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MAMI 2017: From superstitions to fake previews, directors open up at Movie Mela

Filmmakers Anurag Kashyap, Alankrita Shrivastava, Nitesh Tiwari, Ayan Mukerji and Kabir Khan sat down for a directors' special tete-a-tete at the Movie Mela at MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2017. 

Anurag Kashyap, Ayan Mukerji, Alankrita Shrivastava, Nitesh Tiwari, Kabir Khan.Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Shriram Iyengar

While it was the stars who usually steal the show, the MAMI Movie Mela showcased five of the most talented directors of the current generation in the form of Anurag Kashyap, Alankrita Shrivastava, Nitesh Tiwari, Ayan Mukerji, and Kabir Khan. With Rajeev Masand and Anupama Chopra hosting the event on Saturday (7 October) in a Juhu hotel, the directors opened up on their experiences on set, superstitions, and their advice to any young directors in the audience. 

The session, understandably, began with the directors reminiscing about the late Kundan Shah.

"It was a surprise," said Anurag Kashyap about the sudden passing away of the director. Kashyap also recollected how he was in 'awe' of Shah, when he had met him as a young writer, but the late director had sat down with him to discuss writing.

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Khan also shared an anecdote about the warmth with which the late director had welcomed him when he was a young cameraman. "I had come from Delhi for a news show about Nukkad. I remember he spent hours showing me how things work on the set." Khan admitted it was my first experience of a Hindi film/television set. 

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The event then progressed with the directors answering questions that revolved around 'setiquette', behaviour that they promoted while on set. From Tiwari's 'one chair' rule during a new film, to Khan stealing John Abraham's jeans from Kabul Express (2006), there were some amusing anecdotes shared by the directors at the events. 

Speaking about one thing a director should never do, Tiwari said a director should never assume. Elaborating on the issue, the Dangal director added that during his first film, he assumed every child knows how to ride a bicycle. Sadly for him, none of the kids on the sets of Chillar Party did. This resulted in a three-week delay for the shoot. "Never assume anything," said Tiwari as the others laughed. 

Another amusing revelation was that of Mukerji, who said his most used word on set was 'action'. While it might seem obvious, it was Mukerji's revelation that he denotes a different energy and style to say 'action' according to the scene being shot that got the crowd laughing. Kashyap, not one to be left out, added, "I've seen Dharmesh Darshan saying action from between people's legs on the floor. I get that." 

Speaking about the one moment they can't forget from their films, Khan revealed that there are moments when the actor brings something unexpected to the scene and that makes the director's day.

Giving an example of Nawazuddin Siddiqui's performance as Chand Nawab in Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Khan said, "I told Nawaz (Siddiqui) that I had a whole day planned just for this scene [the news report at a crowded railway station]. Co-ordinating the train, people, would all be a nightmare. Nawaz actually said yes to the film for that scene. So, we found a location that matched the YouTube video. We rolled the camera, Nawaz came on the scene, and it was over. First take and the rest of the day was free for us." 

Kashyap also remembered a similar incident about Siddiqui from his film, Black Friday. He said his assistant had come up to him after the scene and described Siddiqui's eyes as 'the most beautiful eyes' she had seen. Kashyap said, "That's the moment I realised this man has more screen presence than most people have seen." 

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On being asked if they had kept a memento from their film sets, Shrivastava revealed, "I am not nostalgic about things at all. I have, in fact, used many things from my house for my film sets." Khan, though, admitted with embarrassment that he had altered John Abraham's jeans from Kabul Express (2006) and worn them around. "They were expensive," he laughed. 

While each director brought a different opinion to the table, one thing they unanimously agreed upon was their hatred for marketing promotions and attending preview shows. "I am more interested in getting the feedback from the audience because that is where the genuine feedback comes from," said Tiwari. Khan, on the other hand, branded the preview shows as 'not genuine at all'. As for marketing, the Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015) director did not mince any words saying, "If the trailer is bad, no amount of monkey business is going to save it."

As the directors took audience questions, it was Shrivastava who made a pertinent point about the lack of female directors in the industry.

Answering a question regarding the same, the director said, "I think it is a shame. I think it is one area where we have not really broken the glass ceiling." Shrivastava also pointed out that this gender disparity did have an effect during her discussions with exhibitors for Lipstick Under My Burkha (2017). She said, "The exhibitors and distributors who allocate show timings for the films, there are no women in that group either." The solution, Shrivastava pointed out, lay in "taking one step at a time."

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While the steps might take time, the session certainly saw a number of cinephiles enjoying the talk. 

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