“Udta Punjab” director Abhishek Chaubey claims he never had any illusions about the fact that his last release “Sonchiriya” was too niche a film to get good numbers at the box office.
“I had no illusion about the box-office (collections) of the film. I knew it is not going to rule the box-office because it was a niche film. I wanted to tell a story I thought (was) worth telling. Of course, I did not think of the film to make so less money that it would affect the producers, but from the beginning we knew we were making a niche film,” the writer-director told IANS.
However, he mentions the footfall of the first day at the theatre was important for the film to grow by the word-of-mouth, and good marketing could have done helped the film achieve as much.
“Sonchiriya” was a dacoit action film featuring Bhumi Pednekar, Sushant Singh Rajput and Manoj Bajpayee among others, and its dialogues were in the Chambal dialect.
Admitting the fact that he faced criticism for the language, which few people understood, he explained: “It was a conscious decision to make the film using that dialect. We live in a country where people speak in so many dialects, and as Indians we should be aware of that. I think we, as Indians are quite ignorant about our diverse culture. I do not like that. We should pull up our socks and broaden our horizons as far as our culture goes. Indian is not just about Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore. We have more,” he added.
While Abhishek takes criticism in his stride, he is clear about the fact that maintaining a balance between art and commerce is important. “I want to remain an artist and storyteller, but then I do not want to be an obscure filmmaker living in a bubble,” he said, while speaking on the sideline of the Mountain Echoes Festival 2019 in Thimphu, Bhutan.
Abhishek attended an interactive session with Richa Chadha and Vani Tripathi Tikko on the topic “Script To Screen: Films Alive”.
Talking about his process of translating thoughts from words to screen, Abhishek said: “A film is a combination of thousands of images, and when I am writing a script, I keep a visual in mind, though I am not writing each of them on paper. My process is that if an image is important to the narrative, I write that in detail.”
“I am not one of those filmmakers who would like to play around with the mystic of filmmaking, rather I prefer to lay out my thoughts on the table before the actors, technicians and everyone, so that we all can get involved in the process,” said the filmmaker, who scripted films such as “The Blue Umbrella”, “Omkara” and “Kaminey”, before making his debut as writer-director with “Ishqiya” in 2010.
Whether it is the drug addict musician Tommy Singh in “Udta Punjab” or Indumati in “Sonchiriya“, Abhishek has always created a distinctive look for his characters.
“Creating the look of a character is a collaborative thing. I do not write it in my script. The appearance of any character not only shows how he or she lives in the present but it is a reflection of their past, too. So the look, body language, haircut, a mark on the face, puffy eyes — everything depends on not only their present lifestyle but also the past,” shared Abhishek.
The filmmaker visited Bhutan for the first time and he explored the city of Thimphu. Interacting with the locals, he found them to be very kind.
“The country is so peaceful and every sight is so beautiful. The people here are so kind and softspoken. I have travelled in different countries and there are good people everywhere, but here people hold a certain sense of honesty and simplicity. In fact, I was reading somewhere that Bhutan is one of the least corrupt countries of the world — that too, located near one of the most corrupted country of the world!” he laughed.