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Thriving in chaos

Jisha Krishnan, Dec 2 2017, 23:39 IST
Bejoy Nambiar

Bejoy Nambiar

Bejoy Nambiar was being groomed to join the family textiles business - armed with an MBA degree from the UK - when he convinced his family to let him assist Mani Ratnam for a year. With no formal training in film-making, the Mumbai lad went on to assist the ace director in movies like Guru and Raavan. In 2011, he made an unconventional Bollywood debut with Shaitan as producer, writer and director. Although his subsequent films - David, a bilingual in Tamil and Hindi, and Wazir, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Farhan Akhtar - didn't break the box office, the "theatre person at heart" managed to make an impact with his deft storytelling, artistic use of silence and eclectic musical choices.

His latest movie, Solo, a bilingual in Malayalam and Tamil, recently found itself in the midst of a controversy when the film's climax was changed post-release, without Bejoy's knowledge, to placate angry audience reactions. "It was unfortunate, but it's done and dusted," is all the film-maker is willing to say about the incident. However, he is more forthcoming about his love for anthologies, the challenge of shooting with Amitabh Bachchan, and the process of writing. Excerpts from an interaction:

'Solo' is an anthology, as was 'David'. Why this fascination?

I find the idea of multiple narratives and multiple story structures very exciting. Sadly, we don't make out and out anthology films. Solo has four stories, wherein Dulquer plays four avatars of Lord Shiva, exploring emotions of rage and love. And being a bilingual, the process becomes more challenging.

What are the challenges of making bilingual films?

Unlike David - half - of which was dubbed - with Solo, we shot the entire film in both languages. So, it was like making eight features! The story has to lend itself to more than one language. In this case, we thought the plot would resonate with Tamil audiences too. Besides, Dulquer has a huge fan base in both languages.

How tough was it to get a break in Bollywood?

It was a long, enduring process. Shaitan was supposed to be an English film. For a year-and-a-half, I was pitching it to everyone in Mumbai. Anurag Kashyap came on board as the producer just a week before the shooting was scheduled to start.

Do you enjoy watching your own movies?

I absolutely enjoy watching my films again and again. I'm my audience first. When Shaitan was released, my girlfriend (now wife) and I used to watch the movie in theatres so often that Anurag once even told me to go home and do something else. But it's difficult for me to let go, I feel attached to my work. I am an emotional film-maker.

Did you ever aspire to be an actor?

I once acted as a dead body in a play. But acting has never been an aspiration. It's exciting to see actors interpret your writing in their own way. I sit in coffee shops and write; I can't withdraw into a shell. I'm someone who thrives in chaos.

Why is music so integral to your films?

I like writing music, collating and putting everything together. It's part of my writing process. I enjoy working with musicians. They are truly gifted. I listen to all kinds of music; language doesn't matter. Actually, my sister is a classical singer and she has sung a track titled 'Shiva Omkara' for Solo.

Is it tough to portray strong female characters on the screen?

I hate writing token characters. Especially when it comes to the portrayal of women in my films, I like to keep it real. All the women in my life, whether it's my mother, sister, wife or friends, are strong and independent. So, that always creeps into my writing.

How was it like working with Amitabh Bachchan?

It was great working with him on Wazir. The only issue is that you can't shoot with Mr Bachchan in live locations. Anywhere he goes, there'll be a crowd of at least 10,000 people! So, that becomes a problem.

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