- Punam Mohandas
- 14 December 2018
"Failure can be as enriching as success." - Anubhav Sinha
SWA Exclusive interview with the writer-director of 'Mulk'
Finally, Anubhav Sinha seems to have done something right and has appeased not only the box office god, the critics, but, in a tumultuous wave, the junta of India as well! A few months into its release and ‘Mulk’ is still garnering acclaim and his social media feed is crammed daily with congratulatory messages pouring in. It is almost enough to wipe out the debacle of ‘RaOne’ (even though he says that he does not take failure personally) and to look forward with renewed optimism to his next project, ‘Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai’ with an ensemble cast of twelve, supremely talented actors.
The maverick writer/director was in conversation with Punam Mohandas, for an SWA Exclusive interview.
How do you deal with all the social media criticism and hatred towards your directorial or writing efforts?
“Of late I have been receiving so much love for ‘Mulk’ that I am having trouble containing it,” he admits. “‘RaOne’ did bring a lot of Twitter hatred which hurt in the beginning, but later I realised a lot of it was maliciously concerted too.
‘Ra One’ continues to remain very close to your heart. Was the subject too advanced an idea for the audiences at the time? What is your analysis on what went wrong with this movie?
“A lot of things went right for it including the box office and visual effects!” he says somewhat defensively. “At the BO it suffered the 'should have done so much more syndrome' which was absolutely ridiculous I must say! It is very close to my heart, yes, because I did break a lot of new ground with it, but I got undone by the desire to make it universally appealing, whereas it was a fairly nichè idea from the Indian audience standpoint.”
You have stated in an interview elsewhere that you read a news item which then led to the story idea for ‘Mulk.’ What is it that you found particularly compelling about this instance?
“A father refused his slain son's corpse because he was a terrorist. This (in itself) was very moving, but I wanted to know more about what could have gone on with his life and his family,” says Anubhav pensively. “Moreover, this plot also served as a platform for things that I wanted to say.”
‘Mulk’ is such a powerful film. Apparently you wrote 13-14 drafts of this script! Is it frustrating to continually work on the same screenplay, getting it just right?
“No, it’s not frustrating at all. It is so much pleasure, especially when you are not customising for a star or a market; you are doing another draft because you think it can be bettered,” he says sincerely.
There are such fantastic scripts being made into movies nowadays, subjects that would have been unthinkable even a couple of years ago. Who do you think is the most promising writer out of the current lot?
“Oh, there are so many. Gaurav Solanki, a published author, tops my list. He has collaborated with me on ‘Abhi To Party Shuru Hui Hai’ and on my next too.”
In your opinion, how important is it for a filmmaker to comment on the socio-political surroundings of his time? Is it an onus or a creative choice?
“It is not an onus - it is an opportunity first and then a choice,” he states emphatically.
How do you deal with writers’ block?
“I just ignore the script for a day or two and then she automatically starts drawing you in to her! Simple!” he laughs.
You have made films across genres - romance, action, sci-fi and now a socio-political drama, ‘Mulk.’ Which genre affords you the most satisfaction, something that you find creatively challenging?
“’Mulk’ should sound like the most obvious answer but no, all have been very satisfying. I don't take failure personally; a failure is as enriching as a success. Both leave you with different emotions, but enriching nevertheless,” says Anubhav phlegmatically.
Your next project, ‘Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai’ is said to be a dark satire. Could you tell us something more about this one?
“Just that it is very different from what I have done thus far. I will let the trailer and the movie surprise you all. This is the most incredible ensemble of performances!” he says with conviction.
You worked with a lot of superb actors (not stars) for ’Mulk.’ Are you of the opinion that if the storyline is strong enough, it can sustain itself and does not require the presence of big stars?
“That is more of a budget question really,” he says honestly. “Sometimes, the star image helps you sell the story better to the audience.”
How difficult is it penning the dialogues for someone else’s story idea? “It's not impossible. I think professional writers do it way easier than I would. For me, it would finally boil down to how much the script gets to me.”
You are an accomplished writer and director and are very vocal with your opinions too, be it on the industry, society, or the government. What advice do you have for writer members of SWA?
“WRITE! I meet a lot of writers who claim to have a great idea and sometimes they really do, but they wouldn't write a script until commissioned, or until they know that the movie would be made. But if you are a writer then you can't help but write the script if you like the idea.”