MARIA FERNANDES | NT KURIOCITY
A Mapusa lad and alumnus of St Xavier’s College, Alston has always been fascinated by films. His love for films, he says, began with a small handycam that his dad presented him right after his standard 11 exams. “The timing was perfect and with my handycam with me, I would go around filming everything that caught my attention. As I looked through my camera everything had a different dimension and colour; even the simplest of things became fascinating. Also at that time the song Bhaag D K Bose from the film Delhi Belly was very popular and I decided to do a remake of it with a few friends. We got together and I decided the concept, chalked out a plan of action and got it done without any prior knowledge of filmmaking. It was such an unforgettable experience putting together our thoughts and making something from our imagination come alive on screen in addition to playing a character in it, it can only be described as surreal,” he says. After his experience behind as well as in front of the camera and the overwhelming response and appreciation to the remake, he decided to make film-making his career.
Bollywood and Mumbai, he knew, was where he needed to be and after completing his course at St Xavier’s in Mass Communication and Videography, that is where he moved to. “Being used to the calm and peaceful pace of Goa, it wasn’t easy adjusting to the city that never sleeps. Initially when I shifted I had to get used to many things like living alone, the fast pace, the noise, the people, everything but I knew exactly what I wanted to do, so these small challenges didn’t deter me at all. I also had to find the right college, talk and connect with the right agencies, people, etc. But yes once I got the rhythm of the way things work and adjusted to it, it was amazing. Mumbai is definitely a vibrant and happening city,” he says.
Asked to share his experience learning filmmaking, he says: “The entire process of learning the art and craft of making movies was a joyous experience. My teachers in college to the experts in film school have all taught me in-depth, nuances and practicalities of every stage of making a movie. However there is nothing to beat practical knowledge. If I have been able to reach this far, I attribute it to the practical knowledge I gained through my various experiences in Mumbai.” Short films, teasers and music videos are just a few of the assignments besides assisting as a writer and director, which Alston has undertaken. He believes one has to experience it all to learn and grow.
In the pursuit of learning and growth he has also done various courses and one such course he mentions is the intensive acting workshop with casting director Mukesh Chhabra. “It was one of the best experiences I’ve had in the city of dreams. Mukesh Chhabra is a master at what he does and the workshop helped bring out the best in me as an actor. We were taught how to let go of everything and give uninhibited performances. I learnt a great deal from the workshop.”
Soon after Alston applied for the Bolti Khidkiyaan short film competition; an initiative to give young filmmakers a chance to get their first break in Bollywood. “Participants were required to write a 10 to 15-minute script and submit it before the deadline. I definitely wanted my script to be chosen but knowing there were 12000 entries I wasn’t very hopeful. Hence when I came to know my script was chosen, I was on cloud 9,” he says excitedly. The chosen scripts were then made into films which were funded by the producers. Siddiqui and Chabbra fine-tuned the end product.
In the making of the film, Alston used only newcomers even though he had the freedom to do otherwise. He says: “I knew how important and challenging it is to get a first break and I knew there were many like me from film school who were waiting for this kind of opportunity. They were as hungry as I was to do something big. So I put together a team of people who were fresh out of college or had just done a little work in the industry and we kick started the entire process with the help of the Bolti Khidkiyaan team. Most of the core team members were Goans.”
The film, ‘The Date’, revolves around a couple on a date who are enjoying each other’s company and are completely immersed in each other. But as the story proceeds the couple face some important issues about their respective personal lives and the decisions they have to take to make it through together. “My motivation to write this story was that I wanted to portray a story that deals with basic human emotions and the problems that relationships go through. A story that is real in every sense and also has a suspense element to it.”
On March 7 the five films were screened along with another two special screenings of films made by Tahira Kashyap called ‘Toffee’ and Shamas Siddiqui called ‘Miyaan Kal Aana’. “There were many VIPs and professionals from the film industry who were also present at the event. Towards the end we were given an opportunity to speak about our respective films, journeys and experiences through the entire process. It was an honour to be among the film fraternity and feel a part of the magical world of cinema,” he adds.
Writer, director or actor, which is the most challenging?
“All three have their own challenges. Writing however requires you to be at your composed best and in a quiet and inspiring environment. However, sometimes even amidst all the chaos a story can pop up. When directing you are the captain of the ship, a director needs to look into all the departments and work very closely with the actors to bring out the best in every scene. Acting for me is completely believing and being the character you are playing. It involves living the part, being the character I’m playing and actually emoting to every scene,” he answers.
Work, he says is his inspiration and looks forward to working with big banners and production houses in Bollywood as a lead actor in mainstream commercial cinema.
“I’m looking to do good work which is challenging and has quality to it. Something that can bring out the different shades in me and which will test my skills.”
To Goan youngsters who want to follow the same career, he says: “Filmmaking and acting require passion, endless hours of work, creativity and everything that you’ve got. So go for it only if you believe you’re ready for that commitment. If you believe in your dreams no matter how big they are, go forth with the right mindset, put in the effort and the rest will just follow. The sky is the limit.”