The screenwriter and film director, Sriram Raghavan who is presently enjoying the success of his film, ‘Andhadhun’, is in Goa to attend the International Film Festival of India 2018. In an exclusive interview with
NT BUZZ, he speaks about ‘Andhadhun’, the advanced technology in cinema and his future project, among other things
RAMNATH N PAI RAIKAR
- With the recent success of ‘Andhadhun’, you have now become the super-specialist of thriller genre. Does it put you in a locked groove or are you open to direct films of other genre?
I personally am not susceptible to this observation. I only need a good story to direct a film. I am open to all genres. There are some stories I would like to direct more than the others. If there are very good love stories, then why not (direct them)? I would happily do it.
- How do you source the premises of your films? Say, Alfred Hitchcock would adapt stories from novels, while Manmohan Desai had said that even a catchy headline of newspaper report is enough for him to make a film…
It can be a book, it can be a short story, it can be a news item, and so many other things. Like the French short film, ‘L’Accordeur’ (The Piano Tuner) by Oliver Treiner was the take-off point for ‘Andhadhun’. Something has to attract me to it; that this is worth making movie about because it takes a minimum of a year of one’s life, if not more, to make a movie. I try to look for something for my film that excites me. So that is the reason I avoid making remakes because if somebody has already gone through the adventure then there is no point repeating that as that then becomes a job and not creativity. If somebody has made a film (and one is going for its remake) then he has to just cast the actors and proceed; unless the original is a very bad film with a great idea. And there are very few such films!
- You have often spoken about the genre of film noir. Have you given a thought over making one; a black and white thriller or crime drama or detective film, with no songs?
In fact, I wanted to do ‘Johnny Gaddaar’ in black and white, but then today, the new generation audiences, especially kids are not used to seeing black and white films. I was very tempted to do ‘Johnny Gaddaar’ that way, but then settled for having its first five minutes in black and white, subsequently turning it into colour. Black and white film is a lovely thing to do. I myself love the old black and white films, but then it is very dicey thing to do in today’s commercially-driven scenario, in the film industry. And then there is no specific reason for doing a black and white film, unless I want to get some kick out of it.
- How do you look at the role played by social media in promoting your latest film, ‘Andhadhun’?
The word of mouth was my biggest publicity for ‘Andhadhun’. We were not very high on marketing for the film because the producers were not super-confident about the film. The people from the focus group, which evaluated ‘Andhadhun’ for producers, said that the film will work with some actors, while not work with some. Therefore, the producers didn’t want to spend on the marketing and promotion of the film. After the success of the film, I can say that they should have done more on publicity part, but before the release even I didn’t know how the movie would have fared. But I think the movie received maximum mileage from the social media. People actually told each other to go and watch this movie. They hoped and wished that the movie made Rs 100-crore business. It was not that they would get any share out of it, but they wanted the movie to work, which is a superb thing.
- Do you feel that today’s filmmakers are blessed with advanced technology in the field of cinema? Say for example, wouldn’t the opening rabbit sequence in ‘Andhadhun’ been difficult to shoot, if not impossible, had the movie been made some 20-30 years ago?
It’s a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a double-edged sword. Like if you see the first part of the film ‘Jaws’ directed by Steven Spielberg, it works without any computer graphics. They actually made a mechanical shark for the film. Today, so many films are made with all the technological effects possible, as available to the filmmaker. However, it loses its soul. When I see an old film, I know that they have actually built that or really done that… So there is a value to all that we see on the screen. The special effects can be really dangerous at times.
- Are you of the opinion that during the days of studio system, the directors were not burdened with non-creative things like financing, exhibition, distribution and release of films as the studios took care of these things, leaving the directors to work creatively?
But they are two different compartments. When I am discussing the film with my writers, it is one thing, while as I talk about financing, it’s another. It’s good to know that that this movie is costing so much, and whether it will be able to recover the money. Even a director like Alfred Hitchcock did not have easy time in filmmaking, all the time. His last two or three films made him face tough times. For a film like ‘Frenzy’, which is one of his beautiful films, it was very difficult for him to get a producer. And this was when he has already become ‘The Hitchcock’. The producers told him, OK, we will give you only so much money, you have to do it with newcomers and so on. So as you see, it happens.
- Would you do television? In fact, many filmmakers have done it, here Satyajit Ray has done it, and even Hitchcock made ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ for television…
Well, now there are two things, one is television and another one web series. In fact, I had done television before I started doing movies. Now I don’t know how long the movies are going to last and how long the people are going to come to the cinema hall. So as long as I am getting a chance to make movies, I would rather focus on movies.
- Do you visit the cinema halls to gauge the reaction of the audiences?
Yes, yes I do that. I went thrice to the cinema hall, when ‘Andhadhun’ was released. Once we just went in a small group and sat in New Excelsior, in Mumbai to see it with the actual crowd. Of course, by then the movie had got rave reviews and all. But I always followed up with the theatres if the piano montage was being shown at the end of this film.
- What are your future plans?
I have no dream project. However, I am planning something, which is a little out of the comfort zone for me. It’s a war film based on a real-life story. I am in the process of scripting it, and in a month or two it should be ready.