Games in the dark

Games in the dark

Games in the dark

who’s the culprit? Still from ‘Hide & Seek’.

His Hide & Seek releases this week. “We postponed the release solely so that we could get good theatres, something which was difficult last month because of the release of My Name Is Khan,” explains the young man when we meet at a suburban 5-star coffee-shop.

Shawn Arranha could easily pass off as a film hero, with his penetrating eyes, fair complexion and good looks. He laughs when I ask him why he did not launch himself among the many new faces in his debut film. “Maybe I will one day!” he chuckles, though clearly, Arranha’s agenda is not about being in front of the camera.

The young filmmaker isn’t one of those who gets easy breaks or just starts from scratch. He has been a part of Channel [V], done advertisements and assisted ad honchos Abhinay Deo and Bharatbala. When Bharatbala directed Hari Om (which hasn’t yet released in India), Arranha assisted him on that movie as well. “I also assisted Ketan Mehra on Mangal Pandey — The Rising, Farhan Akhtar during Lakshya, Shaad Ali during Saathiya and Kaizad Gustad for Boom. I have been in the film industry for 13 years now,” says Arranha.

Now, that really makes him a veteran. But Arranha insists that this is what gives him an edge. “I met Apoorva Lakhia during Boom, as he was also a part of the team. And since then, I have assisted him in every film that he directed — Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost, Ek Ajnabee, Shootout At Lokhandwala and Mission Istaanbul.”

Hide & Seek is Apoorva’s debut production, and it means a lot to Arranha that Apoorva chose him to helm it. “Apoorva would always take my feedback on stories, and gave me a story concept to develop. He loved what I did, and suggested that I start out as a director with that project.”

Slasher genres are common in Hollywood and elsewhere, but rare in India where they have almost never worked, so doesn’t that worry Arranha? Arranha concedes to the statistical truth and the fact that slasher films have certain limitations in the way they are presented. But the most important part of any film is a good story, he states. “My film is 105 minutes of edge-of-the-seat, gripping entertainment. It is also a different plot, though it follows a slasher pattern that’s familiar to all. Everything is shown in the film, so that when the denouement comes, the audience will wonder how they didn’t notice something that was so vital. It is also important that the screenplays of such films are crisp. My ideal such film in Hindi cinema was Johnny Gaddaar.”

Arranha believes in realistic cinema and all his commercial elements are incorporated logically. “My music, for example, conveys a mood,” he says. “I have not employed lip-synched songs even though they are considered a must in suspense thrillers in Hindi cinema. I concede that the fantasy-like commercial films will always do well because people need breaks from their stressful lives. As a filmmaker, I would also not like to specialise in any one genre but be versatile, and if the screenplay and film demand it, I will treat the subject accordingly.”

Shawn Arranha has a host of relatively fresh artistes in his film. “Apoorva always prefers to introduce at least one new artiste in each film. The advantage of newcomers is that it’s difficult to predict which way their characters will go, since obviously, one of my six protagonists is the culprit. With stars, strings come attached and there are preconceived ideas. Also, one does not always take kindly to a loved star turning out to be different from his usual image, which could put off the audience.”

Arranha lets on how, but for Amruta, he discovered that his main cast had all done a film or few each. “Purab Kohli was loved in Rock On!, Arjan Bajwa is known for Fashion, Samir Kochhar is now the face of IPL, Ayaz Khan was Genelia’s boorish boyfriend in Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na and Mrinalini Sharma was seen in Awarapan. But luckily, they have just one image that is not really fixed!” he grins. “And Amruta, our sole discovery as it turned out, is a celebrity and a Miss India winner!”

How does he direct such relatively fresh actors as a newbie director? “I think that my job is to guide them after telling them the general structure of a sequence,” says Arranha, smiling. “The idea is to let them shed their inhibitions. I encourage them to ask me, ‘What if I do this?’ or ‘What if I do this scene differently?’ within the parameters of what is necessary for the script.” And how’s his mood prior to the release? Is he confident, experiencing jitters or both? For answers, Shawn laughs — clearly, he wants to hide the answer we seek.  

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