Interview Hindi

Love being at the heart of everything filmmaking, says Krishna Bhatt

Krishna, daughter of Vikram Bhatt, who began her directorial career with web-series The Untouchables, speaks about taking on the mantle and directing her father in her debut film.

Shriram Iyengar

When you come from a lineage that includes the likes of Mahesh Bhatt and Vikram Bhatt, turning director seems almost natural. However, Krishna Bhatt's turn at the director's chair comes after a decade of following her father around on films like 1920 (2008), Raaz 3D (2012), Raaz Reboot (2016) and 1921 (2018).

Krishna Bhatt is making her debut with the web-series The Untouchables, which is streaming on the VBontheWeb channel. The series follows the events that unfold when a young woman wakes up next to the corpse of a very rich businessman. The title, Krishna tells us, refers to the manner in which her protagonist is treated by society. 

"Everyone she sacrificed her life for abandons her. Her fiance abandons her. Society abandons her," she explains. 

The rescuer, a lawyer, is played by her father, Vikram Bhatt. The director took his turn in front of the camera for the series, and Krishna says he is a 'director's actor'. But she added that he stayed away from telling her what to do. 

Advice, though, came from everywhere, from Mahesh Bhatt, who warned her that it was a 'thankless job', to her own father, who wrote a loving Facebook note describing the hazards that lay en route.

Krishna was well aware of what lay in store. But the young filmmaker says, "I love being at the heart of everything that is filmmaking. It is my obsession. If I don't make films, I would be depressed." Excerpts from the interview:

The story of The Untouchables is a unique one, and based on a real-life story. How did it come about?

It is an unplanned project. I was not supposed to start off with The Untouchables. I was actually supposed to start off with a nice romantic film. It was only when I was called in and asked 'are you up for this?' It was a tall order to live up to. 

I ultimately decided to take up the challenge, and that is how The Untouchables came about. I wanted to do something that made an impression, and I realized very early that that is exactly what the script was. It had a lot of raw emotions of a lot of people. 

There are two things, if you see the trailer, that you get. One is that she is an escort, she has been ostracized by society. The girl becomes an untouchable because she chose to be an escort to save her family. When, one day, she wakes up and finds a man murdered in the same room, society turns against her. They say, 'If she can be an escort, she can be a murderer.' 

And everyone she sacrificed her life for abandons her. Her fiance abandons her. Society abandons her. 

The man who is signed on to save her is facing a similar life. He had an incident 10 years ago in his life, leading him to stop practising law. He has become a suicidal case. He lives in depression. He too has been kept out by society.

It is two defeated people, and how they help each other win. He saves her, and in her own way, she saves him. 

Directing your dad must have been an interesting experience. Although you have worked with him as AD before, he was an actor here.

Yeah, I have been working with him as assistant for the past 10 years. Unofficially, even in my college years. Officially, since I was 17. 

How was directing him as an actor?

Before I directed him, I was very nervous. I have seen him being such a good director, and I was a little unsure how I would be able to deliver. Or would I say 'Action!' correctly? But as luck would have it, I had to start with him. I managed to sail through that one. I remember Dad smiled at me. I had got over any inhibitions that I had. 

From then on, I got more confident. He just did as he was told. He never interfered, never told me what to do. If he had suggestions, I would have gladly taken them. You have to be a big fool to not take [suggestions from] someone who has been so experienced. 

So, he is a director's actor?

He is a director's director, a director's actor, and a director's producer. He is a good package to have on your side. He understands. He has been a director. He understands as a producer what a director needs. Now when he is an actor, he also knows what a director needs from an actor.

Did you ever think of releasing the film in the theatres rather than taking the OTT route?

Before making the film, no. But after making the film, a lot of people have asked me that. But I think we need to catch up with the changing times. If you look at the multiplex [the VBontheWeb app], a lot of people are glued to the phones on a video that they can download almost instantaneously. For 10-15 episodes, it is not much. You can simply get it for a small price. 

Daddy's girl: Krishna with Vikram Bhatt

This is a new world. We are part of a new generation, you have to also be part of the world that sees it on the phone. Not just the cinema world that views it on the big screen. 

Your father wrote about an interesting anecdote on Facebook, where he spoke about his uncle, Mahesh Bhatt, warning him when he expressed his desire to be a director. What was his reaction when you approached him with the same wish?

When I was waiting for the release of the film, which was a little late in happening, Mahesh uncle said, "Arre yaar, ye shaadi kyun nahi kar leti? Isko kya direction karna hai? [Why doesn't she get married? Why does she want to be a director?] It is a thankless job. 

I remember at the launch party, Mahesh uncle came up to me and said, "You are a director now. You are not anybody else." 

I think he told me that it is the most fulfilling yet most lonely job. I understand why it is so. You live with a lot of emotions in the story that you feel. Also, the dead body of a failed enterprise is carried by the director. A director, not necessarily, gets all the praise for a hit film. But if it is a flop, it is his dead body to carry. It is a very bold place to be. 

I love being at the heart of everything that is filmmaking. It is my obsession. If I don't make films, I would be depressed. 

You started out at 17 and have gone on for 10 years before turning director. So what were the lessons you learnt under your father?

Well, all these years, the one thing I learnt that he keeps telling me was that success and failure will keep coming. Don't take your success to your head, don't take your failures to your heart. If you don't experience pain, failure, success, heartbreak, you will never be a good storyteller. 

You have to embrace each experience that comes in your life, and put it in your stories. 

Then there is the burden of the name. As one in a long line of directors, a lot of attention will come your way in the media. Does it bother you?

You know, Mahesh uncle tweeted the other day. He had this lovely collage done of 'Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow' with him being 'Yesterday', my dad being 'Today' and me being 'Tomorrow'. I was in tears when I called him up and he said, "You have earned it. But you have a big responsibility to not let them down."

At the same time, it is also a privilege. Something that my dad wrote in that letter to me was: 'you know, people will call you a product of nepotism. Never feel guilty about it because I have worked for 35 years to make you a product of my nepotism.' 

I think that your lineage and your surname might give you a break, but it does not necessarily make you. What makes you is your hard work and your talent. Apart from that, it doesn't give you success. It only gives you a chance.