‘One river gives its journey to the Next’ – These very words from Mahesh Uncle (Mahesh Bhatt) speaks a thousand words!! And this is what he wrote on the social platform and the moment I saw it, I felt like crying. I have known him to be very brutally honest. He loves you and criticizes you very honestly. This is a huge legacy that I need to understand and appreciate. He has been such a great story teller, director, editor and writer. I never thought he would say something like this so sweetly, and so openly. I was pretty speechless, and was staring at my phone when I read it. There were tears in my eyes and when I called him to thank him, he told me that I had earned it with my hard work. That was a big moment for me!!
With my father, Vikram Bhatt, there are no two relationships. He is my father and he happens to be a film maker. I have worked around him and spent time with him for the last 10 years, and this makes him my mentor. I have been mentored by sitting around him. At the same time, I am his daughter. So you can’t remove one from the other. At the same time, I don’t think he has ever favoured me as his daughter. He has not given me less flak or favoured me when I have done a mistake. I have got a sound scolding when wrong, and he has been quick to appreciate anything that has been good. He’s my father, friend and teacher. He too started work when he was 13, and the same happened to me. Mahesh Uncle and my dad have together taught me the craft so very beautifully.
So where did the learning begin?
Thinking about it, I started at the age of 13 when I went to my dad’s office. It was more of a father-daughter bonding out there. He was editing the first 1920, and that was the first time I got introduced to the world of Cinema. I went more often to meet him, and as I went, I got more and more involved in film making. In my 10th standard boards too, I used to go and work with him. I wrote for the movie Ankur Rana Murder Case, but it released much later. Later I worked with him on Haunted, which was the first 3D film in India. Raaz 3 and Dangerous Ishq happened later, and that’s when my learning graph picked up. By 17, I could not take any more of anything, but films. So in these 4 years, I decided that this has to be my life.
That’s when I started working with him full-time. I started as a Costume AD for the movie Creature. I used to hit the clap. After that, a series of movies happened post which 1921 happened. This was the movie where I turned Associate. From being the person hitting clap to being his second on the set, it took me 10 years to learn the art and come this far. Finally, after directing him, it has been a complete journey!!
Talking about directing him, I was honestly really scared as it was the first time I was directing. He’s the Director, he is also my Father, he has put in all the money and is the Producer, and so is he the Writer and he is also my Actor. I could not remove from the whole equation that I was directing for the first time. The first shot I set up was his first shot. He told me to follow my instinct and after the shot, I looked at him. And he looked up at me and smiled. And that moment, I knew that all was right and his smile said it all. I stopped being nervous from that very moment. I knew my job from then on.
Untouchables has not only brought out the Director in me, but has also brought out the Actor in him!! He is a very good actor. I never knew he had it in him. Frankly, we have never seen him act before. I found out this side of his for the first time. He is so much at ease in emoting, at the same time, narrating monologue of 15 pages. Can you believe it if I say that he cried without using glycerin? I was so shocked to see this talent of his. Above all, he is not someone who ever interfered in my work. He let me find my way and allowed me to learn it my way.
One interesting truth is that I was actually supposed to direct a romantic series set up around the 26/11incident. That was supposed to be my debut as Director. But one fine day, my dad asked me to start with Untouchables. He challenged me for the job and I accepted the challenge. Untouchables, if I sum it up has love flowing from all the parts of it. Everyone who sees Untouchables can identify with at least one part of it.
Now talking about my baby, Untouchables in one word is a courtroom thriller drama. It’s got the three important words – courtroom, thriller and drama, all three in it. It is about a girl who is an escort because she does not have the means to support her brother. One day she is framed for a murder she has not committed. There is a lawyer who has stopped practicing and has gone through hell. How this lawyer is the only one who can save this girl is the story. Two people who are Untouchables and have been thrown out and banished come together.
Above all, we have launched our new app, VB App!! It is a novel idea which is something like the ‘theater on the web’. If you go to a multiplex, you don’t buy a subscription for the entire theatre. You go and buy a ticket for one particular picture. Similarly, on our app, the shows that are already out are for free. If you plan to see Untouchables, the rate is just Rs. 18, which is a bare rickshaw fare. So by paying this, you get 15 episodes worth content, 20 minutes per episode in complete film quality. So it is like choosing an a la carte.
We have a huge ensemble cast. We have Sreejita De, Anirudh Dave, Veer Aryan, Jignesh Joshi and all are so accomplished actors. There was a day when I used to tell Sreejita to cry properly. She ultimately let go and gave her soul to the performance. I think she has done it really well. Veer and Anirudh were just fabulous. Anirudh would give me such good vibes that I had to go for a close shot of his every time. The court room scenes were really nerve-wrecking but they came out really well.
Today is a big day for me!! It is my father’s birthday today, and today is the day Untouchables has started streaming. Hopefully, Untouchables will do well, and it will be my gift to him. I would not say that I am nervous. But I just want to tell people to give me the permission to say one more story. If they like it, I get one more chance to tell another story. Otherwise, I have a heart attack, thinking about the fact that I do not get to say another story (smiles).
(As told to Srividya Rajesh)