Even though Vikas Bahl is an MBA gold medallist, the man who is said to have given low budget films like Aamir, Dev.D and No One Killed Jessica a big release says that his single biggest qualification is that “I grew up in Lajpat Nagar, Delhi. I am still living off that experience. It has given me a basic understanding of people around the country.”
Bahl moved to Mumbai for his MBA course. At that time, he had no idea that he would end up in the world of movies. “I never thought about making a movie. I didn’t come to Mumbai to join films. I was fairly directionless. I joined Ogilvy & Mather after my MBA and thought I would be with them all my life, like my dad had been with Indian Oil all his life,” says Bahl.A New Direction
But direction found him, literally. Advertising led to television, and from Sony TV Bahl transitioned to UTV. He has now left a safe corporate job to set up his own production house and made his first film as co-writer and co-director (with Nitesh Tiwari).
Chillar Party releases on July 8 but the turning point in his life, which drew him to the world of Bollywood, came after he watched two films. “After I saw Swades and Rang De Basanti I thought if I don’t make movies then I am wasting my life. During my stint with Contract advertising, the movie bug had bitten a little already and I had started writing a film called Conditions Apply. I wanted to direct that before Chillar Party, but I am going to direct it next,” says Bahl.
So why leave a post like chief creative officer, UTV, and risk starting your own shop? “It’s basically about testing myself without a safety net. Would I still do Aamir and Dev.D? I have to answer that question at some point. What I did then was with the backing of Ronnie (Screwvala). The films I made at UTV were the kind of films I wanted to watch. Now I want to see if I can do it on my own,” says the 39-year-old. “I will produce and direct.”Child's Play
Tapping into his own childhood and memories of growing up, Bahl describes his debut film as a movie about friendship. "Over time we lose the innocence, fearlessness and purity of childhood. Also children are often confused by the mixed messages they get from school on the one hand and from their parents or society’s actions on the other. They will be taught to abide by rules and laws in school and then see their father jump a traffic light," says Bahl. "Childhood is the most fun part of life, yet films on childhood are usually so depressing. When I recount stories about my childhood they are heroic. In my stories I always beat up five guys."
Based around a group of friends and the young boy and his pet dog that become part of their housing society, a mixed message comes through at the end of Chillar Party. “We will tackle the unresolved issue in part two,” says dog lover Bahl. “It’s a film, and it’s about children. The issues addressed could have been anything, but issues of animal welfare and child labour happened to come to our minds first.”
Being a marketing man, he realised the value of an item number to promote their movie and decided to tap into Ranbir Kapoor’s inner tapori for the Tai Tai Phiss song. “We show that even children have discovered that item songs sell films. So it was a marketing idea but I had this thought that Ranbir was more of a tapori than the cool movies he does, and it shows. He’s a natural!” he says.
Going forward he says, “I hope to co-produce the Hindi remake of Telugu film Magadheera which Madhu Mantena has the rights for. I also get excited about marketing a tall order, a challenge. If it seems too easy, I get scared.”
Recent movies you have liked: Chak De India, Khosla Ka Ghosla, Rock On!! I like masala Hindi movies.
Your nickname: Bobby. My friends now tease me and call me Bobby Bahl, Director.
Your pet: A cocker spaniel called Khan. Like everyone in Delhi, I used to have a Pomeranian before.
Is there a Lajpat Nagar in Mumbai? Bandra is my new Lajpat Nagar, but the only place like Lajpat Nagar is New Jersey.
When not making movies: I love watching cricket and badminton, because of Saina Nehwal. I love watching badminton a bit more than watching cricket.
From HT Brunch, July 3
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