EXCLUSIVE: Abhishek Jain On Rebooting Gujarati Cinema (Part 2)

By Yash Thakur. Posted on April 08, 2015

In the Part 1 of this interview, Jamuura spoke to Abhishek Jain (director of Kevi Rite Jaish and Bey Yaar) about his journey into filmmaking and how he ended up making his first film. A film about the obsession of Gujaratis with the USA, Kevi Rite Jaish explored the clueless and ardent desire of Gujaratis to move to the west for greener pastures. The film was both critically and commercially successful, prompting him to make his next venture, Bey Yaar. Here, we catch up with him about the difficulties of finding distributors for a regional film, the learnings from the previous one and the road ahead for Abhishek Jain and Gujarati cinema.

1.  How did Bey Yaar happen? Was it easier to get funding for Bey Yaar given the success of Kevi Rite Jaish? Did you expect the film to do so well?

AJ- For me any film has to happen only if there is this dire need to tell a story unless it doesn’t make any sense to make a film and spend so much money and energy into it. KRJ happened, because I wanted to tell story about how people cluelessly and desperately want to make it to the USA. Especially after hearing some heart wrenching stories of people who struggle after reaching there illegally. BY happened because I had this desperation to tell story about youngsters today, who think they are enterprising but in real sense they are not. Moreover, I was fascinated by the idea of friendship and there is this real incident of painter M F Hussain putting up his piece of work in a normal tea stall of Ahmedabad.

All combined together and the film happened, writers took my thoughts to another level and it became a film on friendship. My production company (CineMan Productions Ltd.) has funded both the films. Initially for KRJ I had gone out to find producers and there were all sorts of people we met, but they had strange things in their head meanwhile the script was taking its shape, it demanded to be made, we plunged into production and pumped the money in. Post KRJ many people had shown interest in putting money for BY, out of which some had sick intentions, some wanted only name and fame and others were looking for guaranteed returns, none was a fit for us.

BY was eventually produced by us and the money also was pumped in by the production company. Second film was a conscious call, of sticking to be the producer but till date I tell people that I am only a director by choice, but a writer/producer/marketeer/distributor by circumstances. Fortunately, I dont regret those risky decisions today. I like to be the entrepreneur who is looking after everything and luckily i have an efficient team to help me do whatever i want to do when it comes to directing. Coming from KRJ, we wanted to make BY as one of the biggest Gujarati films and so we did package the film in that way from every angle, be it writer, music composers, cast, crew, budget, production value, etc. and had set our targets for its economics, but had never thought that the audience will love this film even more than KRJ and it would run in theaters for so long. It released on 29th August, 2014 and is still running in cinemas, I hope it completes at least 50 weeks in cinemas.

2. Tell us a bit about the casting process for both your films.

AJ- I am not comfortable in setting up auditions and having people stand with those casting boards, reciting dialogues or acting in front of a handycam. I want to know the person, talk to him/her. I want to make sure that the other person is a good listener, he/she is sensible and sensitive, and is affected by the subject that i am affected by. So basically I meet the potential candidate, sit and talk for a while and if my intuitions are giving me positive signals, I dive into the subject and wait for reactions, or meet couple of more times to get there. To get a call from within whether this will be the right person for the character or not. This is mainly for the primary actors and then when it comes to secondary, one scene-two scene actor, I mostly leave it upto my casting director. I know he can justify his job and do good to the film.

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3. The songs of BY have done exceptionally well. Can you talk about the music and the role it played in the movie?

AJ- I am fortunate enough to have big names like Sachin-Jigar to compose for BY. They are proud Gujaratis and from the day I narrated the script to them, they were at it. My films do not really have lip sync songs, they are mostly part of the back ground and Sachin-Jigar understood my brief really well. They respect the director and the script and deliver accordingly. Unfortunately, we do not have enough mediums to play Gujarati songs. The entertainment channels that Gujarat has, doesn't have my target group as their viewers; the radios have strange policy issues, thus they do not play Gujarati content like they would play Hindi songs, hence we are only left with digital mediums to make our songs popular. however hard we tried, I still feel guilty that I couldn't justify the potential of BY's music and Sachin-Jigar's presence in the film. Next time I will make sure to push my music across mediums and promote it as much as i can.

4. Marathi, Bengali and South Indian cinema have firmly established an industry of their own. When will we see more quality Gujarati films? In your opinion what is lacking?

AJ- We all are pretty much aware about the other regional cinema doing well, going across places and that Gujarati (cinema) is really lacking behind. Once in the 70s the Gujarati film industry has witnessed a golden period and post that everything dived to deteriorate. I think if continuous attempts are made, if youth participates, Gujarati films will have a great future ahead. In coming 3-4 years, we shall have the economics set and the industry rolling. What we lack the most today is the intent to make a good film. Everyone is out there to either make clones of earlier films, or make films because they want to see their name as producers on celluloid, or they want to sleep with the actress, etc. If you want to tell a story, make a film, that is the only reason for one to make a film, not anything else. Intent, honesty, integrity are the issues.

5. Young filmmakers are making waves at international film festivals as well as getting acclaim back home. What is your take on the steady rise of the alternative cinema in India?

AJ- Young filmmakers are fearless, they are telling their stories in a very novel way. This has happened to this country at a very later age, but good that it happened. With a diverse population, you can't expect your film to cater to everyone and thus you find your own pockets, your own niche, this will only grow as long as our choices are different. But having said that, there is no set system or a parallel industry structure for such films, the filmmaker has to end up doing everything, this makes them either quit after the first attempt or they end up taking so much time to come up with their next film, the production rate goes down. The much needed push only slows down.

6. Who do you think are the directors to look out for in today’s indie cinema? What useful tips would you share with young directors of today?

AJ- Amongst the young directors i like the work of Anand Gandhi, Ritesh Batra, Srinivas Sunderrajan, Karan Gour, many more. There are no tips, just my observation that I can share. I think lot of youngsters today get into films considering that it is a glamorous industry, they will be tagged as cool, or rather filmmaking is all about taking a camera and shooting something beautifully. But that is not the case, one has to understand that it is a medium of story telling, unless you don't have a story to tell, or you are dying to share a story with the people, do not even attempt to make a film.

7. You have worked with two of the most well known directors of Hindi cinema. Do you have a desire to direct Hindi films?

AJ- I obviously want my films to reach out to larger audience and I do have subjects in Hindi. When at the right time, right people come across, I am set to roll.

8. What’s next? What projects are you working on? 

AJ- Since we have set up a good hold in production, marketing and distribution for Gujarati films, we have thought of producing films for others. There are so many youngsters who are willing to make a film, but they stop at the thought of distributing the film and this is where we want to come as a help. We will help them market and distribute their films. Cineman Productions Limited is now a full time production house which is focusing on advertisement films as well as feature films. Meanwhile I am back to the core business of making ad films; until I get a story idea and a desperation to tell that story, I am not making a feature film.


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