Ever since he started off with Yahaan (2005), film-maker Shoojit Sircar has been amongst the most talented and prominent directors in Bollywood.
Interestingly, all his last four films – Vicky Donor (2012), Madras Café (2013), Piku (2015) and Pink (2016) – have won National Awards in various categories. As Pink wins Best Film on Social Issues award at 64th National Film Awards, Sircar talks about the honour, his films and more.
You must be on a high after winning a National Award...
Definitely, it matters a lot. It gives us an incentive to move on [to do what we really want to do]. Also, it provides courage and confidence since your decisions vis-à-vis choosing the script, performances, editing or other small things must have connected with the jury. And National Award is a big honour, a prestigious one and one of the most respectable one. We don’t make films for awards but if we get it, it’s definitely a bonus.
A debate started when National Awards were announced, especially the Best Actor award…
Yes, I am aware and have been reading about the debate. But I am really happy about Pink. They have recognised Pink in absolutely the right category, so I have no complaints. And I have faith in the jury as far as the National award goes. It’s a credible award and I would only request the jury and the government to please keep the credibility going.
You also said that you would have loved to see Amitabh Bachchan get a National Award too…
Yes. Expectations are always there. So, my expectation was that he gets the best actor award, Taapsee (Pannu) gets a special mention and Ritesh (Shah; writer) gets the best writer award. Also, I feel Bodhaditya Banerjee has done the finest editing. Lekin expectation ka kya kehna hai (But what to say about expectations; smiles). We are happy with what we have got and we humbly accept it.
All your films mix entertainment as well as social message. How difficult it is to balance that?
It is difficult because that’s where I struggle a lot. I have grown up on documentaries. To do a documentary on anything is easy but to put a cinematic, fictional life or thrill to it is a tough job. It takes a lot of your instinct, vision, observations, experience and what’s most important is the kind of a person you are, as that will also reflect on screen. Whatever I am, it all comes on the screen.
Deepika Padukone’s performance in Piku was praised a lot. Any plans to work with her again?
Deepika is one of my favourites. Whenever my writers and I talk, we always think, ‘what can we do with Deepika’ because I’m so fond of her. It was a brilliant experience working with her. Frankly, while working on Piku, I saw the real actress and real creativity in her; and what she is as a soul. My revelation was that she is a simple, girl-next-door soul, despite having done many other films and potboilers. Now, I am working on and thinking about something wherein Deepika and I can work together. So, we’ll soon chat about it (smiles).
What’s your mantra for constant success at the box office?
Frankly, iska jawab toh mere paas nahi hai (I don’t have an answer to this). I don’t have a formula. I get into one line of a subject and then weave it into a full-fledged story with my writers, who are the heroes of my films. I have tried to keep my integrity in terms of the subjects I am working on. Due to my theatre background and the fact that I live in Delhi, there has always been some kind of politics behind a film. Herein, politics isn’t about political parties but whatever affects us, moves us or tears us socially. We [artistes] don’t belong to any political party, but we feel democratic inside and our only weapon is cinema. So, that’s what I do. I don’t have any secret library or secret formula.
Were you expecting a National Award for Pink?
When we were making it, we didn’t have any particular issue on our minds. It wasn’t planned like that. We kept making it and when the final product was ready, we then realised that an issue has been highlighted in it. Originally, for us, the story was just about three girls who are stuck, and how a lawyer somehow manages to bail them out. When it comes out in the film, it hits hard because it’s the blatant truth. My writer (Ritesh Shah) and I would tell each other, ‘Two things can happen. Either one section will reject the film completely, or another section will feel that it can’t be ignored as it is important’. That was the dilemma.
Do you ever feel pressurised due to people’s expectations from you?
Please expect mat karo, mujhe maaf kardo (Please don’t expect anything from me; forgive me; laughs). Let me work with full freedom and I will deliver. Don’t consider me rude, but I really don’t care and bother about [people’s] expectations. The only thing I bother about is that I have to make a film within a cost and recover the producer’s money. It’s my movie and story and this is the way I am going to tell it. So, if a film doesn’t work, I won’t have any regrets because I would have made it the way I wanted to.
Shoojit Sircar started his career with Minissha Lamba-Jimmy Shergill starrer Yahaan.
What are you working on next?
One project is based on freedom fighter Udham Singh. It will have my own take on the Indian Independence movement and him. Varun (Dhawan) and I are keen to work together on another film that Juhi (Chaturvedi; writer) and I are collaborating on. The final stages of scripting are on, and in another month or so, we will be ready to talk about it. It is going to be slice of life, but unusual.