The invisible, omnipotent presence in cinema – a Word that holds spaces inaccessible to most people . In Directors Diaries. Rakesh Bakshi demystifies that figure through the voices of twelve of the most iconic film-maker of our time . In doing so , he happens upon the greater question of destiny a chance and how random encounters can end up determining the course of a person’s life.
Bakshi interviews turn into deep and intimate conversations: Imtiaz Ali's transformative experience as a reader locked in a room during summer actions. Govind Nihalani’s Visite with his father to temples in Udaipur, which influenced him as a cinematographer and film-maker . Ashutosh Gowarikes’s disappointment at faring poorly in his aboard exams and being forced to give up his dream of studying architecture , which led him to seek avenues in theater, folk dance , group singing and elocution contest in college, eventually leading him to cinema. Farah Khan’s passion for dance as a child and how she stopped dancing for almost fourteen yeas because her father did not like it and began doing so only after he passed away. How cinema became Subhash Ghai’s great escape-.
Whenever his parents argued ,, he would run away to watch a film. How Vishal Bhardwahj composed his history lessons as songs so he could memorize them , and how he accompanied his friend on the harmonium at food festivals in Pragati Maiden to earn a livelihood.
An invaluable record of Hindi cinema’s old and new voices, and a study of the changing face of it, Director’s Diaries is also an inspiring account of people battling great odds to achieve their dreams .
Robert Altman’s quote celebrates film-making like no other. It also sums up the dedication and passion that one needs to be a film-making maker. Each film is akin to living a full lifetime of joy, sorrow, success, failure, agony and ecstasy. Every film-maker must understand this and with each roll of the dice, take a fickle audiences reaction in their stride.
The Western world has had a long history of teaching film-making and film- makers. The culture of film schools being s strong breeding ground for creativity and a professional approach has existed for many years in the West. India though has lagged behind in this. We are still a young country and an emerging India needed engineers, accountants and lawyers more than creative prime donnas.
Yet, India has had some wonderful film-makers. Despite the lack of education, India’s film-maker and films have thrived on a self-taught, vocational method of learning, coupled with genuine genius. This book seeks to tell some of the stories of this wonderful array of film-makers. Each one is an institution in themselves with a body of work that any film school will be happy to incorporate into its curriculum.
Future generations of film-maker need a repository such as this. A place they can seek answers to questions and have an in-depth study about how the masters themselves grappled with similar issues. For every director will undergo myriad challenger. Only those who face up to them will last and leave a legacy similar to the celebrated artists in this book.
A director is the ‘captain of the ship’. A man that everyone turns to in an hour of crisis. Reading about experiences of others helps upcoming film-maker realize that direction is about more than just handling an individual vision, it is about handling people-artists, technicians, financiers, distributors, media, audiences, critics, etc. A director has to deal with all these different individuals and do it with certain panache if he or she hopes to be successful in the profession. This cannot be taught. No school can prepare an aspirant for this. Experience really is the best teacher in this case and in this book you are learning from the best of the best.
As the president of Asia’s largest film school, it has been my privilege to hear many of the directors in this book speaks to students. The knowledge they pass on is invaluable. It can sometimes spell the difference between making a career in cinema and returning to a family business. A word of encouragement or a connection of mindsets through a similar journey can suddenly open mind.
We have found that this blend of experiential teaching prepares students and aspirants for the challenges ahead better than anything else and we are proud to have some of these names associated with us and thrilled that this book now exists for students to hungrily devour as they seek more and more knowledge about this most complex of arts.
So here is a chance to live many lifetimes. Through the eyes of several of India’s most celebrated film-maker. They share their experiences of the past from which we can learn and use as a guide to a great future.
A thought that has always fascinated me is, ‘Our past makes our present; our present makes our future.’ Sometimes in 2002, I read in a book that David Lean, the English film director known for films like Lawrence of Arabia and Dr Zhivago, used to be a tea boy. He then became a messenger, then an editor and finally a director. It made me wonder about David Lean’s life and I thought if he hadn’t started as tea boy, he perhaps wouldn’t have become a director. Maybe he would not have discovered his love for films. I became interested in his life and the detours it must have taken to bring him where he was supposed to be. What did he do before he became a tea boy? What other jobs did he have before he became watch and what books did he read? What determined the course of his life?
These questions led me to the idea of this book, especially when I realized how little we know about the lives and influences of the film-makers that are closer to our own reality. I had read books and about the various experiences and encounters that led them to film-making. I learnt about how they got their first break and their experiences on their first film, and it made me curious about the various experiences directors of Hindi films must have had. But to my dismay, I could not find any book which documented these directors’ voice and how they ended up in film-making. I also realized that most people who aspire to be film directors often find the path to their dream unfathomable, because most of them and their families do not have background in films.
But maybe it had nothing to do with that. I belong to a family involved in films and I had studied film-making, acting and writing abroad. I had also assisted an excellent writer and director. And Yet I couldn’t make a film. I wondered, sometimes almost angrily, how so many people without any background in films managed to direct films. There was angst in me to explore how they managed to make a film but I didn’t. And this curiosity and anguish is shared by millions of other who are trying to make it into the industry! I knew there was a book here. This thirst and hunger to know how directors I admire make films urged me to interview them, to somehow know them and their creative processes better. Some of the questions to which I had always wanted answers were: What constitutes a director, emotionally or otherwise? Can person educate himself/herself to be a film-maker? How does one end up here and how does one get their first break in this industry? I wanted to know more about their experience and influences as I knew that even my answers lay there.
I once asked screenwriter Salim Khan to define a film director. He replied: ‘Frank Capra made a film after a gap o nearly five years. He was asked, “why took you so long to make your new film? “Capra replied: “I did not have anything to say, until now!” On the other hand, a journalist complimented an outstanding prime minister of a country, “Sir, you speak well; and you really know what to say!” The prime minister replied, “It’s more important to know when to be or remain silent.” For me, both define a director.’
The director is the ultimate designer of the film. He or she creates the context in which every person’s work involved in the film-making process is given a shape. A good director ensures that all individual parts and all individual contributions are creatively brought together. The totality reflects his or her fundamental ideas, dreams, beliefs, convictions, about life and films at that moment in time. A director evolves professionally and personally with every film, so direction is a wonderful imprint of their mark on every frame, akin to an artist who signs his paintings saying “This is how I see things! at that point in time.
Film-making can be akin to a military exercise. The director can be a general who disguises himself as a common soldier to dig creative trenches in the minds of his creative collaborators and contributors. He is the ultimate illusionist. He nurtures an atmosphere of democracy even though hidden in this magician’s sleeves can be discreet aggression, a secret dictatorship. He can imbue in his collaborators a powerful belief in their abilities, even those not up to the mark, and that will invariably bring the best out of them. The talent common to all directors is their ability to communicate across the film-making spectrum: actors, editors, costume makers, lyricists, composers, production team, and make all involved feel one.
The process of film-making is often challenging, frustrating, tiring. Viciously demanding, painful, certainly stressful, yet it is the most satisfying work for these directors who bared their experiences in this book. In spite of the angst, they loved their journey through every film.
I think, beyond the gratitude, the best reward a director can hand to the collaborators and contributors to his art and craft is a great film! Because that is what they really need for knowingly or unknowingly permitting the director to enter their innermost selves to love, encourage, manipulate, inspire, coerce, motivate, bully them, or whatever else was necessary for the director to make them deliver their very best.
From the many books and biographies I read on film-makers, I knew that if one were to study patterns or look for methods to come to films and to earn one’s first break as a director, they will be standard ones: building rare, valuable skills and honing those skills to perfection through a variety of experiences. Every experience, good or bad, rare or common, leaves its imprint on the mind.
One way to put together the puzzle of entering the world of film-making and getting to make your first film as a director is to learn from the significant experiences shard by a variety of successful and masterful directors of Hindi cinema, and to find out how they earned their first break and how they continued on this path of film-making.
My goal was to put together some significant life stories, and valuable experiences and memories of eminent and some relatively new directors. However, I wasn’t sure if anyone would be interested in such a document but I later realized how important it is to make their voices available to all those who are looking for motivation, inspiration and knowledge.
Some of the directors had such inspiring experiences that I often lost radar of my questions as they travelled from one part of their life to another. I also got to know that many of the film-makers were well read and were equally interested in other forms of art. Their interest in the arts contributed greatly to their own films. It was their imaginative prowess that painted the picture of their lives on my mind so beautifully that I was almost lost in their Almost every interview made me contemplate my own beliefs and convictions. Sometimes, during an interview, I found myself introspecting about my choices and opinions.
I came to films later in life, after dabbling in other professions, but owing to my father’s illustrious film career as a lyricist, I knew my way around this elusive industry. Some directors politely refused to be interviewed, some were just not interested but the ones who did speak to me renewed my faith in the art of cinema. I would also like to thank my father, lyricist Anand Bakshi, whose career of nearly fifty years helped me meet some of these directors.
An important thing I learnt from these interviews is that cinema is not a destination for most film-makers; it is a journey which continues even after one makes their first film, even after making many successful one. I wanted to share the varied journey of these directors from their childhood to their first film because that is what shaped their lives and moulded them into the people they are today. I realized that the environment you grew up in, the choices you made as a child and adult, the highs and lows that accompanied the choices you made , the joys and sorrows, determined your fate, led you to your first film.
Our deep interactions took them down memory lane and they experienced such a range of emotions and memories that the interviews evolved into something more meaningful and intimate and so far, those moments were some of the most rewarding of my life. I hope it was as nourishing for them as it was for me. Some directors said the interview helped them bare their real selves. For some, it was as cathartic as a session with a psychiatrist. Such heart-warming responses gave me the courage to meet more directors and take this book further. As I met more film-makers, the flame of inspiration that sparked within me grew in intensity. And almost every director I met told me, either in tome or in words, that their ways an opinions are not the gospel of truth, and their methods keep evolving with every film and experience. I would like to mention here that this book is also a tribute to the worlds’ first full-length feature film, The story of the Kelly Gang (1906), directed by Charles Tail; and to Raga Harishchandra (1913), directed by Dadasageb Phalke, the first feature film made in India.
Each interview in this book left me feeling enriched and today I am more fulfilled than ever because of the thing that these director’s choices, stories, experiences and lives taught me. And that is what I hope this book does for anyone who aspires to be something in his or her life. Most importantly, I hope this effort can help someone make a film some day.
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