Sartaj Singh… Gate Crashing Bollywood
Posted by Arjun Sekhri on August 16, 2009 | 25 Comment
When a man encounters a wall there are two things that happen, either he turns away like most of humanity, or he digs a hole through it and forces his way to the other side. An individual who chose the latter course is Sartaj Singh Pannu, the wall was old school Bollywood, and the outcome is new age cinema… SOCH LO.
Now find out about the man and his movie, that has overcome tremendous odds and even now, battles away to reach it’s ultimate destination…….it’s audience.
Tell us about yourself?
I would like people to tell me about myself, after they see my work.
Your upcoming film, Soch Lo, has been mentioned as depictive of New Age Indian cinema. Tell us something about it?
We might proclaim it is New Age but lets see how it is received. I did not make the film keeping any revolutionary thought process in mind, I made it the way I perceived it.
What is your film about?
The film is about the disparity between Urban India and Rural India, how we think we have grown whereas in fact we have not, so it deals with what happens when you juxtapose the urban mindset in a rural setting. There are three spectrums, one about a brother sister relationship which deals with the past, then there is a husband and a wife who have had an arranged marriage and finally this commingling of the rural/urban process. While the film is targeting the youth of today, it is also a compelling watch for all ages, ethnicities and actually even a global mindset. It is for all the people who have fallen in love, gotten married and who also have to deal with the past baggage of the partners in a relationship.
More about the movie can be found on our website at http://www.sochlothemovie.com/
The novelty of this film is that it has been put together by a group of fresh talent and other newcomers from FTII. Sartaj you are the Director, Producer, Writer of this film, along with being the protagonist. Didn’t you feel, at any time, overwhelmed by the number of tasks that you were undertaking, especially for a debut?
Overwhelming is an understatement. It was like climbing Mount Everest!! When I look back I have no idea how this film got done. The odds that were overcome were nothing short of miraculous. It started with me wanting to test myself as to whether I am capable enough to be a filmmaker. The chances of me getting a break were not that much, because I don’t gel with the existing system of the Indian film industry, was a man of limited means and actually had a strong sense of conviction….ironically an overdose of conviction is not always appreciated here. That being said, I tried to get talent from NSD, FTII, etc since these were the people who have studied filmmaking, are passionate to start with and they have that fire in their belly like my DOP Sandeep Patil.
I was never in the running for the role of the protagonist, however, the person short listed walked out on me and that is when I decided to cast myself, since I did not want to risk my limited resources on people who were not able to keep their commitments.
For the other actors, I actually chose them from various walks of life and trained them. They were selected cause I felt that they looked the part or enacted it in real life. This resulted in actors such as newcomer Himanshu Kohli and FTII’s KP Nishan, coming onto the project.
For the two leading ladies, in the role of Pali, I had Barkha Madan in mind right from when I wrote the script, since I had seen her work in both television and Ramu’s BHOOT, plus I liked how she carried herself, keeping a low profile and doing solid work. For the other girl, Riva, I had shortlisted someone from FTII but she declined cause she thought there was a kissing scene, which in fact was not there, then a model, Iris Maity, was referred to me and I cast her since she fitted the role perfectly.
For the role of the brother, I cast Bhupender since I knew him from a long time.We also did a workshop for this film and the end result were performances which maximized the talent of the actors.
Where was this film shot?
In Jaisalmer district, Rajasthan. Around 40 kms from the main city in various locations. It was also shot on the Maharashtra coast line. So it was challenging in that we were transitioning between different climates and locales.
Talk to us about the music of the film?
Due to budgetary constraints going to established music directors was out of the question. What I did was to go after talented musicians who were looking for a break. The musicians that I did end up working with, Nitesh Pires and Charu Mohan, gave me music that is very different from the run of the mill, yet very appealing. The music has a lot of fusion. There are three original songs in the soundtrack.
Of all the caps that you were wearing when making the film, which was your favorite cap?
I am a director by choice, a director by thought, a lot of the other caps were worn due to necessity.
Any tips for the upcoming filmmakers?
Just do it, don’t complain, don’t say things like the industry is bad, people don’t read my script, etc. If you have the talent and you know it, you should not hesitate. Don’t be dependent on anyone else to make a film.
But doesn’t that lead to the question – why are the gatekeepers of Bollywood preventing upcoming talent? Why does talent have to go around in circles to come up with a film such as this?
See we don’t invest in talent in Bollywood, unless there are other emotional reasons to do so. The persons who have to decide who is talented, are not talented themselves. Then we also have to understand that this is a business. You have to give business to the X man sitting out there. If he sees business he will do work with you….talent he doesn’t need.