Sometimes, I have to make an effort to remember that I did make a film after all. In fact, in the early days, I struggled to convince some people that what I had made was indeed a feature film. “How long is it?” would be an often-asked question. After a long pause, I’d say, “116 minutes; a little less than 2 hours.” To which the reply would be: “Oh, it’s that long, huh? Okay, it’s like a film only then...or is it a documentary?” I’d then give up explaining any further. Instead, I’d indulge in feel-good conversations that would have me say things like, “Nice haircut…or hey, you have lost so much weight!”
Then again, writing and making films is all I know, so I keep at it. But now, I have wised up. Before deciding on a film’s title, I chant, “I am making a U/A film...Yes, I am making a U/A film.” This is necessary to keep me from faltering, you see. Several ideas and innumerable drafts later, I finally zero in on a script that I think will qualify as a U/A film. I then take it to producers who’d green-light the project.
“Can’t the heroine’s mother not be smoking in the film?” comes the question. Rage is coursing through my blood stream, but I regain my composure and fight one question with another. “Doesn’t the dadi (grandmother) in Vicky Donor drink?” I need to support my case with relevant benchmarks, you see. Drinking is okay…smoking, now that is a problem,” is the reply. I hurry through the narration, and I am tempted to say, “Yes, the film’s climax is all wrong...Actually, I have written a f***all script.” In any case, she is treating my script like it is one. Long after she is gone and the lights have been turned off, I am left giggling all alone.
I recount this experience to a leading actress and she tells me about the most horrible script narration she ever heard from a director. “The script was explained to me on the phone and it was the worst narration ever. But there was so much excitement, confusion and honesty, so I said, ‘Yes, let’s do it’.”
These days, even the rays of hope sting more than soothe. I think I should soon visit all the bars Charles Bukowski went to. Maybe that will keep me from failing into such traps. But alas, don’t drink!
Vasan Bala is best known for his work on films such as Dev D and Geek Out, where he worked as an assistant director. His first film as a director, Peddlers, hasn’t yet released, but it has won critical appreciation at various film festivals.