keeping it real in Bollywood

The cinema that some of my contemporaries and I are making today adheres to certain aesthetics we are comfortable with. I grew up with a theatre background and that training makes me keep things real. Hindi cinema is rapidly following that route. It’s no longer do-as-you-please.

Most good films today maintain an aesthetic sensibility that is inherent to the subject of the film. You get a sense of that in Vicky Donor – the aesthetics were maintained by refraining from double meaning dialogue. I will never make a vulgar or double meaning film. Vicky Donor’s story is told as honestly as possible. Cinematically, we tried to keep it real and simple, the way I have seen life in Delhi. That’s what the industry and people have appreciated in my film. I would say people are asking for more cinema with aesthetics. There is a thin line which, if you cross, can make things vulgar. That is totally in the hands of the director and the writer. Everything does not have to be over-the-top and loud.

A movie about sperm donation could have easily been risqué and bawdy. For example, in the scene where Ayushmann (Khurrana) goes in the lab room and the doctor is shown giving him porn magazines, we could have played that up. But the way Anu Kapoor (Dr Chadda) reacts is very matter-of-fact, just how any regular doctor treating infertility would. In the same scene, the nurse is shown coming to his room very normally, where he is supposed to donate his sperm in a small bottle. She could have smiled and given a suggestive look, but she carried on a like a normal professional. We held to these moments and kept it subtle. People later told me they thought we might slip in that scene.

How you flesh out your subject, whether comedy or drama, can make or break a film. It is also very important to have a good team. The Vicky Donor team was superb. My casting director Jogi cast each part right and my writer (Juhi Chaturvedi) was my support. Without them, things could have gone wrong. Such was the synergy of our collective vision that Vicky Donor ended up serving as the launch vehicle for writers, actors, fashion designer, cameraman and the art director. So, truly, the right aesthetics can make a huge difference.

As a filmmaker whenever I look at my old film I find mistakes in it. Although Yahaan will always be my first baby, it was a film from which I learned a lot and was careful to not make the same mistakes in Vicky Donor. The mistakes I made in Vicky Donor, I will avoid in my next film. The day I stop finding mistakes, my career will be over. When you move from one project to another, you always discover mistakes that you made in the earlier one. This too is part of one’s aesthetics.

Talking about real cinema, Vicky Donor was a totally new concept. Even with Yahaan we faced criticism before its release. The idea for Yahaan struck me after reading a small news item about a girl who was hanged because she fell in love with an army man. In Kashmir, any association with an army guy is a threat to any Kashmiri.

Between Yahaan and Vicky Donor I made Shoebite to which I dedicated three years. We started making the film in 2008 and it remained in post-production until 2011. Shoebite needed to cover many seasons and different moods. That took long. It was a movie very close to me. I gave my 100 per cent to it. I put my heart and soul into the film; it was a beautiful script and I was working with the legend of the industry, Amitabh Bachchan. This is a film about self discovery told in a very real fashion.

I do not know whether more films like Vicky Donor will be made. It would depend on the kind of subject you chose and the way you portray it and who is making it. I never target any audience and make a film; I select a script and make a film. It may be liked or preferred by a particular audience or by everyone. If you make an engaging film, there are people who want to watch it. When people heard I was making a film on sperm donation, they assumed it would be a serious subject. They were taken aback when they watched it. Today, many industry people tell me it has become a cult film and it has opened doors for many filmmakers and producers who want to make films with good subjects, with aesthetics intact and without the baggage of stars.


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