Cinema One on One with Ajay Govind

Ajay Govind

Ajay Govind

1. You come from a family of government officials. A family structure where children are expected to get a secured job with fixed salary. But you chose a profession which generally parents dissuade from pursuing – Filmmaking. What made you take that risk?

I never consciously thought of it as a risk probably because whatever was there to secure wasn’t worth it.  Whatever I was getting being in a secured place didn’t seem like secured. That is because I have never seen anyone, either with a secured job and the fixed income that it brings, perfectly happy. I knew there would be struggle initially. There was a certainty of not knowing of what you would be doing next, where the next pay check would come from and I liked that certainty of not knowing. But in order to get that certainty there are other certainty that come into your life. Certainty of where you would end up every morning, certainty of where you would come back from every evening and the certainty of what you want to do every weekend.

2. You did English Literature from St. Stephens and the next perceivable step is either to get into journalism or writing but you took a profession which majority of young people don’t take – why?

It was definitely not the profession to seek after. After graduating in 2003 I did internship with All India Radio and worked with Hindu as a journalist for couple of months. I tried both these things but they excited me in a very limited way. The thing with me is I get bored very easily.

3. Was that the reason for leaving Genpact within 3 months of joining?

After completing PG Diploma in cinematography my family wanted me to take up a stable job. Genpact was the first and only interview I gave and got selected. Things were fine till the first month. But there were simple things which I disapproved of like having to wear shoes and having to sit at the office even after work was finished. As an adult I didn’t want to be told what to where and what to do. That was the most unproductive 3 months of my life. Anyways I was already working on commissioned films.

4. What made you believe that you wanted to become a film maker?

Writing got me into Filmmaking as I am a writer first. A friend of mine was into documentary. He was unhappy with the person they were working with. I had shared my ideas with them which they like and that’s how I worked on my first documentary which opened the window to Film-making.

5. You moved from non-fiction to fiction. Did you feel limited because of it?

I don’t think documentary limits me as a filmmaker. However in a fiction the start to finish is mine be it the idea, story, dialogues or how the story is being told I am in total control. Also there is a creative liberty with fiction.

6. Tell us about the challenges that you had to face for your first feature After The Third Bell?

The first challenge was funding, which any independent filmmaker would tell you. Thankfully I didn’t have to convince people associated with it. The entire team have been my theatre friends. The second challenge was training Udayan Banerjee, the protagonist. Unlike other cast he was neither from theatre background nor had any experience of acting. But I knew he would fit into the role of BC Banerjee.

7. Your first feature was crowd-funded? Do you see crowd funding as the future for independent filmmakers in India?

I definitely see merit in crowd funding as a method for raising funds for any project but I also feel that filmmakers should be extremely economical with crowd funding. I personally feel that crowd funding should be one time affair as you are essentially depending on a pool of people, including your friends and family, who show faith in the circumstance that you are unable to raise funds and it’s not fair to them to repeat that circumstance. Crowd-funding has to be used very carefully. I don’t see myself repeating it.

8. Your film got appreciation as an intelligent film?  What is your idea of an intelligent film?

I feel what makes a film intelligent is when it treats its audience intelligently. A film that doesn’t spoon feed the audience and doesn’t tell you everything that knows that there are certain things you can figure out and leaves to the audiences’ imagination.

9. What do you think about current Bollywood mainstream films?

The bigger films are not getting into intelligent phase but at the same time there is a conscience effort in many films to be intelligent. But commercial cinema, by nature, is driven by market forces, which means the understanding of the market is please tell me everything and don’t leave it open ended. I don’t think intelligent films are not entertaining. Unfortunately the definition is limited and that too market drive. The definition of entertainment, unfortunately, is often very limited and that is driven by the market. When ATTB was being played in Chennai we got only 3-4 days’ advance notice before the release. There were no posters. There were around 60 people. I was very sure 20mins into the film many people would walk out because I felt they had either come in for the wrong reason or they didn’t know what they are in for but barring a few they stayed. I understood there are a growing number of people who are interested in a little more.

10. If the market expects you to make a film which is against your thought process are you willing to compromise?

I think compromise is a strong word and conveniently used. I did think about this and I concluded that if and when I’m in that space where I have to make a hardcore commercial film I will find my own stamp of work. I would cleverly put in my own bits. Filmmakers do not compromise so easily, they choose to compromise.

11. Any particular film maker, national or international, whose work you have admired?

I guess I am literally one of the very few who must have watched Satya 2, Ram Gopal Verma. I have been a big fan of Mani Ratnam, and currently Vishal Bhardwaj tops the list. I am greatly influence by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Internationally I have always admired Iranian Cinema, particularly, Abbas Kiarostami. Iranian films do not pretend to be films and are self reflexive, real and the way they work with non actors especially with children.

12.    You are not formally trained in Filmmaking. Does it make any difference while making one?

To anyone who doesn’t have a formal training in filmmaking the best way to learn is on the job learning as you understand and witness the various aspect of filmmaking.
By making films you are training yourself on the technical as well as the creative part of filmmaking which is your best education. Get your basics in place but learn on job is my advice.

13.    In the beginning of the interview you said that you are someone who loses interest very easily. Do you see losing interest in filmmaking or is it a long term affair?

I lose interest in things which are not interesting. Filmmaking is too interesting to lose any interest as it continues to challenge me and surprise me.

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