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Vikramaditya had to wait 5 years for Udaan

Vikramaditya Motwane's Udaan was the first Indian film to make the official selection for Cannes since Murali Nair’s Arimpara in 2003. He speaks to Udita Jhunjhunwala on issues close to his heart.

entertainment Updated: Jun 19, 2010 18:18 IST
Udita Jhunjhunwala
Udita Jhunjhunwala
Hindustan Times

It wasn’t until Vikramaditya Motwane saw his name on a board alongside those of filmmakers like Abbas Kiarostami and Ridley Scott that the gravity of having made a film that was officially selected for the Cannes film festival sank in.

The debutant director’s Udaan was the first Indian film to make the official selection since Murali Nair’s Arimpara in 2003, and it was also the first time Udaan was seen by an audience larger than 50 people.

“It was nerve-wracking. Ronit Roy (who acts in the film) was sitting next to me saying ‘breathe, breathe’,” recounts the 33-year-old Motwane, whose film releases here on July 16.

Producer Anurag Kashyap first read the script of Udaan, the coming-of-age story about Rohan who returns to Jamshedpur after eight years in boarding school to contend with an authoritarian father, in 2003. He assured Motwane that this would be a film only he could produce.

In 2009, after the success of DevD, written by Kashyap and Motwane, Kashyap fulfilled that promise. In those years, Motwane learnt how to convert his frustrations into momentum.

“Those years when you are trying to get your first film made are very frustrating,” he says. “Half your energy goes in convincing people to hear your point of view. Producers need references all the time. But since we have hardly explored coming of age as a genre in India (till, say, Wake Up Sid), Udaan had no reference points. Plus it had no stars. Now, with other independent films proving their viability, it’s a more level playing field.”

On a Wing and a Prayer
Motwane’s career is curious. His name appears in credits of various filmmaking departments from choreography to sound design, cinematography to screenplay, and on films as diverse as Deepa Mehta’s Water, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas, Vivek Agnihotri’s Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal and Kashyap’s Paanch and DevD.

He says, “Many of these roles are extensions of being an AD (assistant director), and a screenwriter writes all the time anyway. I did cinematography on two short films, but I always wanted to direct. Everything else was a process to get to directing. Hum Dil De… was like film school – working on scripting, pre-production, music sittings, art direction and costumes, including going to Bhuleshwar in Mumbai to buy borders for certain saris, because that is how meticulous Bhansali is. So you learn to be that way too. As a director, you have to know everything right down to the sari border, because you are working to make that one impression with that one shot for that one moment.”

To achieve this in Udaan, he was determined to be as authentic as possible which meant finding an 18-year-old fresh face for the part of Rohan, played by Rajat Barmecha.

Motwane was quoted somewhere as saying, ‘It’s been some time since someone told a genuine story about teenage angst, that too by not using an Aamir Khan as a teenager.’ Ask him about this and he laughs. “I was misquoted! I actually said Anil Kapoor. I was referring to ’80s films like Tezaab. I didn’t even think of Aamir Khan. When I first read that quote I was upset at being misquoted, but my second reaction was ‘this is better’.”

Cannes Opener
The Mumbai boy who majored in History and chose to pursue a career in entertainment rather than be a part of his father’s engineering business, says though he has a bank of scripts, he is yet to decide on his next project.

“Now the pressure goes up,” he says. “Do you make another low budget independent film, because if you do, you might just get stuck, or do you go the Anurag Kashyap-Dibakar Banerjee way where they raise their profiles little by little with each film? A lot of directors make their first film, but then they don’t know what to do after that because they have put so much of themselves into that film and said everything they wanted to say in that story. The director in them is alive, but the storyteller has died. The good thing about my years of struggle is that the storyteller has been alive.”

Though Udaan has had the honour of Cannes, Motwane is clear that his film is directed towards a commercial Hindi cinema-going audience. “The impression with audiences – and I am part of that same audience – is that when you see a film with festival names, it will be preachy, boring, long and slow. Udaan is none of those things. It’s quite straightforward, but with a lot of silences and quiet dialogues,” he says. “But Cannes is a big deal for a director.”

Filmmakers he admires
Hollywood & world cinema

Akira Kurosawa, Coen Brothers, Stanley Kubrick, Francois Truffaut, Alfred Hitchcock, Ken Loach, Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, David Fincher and anything by Pixar.

Then: Vijay Anand, Bimal Roy.
Now: Dibakar Banerjee, Shimit Amin (Ab Tak Chappan, Chak De India), Rajkumar Hirani ("Lage Raho Munnabhai is the finest film we have made in 20 years”), Anurag Kashyap (Black Friday), and Vishal Bhardwaj.

First Published: Jun 18, 2010 20:30 IST