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No stopping him

From being an assistant to film directors and directors of photography for a decade to making his debut as a director after six long years, Ajay Bahl’s life has been a roller coaster ride in many ways.

chandigarh Updated: Nov 13, 2013 09:53 IST
Navleen Kaur Lakhi

From being an assistant to film directors and directors of photography for a decade to making his debut as a director after six long years, Ajay Bahl’s life has been a roller coaster ride in many ways.


The critical acclaim that Ajay’s directorial debut, this year’s film BA Pass received, might have given him a high, but he doesn’t forget that for six years, there was no one ready to produce it, until he decided to put in his own money (to the tune of two crores). Based on a short story called The Railway Aunty, by Mohan Sikka, BA Pass was able to collect 12 crore rupees.

Ajay isn’t apologetic about making an erotica, saying, “Aren’t male prostitution rackets run by housewives common now? If it’s happening everywhere, why not make a film on it? Sex might have got the people curious enough to get to theatres, but they liked it too. For that matter, eroticism was a part of the film Nasha too, and Poonam Pandey definitely has more followers on twitter than Shilpa [Shukla, female lead of BA Pass]. Had all the followers of Poonam seen the film once, it would have been a hit.”

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2013/11/AjayBehl_compressed.jpg

Next, the director, who hails from Delhi, is eyeing all things dark as he plans to make a horror film, a dark Macbethean drama, for he believes Bollywood is in an “interesting place” right now. “This is the 100th year of Indian cinema and one gets to see films such as the Ship of Theseus, Shahid and BA Pass. These are independent films that have done well. The Lunchbox collected around 27 crore, which is an unheard of amount for a film that toured festivals before being releasedin theatres,” says Ajay.

But, there are many who feel there is a dearth of good scripts in Hindi cinema. Does Ajay echo that sentiment? “Isn’t that the case with Hollywood films as well, which churn out trash? Maybe we haven’t explored our literature and rich culture enough. Most Bollywood films these days are made for the masses. These blockbusters have huge audiences who aren’t very educated, neither do these films want to teach them anything. But, there is also whole lot of different filmmakers with new sensibilities,” Ajay points out.

Coming to his own self, the director says he is “not very reserved, but not a people’s person either.” Finding parties and film functions boring, Ajay says after-party binges are not his thing. “I don’t have much to say to other filmmakers. For how long can you talk about films?” he asks, exasperated. So, those who’d like to strike a conversation with him can start with books. “Perhaps about books that I’ve not read, since I like to read. However, it’s a newly acquired habit as I’m scouting for a few good scripts,” adds Ajay.

What makes him sad is that not many are ready to put in money for new actors. “BA Pass might have done well, but I’m still not able to raise money for my next film. I have no aspiration of working with any of the Khans (Aamir, Shah Rukh Khan or Salman). My biggest Khan would be Irrfan and casting him would make me happy,” he says.

Having been an assistant to many directors, Ajay has advice to offer to young assistant directors, suggesting they venture out on their own and try their luck. “Assisting someone definitely helps, but one shouldn’t assist for too long.

A year or two gives you enough to learn. Those who have been assisting for years are as good as a director. One you realise that you have known enough, you should take your chances,” he signs off.