Hello, hello. Check, check, check. Audio 1, 2, 3,” says 10-year-old Partho Gupte, intrigued by my dictaphone. These days Partho is better known as Stanley from Stanley Ka Dabba, a film produced, directed and acted in by his father Amole Gupte, and edited and co-produced by his mother Deepa Bhatia, who has worked on such mainstream movies as Rock On!!, My Name is Khan and We Are Family...
The family is delighted that their experimental passion project, which they made by borrowing funds, shooting with a crew of five (minus makeup and lights), during four-hour workshop sessions on Saturdays at a Mumbai school, resulted in a film that has touched so many hearts. What we find intriguing is how the whole family is into films!
Partho, what do you and your parents do for fun, on weekends and holidays?
Partho: Every Sunday, but maybe not during exams, we eat out. We eat burgers or pizzas, many things. During the summer holidays we go out. When I was 5 or 6 or 7, we used to go to places like Esselworld. But we always go to see films and plays at Prithvi. I like animation films, Hindi films and English also. I like Pink Panther, but not the animated versions – the Steve Martin one. I loved Golmaal 3. Gopal (Ajay Devgan) is my favourite. He is muscle macho; he is too strong.
Amole: I loved Kareena Kapoor. She should have got more accolades for Golmaal 3. Her comic timing is uncanny.
Amole, you were supposed to make a film called Sapno Ko Ginte Ginte. What happened to that and how did Stanley Ka Dabba come about?
Amole: Maybe Sapno Ko Ginte Ginte is fated to begin when it has to. In 2008-9, I finished the songs and other preparation for the film. But it was set with minefields. It needed a star, and then you wonder whether the wait is worth it or is the issue more important. So I thought of making a no-production film. Stanley Ka Dabba is a complete vada pav production. There is no producer and only one workshop coordinator. It took us a year and a half, from Saturday to Saturday, four hours with two recesses where the 170 children brought one tiffin box and we supplied the other.
After the confusion over Taare Zameen Par on how much of the work was yours and how much was Aamir Khan’s, do you think Stanley will make things easier for you going forward?
Amole: I wouldn’t know, because I am not part of the industry.
How did you manage to take Stanley from Saturday workshops to screen?
Amole: I showed the film to Vishal Bhardwaj who is a friend. I also showed it to Jehangir Choudhary, who was the cameraman on Holi and Mirch Masala because we had shot it on the Canon 7D. Vishal said he was totally convinced about this film. That’s very reassuring for a person who doesn’t have a penny in his pocket. In the meantime, since Deepa was editing both Stanley and We Are Family on Karan Johar’s machine, we decided to show the film to him. He called various distributors, including Fox Star. Fox is a solid corporate, yet they were completely convinced about taking the film to the next level.
Deepa: For one year we did not know what we were going to do. We had borrowed money; we were editing in friends’ studios. There was a high risk. After Taare Zameen Par, anyone would say you can get the best team, the best cast, but Amole went absolutely the opposite way. I understand the wisdom of his way. But there was a lot of fear about how it was going to pan out.
Partho, do you want to act in more films?
Partho: First I thought I would do many movies, and then I thought I would do one movie and then a second movie, and then stop. Then I realised all of this was wrong. I should do medium movies, if I want. If I am in the mood I should do it, if not then no. At the moment I don’t know; I leave it to my parents.
Amole: Partho is with us and will be. That’s what we are about. We are together. It’s not about lending talent to an industry. There is no need. The industry can always seek out what they need and what they deserve.
What do you want to do when you grow up?
Partho: I want to be an actor and director like my dad. I am already directing a movie. It’s about a cat. I have cats, fishes and birds. I am going to make a series, I think. I have shot it on Handycam HD. It’s finished. Now it’s in editing and sound. Mom’s not editing it. She ditched me. Now when I get an award, I will not say mama’s name. Mom’s assistants are editing it. Papa has produced it because he bought the camera. He will get a thank you.
What work by your parents have you liked most?
Partho: His best is Kaminey. And Chakkar Chandu Ka Chameli Wala (an FTII film) is very funny.
Amole: And mom? She did Nero’s Guests. She won an award for it, na?
Partho: My great mom. She told her friend to collect it.
Finally, how would you describe your cinema?
Deepa: We try to make cinema a tool. We both agree that of course it should be exciting cinematically, but if something more can come of it, that’s nice.
Amole: Whether it’s a two-minute film on the physically or mentally challenged, or short films made by municipal school children, or Taare Zameen Par or Stanley, the grammar of cinema can be learnt by any duffer in one-and-a-half minutes. Cinema is an art form and any fool with his heart in art can create.
- From HT Brunch, May 29
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