Balancing it all with a smile

Balancing it all with a smile

Kaalakaandi is a riveting mix of crime and love of the upper-class mingling with Mumbai's underbelly," enthuses  Ashi  Dua  Sara, the producer of the thriller that unspooled recently on the silver screen. She is known for her surreal, taut, meaty picks in projects, if her earlier movies Bombay Talkies and The Ghazi Attack are a parameter to grade her choice of films.

Brought up in Bareilly in UP,  Ashi  went to Sherwood Boarding School in Nainital during her early years and then finally winged to Mumbai after returning from the US. "I don't know what made me get hooked on Hindi films, we were hardly allowed to watch movies at school, and my father, till date, is a little unclear about what exactly I do. Everyone thinks film producers have pots of money. Untrue. It is my job to finalise scripts, brainstorm, meet people to get funding, and see the movie to completion. It isn't easy. As a film producer, you  need to be diplomatic, deal astutely with studios, exhibitors, the human capital on the sets...and keep everyone happy until the end. Like Kaalakaandi is a thrilling, dark comedy pegged on a niche concept, it was shot within a tight budget even though we have Saif Ali Khan in the lead. So, as a producer, I cannot overindulge," she says.

Ashi learnt the ropes of the business fast, considering she set up her company Flying Unicorn at the age of 21, with no friends in the fray to guide her then. She worked on a melee of eclectic projects: from 'Wave', a concert on Sony Entertainment centered around the empowerment of the fairer sex, to Director's Cut and Cinematographer's Cut, a series of shows that she produced.  Ashi  experimented with novel ideas in the space before diving into movies.

 

"It was Anurag Kashyap who made me realise that I could be a good film producer. He made me understand the dynamics of the trade, opened my mind up towards different kinds of cinema. I borrowed endless DVDs from him to watch movies from around the world," says  Ashi, who met Anurag during her days in the Delhi 
University.

 

She was supposed to produce his Dev D but went off to New York for further studies. Then, to commemorate 100 years of Indian cinema, she got together four directors - Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee and Anurag Kashyap - to make Bombay Talkies (which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival).

"Now I am getting them together again for Bombay Talkies Part 2 – Love and Lust, with Ronnie Screwvala as co-producer," she shares. But, back to her current release, why the name Kaalakaandi? "It is Marathi slang for 'gadbad', when everything goes wrong. When Akshat Verma (the director of the film) was scouting for an apartment in Mumbai, the brokers often used to mention this word in case of roadblocks in showing him residences. That is how the word stuck on," says  Ashi.

Meanwhile, the film has experienced its share of hiccups in the run-up to its release with 73 cuts proposed by the Central Board of Film Certification owing to the abrasive lingo made use of in keeping with the characters and situations.  Ashi  then approached the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal and the movie was passed with minimal cuts and an A certificate.

Ashi  also enjoys third person perspectives by bouncing ideas and scripts off her friends, and husband, hotelier Sunny Sara. "I like listening to their opinions, hearing others and then making my own decisions," she says. "I love what I am doing. There is a lot of gratitude in my heart as I feel blessed to be able to move at such a steady pace in the film industry by working with established directors and actors in my projects, early on in my career," says  Ashi.

"Movies are a collaborative effort. You have to build a team and work together with everyone on the same page. The essential bit is finding your people and working in unison. At the same time, it is about doing stuff that you really want to do, not about what is simply rocking the box office. Dream big and take chances. If I hadn't, I would still have been in Bareilly, not Bombay!"  

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