Akshat Verma On Writing Delhi Belly
Posted by barkha on June 26, 2011 | 7 Comment
The recession in the US, has made Delhi Belly possible. It made UCLA graduate, Akshat Verma return to India and connect with Aamir Khan. This film marks the debut of Diliwala, Akshat.
Once again, The Outsider, is coming into Big Bad and set in its ways Bollywood, and suggesting something new. This time its one of the most awaited movies of this year. Here we get a chance to find out more about the Underbelly of Delhi Belly. Over to Akshat.
How did Delhi Belly make it to the big screen?
Delhi Belly was written by me during my student days. It was the second script that I wrote as part of my UCLA studies. That is pretty much what you do there, keep writing more scripts. Once I was done and had graduated UCLA, was then doing the regular odd jobs, plan B’s and all that stuff. Worked in advertising which is what I used to do in India. Along the way I figured that if I need to get started with my film career, which is what I wanted to do, I tried to take stock, what and how I would do to achieve that. So I was writing all these scripts and of these Delhi Belly was the one I felt was a small, Indie film, the one I wanted to go out with first. It went through several drafts, ultimately I think I had written almost 15 drafts. I looked for funding in the US, but the response often times was you should look for funding from the place where the film is set, which is not something I entirely agree with. But money was difficult to find for a film like this, cause even when you go to the Indian community, the kind of films they are looking to fund is very different. Then around the same time, the whole financial crunch happened in the US. I happened to be in an advertising agency, it felt the down slide and there were a lot of layoff’s and I was one of them. So in a sense it was a pretty depressing time for me, but at the same time flipping that around, it was fantastic, since it gave me the time to do what I wanted to in terms of pursuing this film. So I flew down to India with my producer Jim, also a UCLA grad. We set up meetings all across time, literally meeting everyone there was to meet. While a lot of people ended up reading the script, some did not cause it seems that no one likes to read here, they prefer it being read aloud to them. In fact it seems strange but they want to hear the script. I mean you spend so much time getting words on the page and you want them to be read. So all in all it ended up being a lot of noise but no cigar. All this time we tried to track Aamir Khan down, but that is like showing up in Los Angeles and wanting to have a meeting with Tom Cruise, it just doesn’t happen. So on the last day of our trip we just dropped off the script in his office saying to ourselves that we came this far, so that’s the least we can do and then we flew back. Within ten days we actually got an email from Aamir, which is essentially five questions, who is in it, who is directing, who is producing, can I pick any role that I want and when can you guys fly back. We flew back as soon as we could get a ticket. When we came back, Aamir asked us to pull back the script from anywhere that we had given it to, since he was going to produce it. And it seemed so strange, it took so long, yet when it happened, it seemed so simple. It was really that.
How much of your experiences in Delhi, is in Delhi Belly?
I’d say all of it is either my experience or my friends or the surrounding. Writers are essentially, by their very nature, thieves. We sponge off experience our own and other people, we observe and we look, at least when we are doing our job right. So hopefully, I have created a world that people find believable and easy to relate to with the way these characters talk, speak and the way they are with each other. My one big thing watching Bollywood films growing up was that I could never relate to the characters. None of these were people I was hanging out with, none of these were like my friends, they did not talk like that, so one of my intentions was to have a film in a world, that I could recognize.
Post Delhi Belly, you are going to be a changed human being, so how are you going to fight the cost of fame and continue to bring us real characters and different stories?
Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that since I have not dealt with the world that is coming up to me. I am going to find out !! As a creative person you almost always want to stay true to the core of who you are. Cause that is your voice, in its most uncorrupted form. That’s what makes you voice different from another person looking at the same set of circumstances from a different set of eyes. I hope, I can remain core to that, cause I don’t think I can tell stories any other way.
You are credited as the Associate Director in Delhi Belly, is there a director inside of you?
I would like to direct at least one film. That is the plan and the hope but lets see how it goes. I will always be a writer first so if I do direct, it will be as a writer/director as opposed to a director who also writes. So if I do it once I will find out if I am any good at it, it’s enough of an itch in me that I will do it, and then if I do it badly, I will never do it again.