By Simran Sethi
New Delhi, Nov 24 (IANS) “Lights! Camera! Action!” yells the director, to get the actors going in front of the camera. But then, actors have often given in to the creative urge of getting behind the camera, too, to call the shots.
In Bollywood, over the decades, the trend of actors taking to direction has mostly been restricted to top stars or very accomplished names. From Aamir Khan, who directed the commercially successful “Taare Zameen Par”, to Nandita Das, whose arthouse gems as “Firaaq” and “Manto” have been critically applauded, actors who have taken to direction so far are ones who are instantly identifiable. Sunny Deol, Kangana Ranaut, Pooja Bhatt, Shreyas Talpade, Konkana Sen Sharma and Rajat Kapoor are some actors who have donned the director’s hat in recent decades.
There is a new breed emerging this year, of actors taking to direction. These are actors who are not necessarily mainstream. Rather, they have belonged to the fringes of commercial Bollywood before making a mark with the megaphone. Seema Pahwa, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Anshuman Jha are prominent names.
Actress Seema Pahwa, who is best remembered for her role of Badki in the serial “Hum Log” that ran in eighties’ Doordarshan, recently directed the comedy film “Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi”, which is inspired by a real-life story. Seema drew from how certain relatives behaved when they came to mourn her father’s death and stayed at their place for 13 days.
The movie was screened at the recent Jio MAMI 21st Mumbai Film Festival with Star and garnered a standing ovation.
Asked what made her turn to direction, Seema told IANS: “It was just coincidence. Actually, the film is based on my life’s instances. Many people told me to direct the project instead of go looking for a director. Then I, too, felt it would be better if I helmed the project.”
For Seema, directing a film was a soothing experience.
“The actors in my film are all my friends. So it was very comfortable giving them instructions and explaining what I want out of them. The film is about to release and if the audience likes it, the fact will give me confidence to direct more movies in future,” she added.
The year 2019 also marked actress Tannishtha Chatterjee’s debut as director with “Roam Rome Mein”, which stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
Like Seema, it was not a planned decision for Tannishtha to become captain of the ship. It was her co-star Nawazuddin who motivated her to direct the film.
“I never thought I will make A film. It just happened and it was not at all. I had a story. One day I was discussing it with Nawaz. He said lets do it. At that time I thought I would write it and we would act in it. As I started writing, it was Nawaz who first said, ‘tu jaisa soch rahi hai na woh koi aur nahi kar payega’. He enhanced my confidence and that’s how I decided to direct the film,” Tannishtha explained.
Did she feel any difference being a female director in the male-dominated industry?
Tannishtha said: “Things are changing. Women filmmakers are more welcome in the industry now. Even the atmosphere on the set was not different. We worked with a mixed team comprising of males and females. I feel if there’s a female director on the board, there’s softer and more feminine touch to the story. We women generally try to add our real emotions to the story, which makes it more loving.”
Another actor who never really courted the commercial Bollywood spotlight, but is all set to direct his brand of film, is Anshuman Jha. The actor who was noticed in films like “Love Sex Aur Dhoka” and “Fugly”, recently announced his directorial debut with the film “Lord Curzon Ki Haveli”, touted as a black comedy. The film will feature Arjun Mathur and Tannishtha.
Anshuman, who worked as a chief assistant director on several films including Subhash Ghai’s “Black & White”, said: “I have been an assistant director through my teens and early 20’s. While I was working with Subhash Ghai sir, he used to say I have a filmmaker’s brain and that will help me as an actor. I have directed plays and this script of ‘Lord Curzon’ called out to me. Black comedy is a genre I love. It’s an extension of me as an artist.”
According to Anshuman, it is important to have proper knowledge of everything while helming a film.
“As a film director you need to have a knowledge of all departments involved. I use the word knowledge, not information — which takes years. I have been assisting since I was 16 — which is half my life. I am now taking this jump. I realise that actors are tools used to tell a story and, being an actor myself, I guess the best thing I am realising is how to make best use of the talent that these individuals possess, to tell the narrative I wish to, and entertain,” he said.
Not all actors who have given direction a shot this year are removed from the mainstream spotlight. Earlier this year, Bollywood superstar Kangana Ranaut became a rare top actress who stepped into director’s shoes while shooting the historic drama “Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi”, where she essayed the title role. She took charge of the film after the original director Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi departed owing to what has been described variously as conflicting schedules and creative differences.
Directing “Manikarnika” seems to have boosted Kangana’s confidence. She had announced her second film as director — an epic action drama to be mounted on a large scale.
“I’m on the verge of announcing my next directorial venture. It’s an action film, an epic drama. It has taken a lot of my time. Currently, we are putting everything in order, but we have locked the script. We’ll be doing a photoshoot, soon after which we plan to release the poster,” Kangana said a while back.
(Simran Sethi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)