Striking an urban chord

Striking an urban chord

New-Age Filmmaker

Striking an urban chord

Ayan Mukerji (left) with Ranbir Kapoor (right).You hail from a long and illustrious lineage of film people — the S Mukerji clan.

Yes, my father Deb Mukerji too is an actor, who still does the occasional cameo, like in Kaminey. But I am almost embarrassed to say that whatever knowledge I have today of Hindi cinema starts from Karan Johar’s movies. My main exposure in my formative years has been Hollywood classics, including Hitchcock, Billy Wilder and the musicals. Of course, I now intend to catch up slowly with my heritage.

So how did a Hindi film happen to you?

I have made Wake Up Sid for the Ayans in the audience. But I hope that the others like it too. If you are asking me how I came to make films, when I look back, I can’t remember any exact moment when it happened. I guess it was a combination of my surroundings and roots. In my family, movies were not a pastime, but serious business. My father wasn’t too successful as a hero but even today, he starts his morning with gym and a film and usually ends the day with watching another film. I too fell in love with the movies first as an audience.

Did you assist Karan or anyone else?

I assisted Karan on Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna and before that I worked with Ashutosh Gowariker on Swades. After KANK, I was also very clear that I would be writing any film I made. So I began writing, and Karan, who was very receptive to my vision, made things easy for me. He had told me that he would produce any story of mine if he liked it, and my idea was just to write something for myself. Cinema is just a means of expression for me — Wake Up Sid could have been a small little book, a short story or a painting instead of a film. To be completely honest, my film was not born out of cinematic tradition. It was not made to emulate any filmmaker or genre. In that sense it was an ode to life and not to cinema.

So the message of a goal is also by default, so to speak?

Well, honestly, Wake Up Sid was me looking back at when I was 18, and that carefree time that I miss today. That is the time when you tend to find happiness in small things and just exist, flowing with the tide, so to speak. My film can be called a nostalgic trip that made me smile without feeling horrible, and I hope that the audience feels the same way.

Ranbir Kapoor is the driving force for the film. Why him?

To be honest, I was mesmerised by Ranbir from the time I watched Saawariya. So I had to give my best to both Ranbir and to Sid because they had to give their best to each other, you understand? When I recall Taare Zameen Par, I think first and foremost of that young boy and then Darsheel. I want people to recall Sid and Ranbir in the same way. As to why he is there, you could have asked me this question if I had ten choices, isn’t it?
But who could have been Sid among the actors around today?

Your film was thankfully devoid of Kaminey-like technical gimmickry, but your generation of filmmakers do tend to have a certain disrespect for the audience for whom they are making a film. The paying audience becomes almost incidental to the rather increasingly-made personal cinema.

I agree completely on both counts! I also do not think much about that kind of technique-heavy cinema you mention. But yes, I would like to be somewhat daring and personal in my next film too. The success of Wake Up Sid will open doors for me, and I could perhaps be more personal and daring next time, because when you plan and write a film you have to commit to its content. But the personal cinema movement you are talking about is just taking off — it’s far from established. I would love to make full-on commercial films — my family’s been known for them, right? But sometime later, when I organically feel the urge from within.

Konkona Sen Sharma, with her super-predictable performance, could have been substituted by a better performer...

Let’s just say that she was right for the role. If I had cast Priyanka Chopra, for instance, no one would have accepted that Sid takes so much time to fall in love with her!