Survival in the film industry is an art no institute can teach. It’s an art that gets taught by pain and humiliation.
After my 4-5 years of being an assistant, I started thinking of venturing out on my own. I realized it was not going to be easy to make the films I wanted to make — “arty” films that were not very box office friendly. So I ended up making Trishakti, in those days a perfect Bollywood potboiler because it featured a girl in a bikini, Altaf Raja songs, an emotional dog and three heroes who were ruling the roost when I signed them for the film. I thought this would be a dream launch into the world of Bollywood. I did not realize that this was going to be the beginning of my worst nightmare…
I had cast talented upcoming actors of that era so my film was quite a talking point. But during the making; their other films started flopping left, right and center and the industry wallahs lost interested in them. The final nail in the coffin was a financial crunch which delayed the film by three years. My subject had become stale. All seemed bleak but hope had yet not died in me.
When the film was complete I tried to show the film to as many as people as possible, feeling that someone might get interested in me, at least as a technician and sign me for a second film. Somehow Trishakti released but it drowned without a trace.
Now the worst thing was to survive a failure and be resilient enough to stand on my own terms. Never will I forget the humiliation of those bleak years. I was persona non grata in Bollywood. For reasons of networking I used to tag along with star secretaries and actors to big parties. At these parties, news photographers would shoo me away from the frame if they wanted to snap a particular actor I may be talking to.
People would get into animated conversation to avoid talking to me to avoid this flop director. A one flop director is worse than a director who has not made a film yet. The film industry avoids this category like a plague. It is very difficult to start a second inning if your first was a dud.
My morale was down and it looked like there was no hope of a second film. People told me to play it safe but this time I knew if I were to make a film then it would be a film I believed in… thus came Chandni Bar.
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