Like most creative people, Ashish Shukla is hyperactive in the toilet - at the cerebral level of course. His award-winning short film
was conceived there after a hard day's work. It was shot in Tamil, which is as good as Hebrew for him as he doesn't read, speak or write in that language.
The theme of the film was neighbour and the message was simple: love thy neighbour's wife more than your neighbour. Pretty explosive content, eh, but Shukla, a deeply married man at the age of 26, shot scenes of sexual intimacy, exposing very little. Yet, The Lock opened the floodgate of opportunities.
Director Anurag Kashyap appreciated his efforts and asked Shukla to join him. Shukla is working with him on two projects right now: in Dev.D, a modern celluloid version of Devdas, the love-sick hero, Shukla is the creative head, determining the look and feel of the film. The second one is a tribute to Varanasi.
"A formal training in commercial art taught me to think out of the box," said Shukla, an alumnus of Raheja School of Art, Worli. With no family genes to spark off his movie ambitions - his father works with the Railways - Shukla, a self-professed black sheep, is earning close to a lakh a month.
He had worked as a graphic designer with Lintas advertising agency before joining the art school.
The first test of endurance was when he had gone to meet Prahlad Kakkar, the boss of Genesis Films. "I was still a student at Raheja.
The day I landed at one of his ad film locations, he was having a bad day. He was furious with his assistant directors. Too terrified to speak to him, I waited for a good 14 hours at the spot only to find at 3 am that he had left through the backdoor. I worked with Kakkar as his 14th assistant for six months," he said.
After college, it was marriage. Almost simultaneously, he joined Contract Advertising as the creative head. "But I wanted to make films, so I quit." Right then, bad luck intervened. "I broke my collarbone and was confined to home for four months. That was the time I was also exposed to world cinema," he said. Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi and Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros) left him stunned.
Once he was up and going, The Lock was made, and life took off.
"A grounding in commercial art helped me determine the colour schemes of Dev.D, gave me a sense of proportion for composing the shots. It also helped to home in on the right locations," Shukla asserted.
One art form has led to the other. Shukla is also writing the script of Varanasi, a humorous film, apart from contributing regularly to the blog Passion for Cinema.
"There are reasons to believe that Benares, instead of Lucknow, should be the political capital of UP. The tea stalls of this ancient city and the Benares Hindu University are the breeding ground of politicians. You will find aspiring netas dissecting anything from American imperialism to mohalla politics with seasoned politicians," he said.
The artist in him has got the picture right. It will soon be over to Kashyap to call the shots.