Recession brought me back to India from London where I was working for a hedge fund. And my desire to become a film director in Bollywood got me to Mumbai. Obviously, my relatives and friends advised me against it and I received innumerable warnings about the ‘dark side’ of the industry. They thought of Bollywood as an industry where only actor’s son/daughters could get to act or where people who have loads of money to produce their own films or have strong contacts could get their foot in. Little did I expect my experience would be so interesting and exciting.

For long time I had visualized myself becoming a director one day and had started conceptualizing ideas in my mind. But I hadn’t had any first hand experience with script writing nor did I go to any film institute, so I was pretty much clueless about how to go about it.

Once I reached Mumbai, I started networking with people and building contacts. Met some journalists who were friends of friends and who happened to cover Bollywood for a TV channel. Luckily, I got my first meeting with a famous anchor/director/actor who was looking for some assistants for his new film. Even before I could realize I was sitting at his office in Andheri. I have to confess, I was and I am star struck. I could not believe I was sitting in front of him and that I would get this opportunity so easily. They say that at least 400 people come into Mumbai everyday to pursue their dream for Bollywood.

We talked about many things like the ‘diverse Indian audience’ to ‘who are actually good/influential directors?’ to ‘what makes a good story?’ I must say the discussion was pretty intense, and I got to know a very insiders’ view of things. Here are the main points:

1) The director claimed that he was the best in the industry because his debut film in 2007 made a gross of Rs 136cr at the box office. And that he proved everybody wrong, including his own crew members, as nobody believed that his movie could even earn Rs 50cr.
2) He insisted on claiming that the new bunch of directors who claim to make realistic cinema are actually living in a ‘bubble’ and are not able to understand the audience at all. They are all ‘wrong directors’ according to him, who are not even good storytellers. Most of them have been box-office flops. And people have lost money producing them.
3) He told me that whatever he knows about film making is without ever assisting any director, without going to any film school but by just watching movies on CDs, VCDs, DVDs etc (obviously all original). He also gave me a DVD of his movie, in which he had shown the complete making of his movie from pre-production to post production including all the aspects of film making. I watched it and found it really helpful and learnt some technical details as well.
4) During our conversation he realized I belonged to the newer generation who believed in telling realistic stories in subtle ways with underplayed acting and don’t believe in actors dancing around trees and singing songs in the rain. And hence he said there was a lot of garbage filled in my mind, which he will try to clear up in due course of time and broaden my horizon.

Then the topic switched to things like whether I could read/write/speak hindi, whether I had done something before this etc. He was also very curious to know whether I had quit my last job or was I fired!!? He also asked me to get into shape! As he wanted a good looking team all the time, he reasons, that it benefits everyone…fair enough!! He claimed that all the young guys and gals in his office could become ramp models and could give top models in this country a run for their money. He added that they were also very good at their work.

After an hour long chat with him, I finally managed to convince him that although we belonged to different camps all together, we both loved films and film making. And he seemed genuinely happy to know this.

Who knows if I was just plain lucky to have met the right person or all this ‘dark side’ of Bollywood is just a myth? I would like to believe the latter.

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