Anand Gandhi, whose debut directorial venture has earned him international accolades, talks about changing Indian cinema, creating content and his next film.
You have written plays, TV soaps and feature films, how has the journey as a writer been?
TV writing, for me, was an exercise in seeing how content was created and designed on a mass level. I was attracted to it and I feel guilty about it (laughs). But I was simultaneously exploring other ideas. It was during this time that I wrote Right Here Right Now (his first short). It was the beginning of arriving at Ship of Theseus. Pankaj Kumar, my DoP, saw the film and found me. And since then we have tried to work together. Right Here Right Now was the beginning of the journey of using metaphors to simplify stories that talk about complex concepts. All the ideas that fascinated me for many years came together in my first feature… that happens. You put a lifetime of work into your first.
We see a lot of offbeat films releasing commercially. What has lead to a rise of this phenomenon?
The middle-class has been growing and is growing. The expanding middle-class leads to a larger number of people who have time and money to invest in cultural interaction. There’s an evolution of drama, music and cinema, which enrich, educate and inspire life. In our country, unfortunately, there has been no cultural revolution or innovation as such. India is highly dependent on cinema, which itself has been under-evolved in terms of the cinematic language that we use. In the last few years, there have been greater opportunities for those who want to explore these different avenues. There has been a growing demand and hunger for relevant films. There are many people in the country who do not watch Hindi television at all. We consume American and European content. Our tastes have evolved and there’s no local content to consume. Conventional distribution channels haven’t really explored this opportunity.
We are producing Tumbad, which is being directed by Rahi Barve. Sohum Shah (lead actor, Ship of Theseus) is playing the lead again. Rahi is an immensely talented director. It is made of stuff that has not been done anywhere in the world before. That is what makes me happy; to see that the films that we are making need not be judged in the context of India alone. Tumbad will be a period horror drama that will use a new visual language to transcend geographic boundaries.
Does the success of your first feature become a bit overbearing as you think of your next? Does it create pressure to live up to the expectations?
Actually, no. I don’t have a second project, I have never had a second project. If you look at the past 11-12 years, I have treated each new project as my first. It’s a life of firsts for me. Something changes each time for me, which makes it impossible for me to look at anything as second. The film that I am making now, is my first as a producer, I have started two scripts which are very ambitious but very different from each other. There is no pressure if you know that each of your project is a new one.