Getting the content right

Getting the content right

New-Age Filmmakers

Getting the content right

Elaborating, he says, “Karan Johar narrated a story idea that I liked a lot. My screenplay took six to eight months, and he liked it a lot too. As an ad film director for 10 years, it was a natural progression to want to be a feature-film director some day. So somewhere I was looking for a film to direct. I had even told a common friend that I would love to direct this story, but Karan somewhere understood that through our script discussions and offered me the film.”

The bespectacled Rensil has the general air and tone of an earnest and serious academician — you could mistake him for a college professor teaching an abstruse subject like Theosophy! Ask about the differences between making an ad film and a feature — after all this is an area where most ad filmmakers fumble and tumble — and he answers seriously, “Nothing quite compares to a feature film. The scale is pretty big — you cannot compare the budgets, and a feature needs much more energy and patience. Kurbaan has been shot over 91 days in India and USA. So a feature is like a marathon race compared to a 300 metre sprint.”

But he has little time for directors who pay more attention to packaging than to content. “I have no issues with technical aspects as long as directors are primarily telling a story. The problem is that in so many cases they are telling ‘style’! If your content is right, you cannot go wrong. If the balance gets skewed towards style, there’s trouble.”

Rensil feels that the audience has become much more receptive to sensible filmmaking since his debut as screenwriter, Aks in 2001. “Today, Aks would not be called experimental but edgy. The audience is not ready to accept any garbage. They want to see something fresh,” he feels.

He defends the very low qualitative and success rate of such films with, “Today there is a more segmented market. In the old days, it was only cinema, now people have choices like DVD and television. In the earlier days, a film that ran for six weeks was not really a success, today a flop is something that does not run for six days. Value for money is important as films are expensive to make and watch and so marketing is half the battle today.”

Not much is known about the cast of his film, we say, thanks to his marketing being concentrated mainly on real-life couple Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor and a bit on Vivek Oberoi. Who else is in the cast? “We have Dia Mirza, Kirron Kher, Om Puri and Nauheed Cyrusi,” he replies.

Kurbaan is one of so many films tackling terrorism. So is he taking a stand of any kind? “I am not being judgmental. I am presenting an issue and what I have chosen to do is probe thought by the audience. It’s about how the West perceives the problem and how we do so.”

Karan and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, who directed both Aks and Rang De..., are almost 180 degrees opposite in sensibilities though. How did he jell with both? “Well, frankly, if you mean writing and making Kurbaan, I have tried my own grammar. That’s important for a director,” says the filmmaker who swears by Akira Kurusawa, Bimal Roy, Guru Dutt and Ridley Scott. “To a large extent, even Gulzar is my idol,” he adds.

A couple of songs from his film have become popular on the strength of marketing again. How does he look at songs in the Indian film context? “I have not used lip-sync. Every film requires a grammar and my film could not have had the characters singing songs,” states Rensil. But he has adopted the format of a thriller in his narration of a message film. “Yes, I have, but I would call my film a cross-genre subject. It is an intense romance too, yet there is a world view as well.

That’s rare in a film. The theme is very universal and it’s honest filmmaking, so everyone will be able to tap into it and relate with it.” He finds Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor special as individuals and as a couple. “Their performances have gone beyond my brief. They are so ‘real’ in the way they come across. Saif and Kareena are special.” Rensil has two more screenplays ready and is eager to see how his debut film fares before he decides which to make next. “I’d definitely like to write for other directors too, for it opens up your mind and you stop thinking how great you are!” he quips.