Born in Hyderabad, an engineer and MBA, who did two short corporate stints in Pune and Delhi before moving to Mumbai and going on to win the Sundance Institute/Mahindra Global Film-making Award 2014...that is Neeraj Ghaywan for you. We catch up with the man after his return from the glacial temperatures of Utah where the Sundance Festival took place last week.
No shortcut to cinema
Rest easy, it took more than just a quick flight to Mumbai, an interest in movies and a waltz into the world of award-winning movie-making for Ghaywan to be where he is right now. “I moved to Mumbai where I worked with UTV; I thought that by working in film marketing, I would get the best of both worlds.” That is precisely where his first moment of reckoning was entirely dispelled.
“There is no shortcut to cinema; if you want to get into it, you have to give it your all.”
Throughout his years in the corporate world, Ghaywan spent hours blogging on cinema, where he ended up rubbing virtual shoulders with the likes of Anurag Kashyap. Months of blogging and a much-persuasive conversation with Kashyap later, Ghaywan did the unthinkable. “I stepped back into my office after a chat with Anurag, wrote my resignation letter and that was the end of my life in the corporate world...I felt liberated,” he laughs off, still in disbelief at the fleetness of his decison-making. He goes on to explain how he felt the need to give into the passion he had for cinema that was clearly gnawing at his insides for years.
After the plunge
Blinded by his burning ardour for movies, he started off by assisting Anurag Kashyap on the Gangs of Wasseypur sets. “Two and a half years of working with Anurag on that movie was like film school itself for me!” shares Ghaywan. “Research, production, post-production and even marketing–I was involved in every inherent aspect of the movie,” he goes on, all of which helped him direct his first short film titled Shor. Still on the fence about his ability to make movies, Ghaywan went on to become the second unit director for Kashyap’s subsequent movie called Ugly. “I was going up the echelons and I was starting to believe in my work,” shares Ghaywan.
Fly Away Solo
“I made my second short film and eventually started to work on the script of Ud Jaaye Ga with Varun Grover, the screenplay writer,” Ghaywan explains. Ud Jaaye Ga is in fact what has been translated into Fly Away Solo, the script he was awarded for at the Sundance Festival in Utah. If you thought that Ghaywan was busy shaking hands with the who’s who of Hollywood in the States, then think twice because this man means business. “I spent five days there pitching my story to various production houses and now I think we are on the verge of signing a deal for the movie.” What about the $10,000 he bagged with the award? “Oh, I will just be paying my rent and give the other half to Varun who worked on Fly Away Solo with me,” Ghaywan responds, candidly.
In a country where many feast on pointless guffaws and mindless hip-swaying, all packaged in mind-boggling scripts, you would wonder about the future of independent filmmaking is like.
Ghaywan dispels those thoughts. “When you have Anurag Kashyap being aided by the likes of Karan Johar today, you know that independent filmmaking is definitely progressing by leaps and bounds,” explains Ghaywan. The cynic in us wonders whether that could lead to independent filmmakers imbibing some of that Bollywood crass and over-the-top acting but Ghaywan is quick to defend his position. “If you look well, none of the independent movies recently released have had anyone mess with the creative; otherwise how can you explain a movie like The Lunchbox being made?”
Going from being a highly-paid corporate job to struggling to paying rent, Ghaywan encompasses the expression “blinded by passion”. Starry eyes, an excited timbre and a burning desire to make more movies–looks like Ghaywan is here to stay.