Irrfan and Vidya Balan have not worked in a film together till date but writer-director Sarthak Dasgupta had brought them together for a TV show/episodic which never saw the light of day. Working on television was something the filmmaker did to survive. His heart was always in the movies but he wanted to tell his stories without succumbing to any commercial pressure. In this interview, he talks about his film ‘Music Teacher’ which released on Netflix recently, why Manav Kaul was apt for a role which was originally written for Nawazuddin Siddiqui, why releasing films on digital platforms makes sense in today’s times and upcoming projects.
An actor told me recently he is not happy with films releasing on digital platforms and that every film deserves a theatrical release.
Releasing every film in theatre is not a practical option. You need to spend a lot of money on promoting the film. Many films struggle to recover even the money spent on P&A. And if your small film releases with a huge, star-studded vehicle, you end up getting only a few shows with odd timings. Even if somebody is interested in watching your film, he will not come to the theatre because of these factors. When a film does not work and is termed a flop, it affects it badly. I find these digital platforms to be amazing. You have to go to the theatre to watch a big event film like ‘Avatar’ or ‘Avengers’ because you are looking for a certain visual and sonic experience. A film like ‘Music Teacher’ can be watched and enjoyed at home. A lot of people have smart TVs today, so they can either watch content on their phone while travelling or watch it on their television sets when they get back home.
You had made a telefilm called ‘The Violin Sonata’ featuring Irrfan and Vidya Balan. Why did it never come out?
I made that episodic for Zee TV’s ‘Rishtey’. Those were the days when we used to shoot on analog tapes. Unfortunately, I seem to have lost the footage and people might never get to see it.
You had also made a film called ‘Cutthroat’.
I had raised a small amount for developing the film but I faced some issues and could not make that film back then. I still hope to make it someday.
Your first film ‘The Great Indian Butterfly’ took seven years to release. Has it been easy being an independent filmmaker and telling the kind of stories you want to tell?
Do you think something like this can be easy? (laughs) It has been very tough. It is difficult to make the kind of films I want to make. I used to write and direct TV shows for survival. I would just get in and be there for a few months. Six months is the maximum I have worked on anything till date. I made a Marathi telefilm on ETV Marathi and made a Hindi telefilm for Zoom called ‘The Face’ which featured Ronit Roy and Tom Alter.
You have a company called White Lotus Films. What is the kind of content you are looking to produce?
White Lotus Films is a registered entity which I hope would be a production company someday. I do small AVs and corporate work under the company’s name. I think I need to establish myself properly as a writer and a director and then, perhaps, I can think of be more active as a producer.
Wasn’t Nawazuddin Siddiqui supposed to do the film earlier?
Yes, initially I wanted to make the film with Nawazuddin. Every film has its own destiny. Nawaz and I were talking for almost three years about the film but I was not able to accumulate funds for the film. Nawaz slowly became very big and we did not have the budget to accommodate a star like him and give him what he deserved. Also, the milieu changed from West Bengal to Himachal Pradesh. Manav is a pahadi himself and he fit the part very well. He has done a fantastic job.
What are you doing next?
I have quite a few scripts ready for feature films. All will be made at some point but I am not sure which one I will be making next. I am writing a crime saga which I will, hopefully, direct also. The story will span across two seasons and each season will have nine or ten episodes.