Monday, April 15, 2024

Anshuman Jha: I crave flattering remarks, not business

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Actor Anshuman Jha, who’s making his directorial debut Lord Curzon Ki Haveli will make its premiere at the prestigious IFFM, discusses the making of the feature film, being an avid Alfred Hitchcock fan, and more.

SHIKHA DUGGAL

The much talked about black comedy thriller Lord Curzon Ki Haveli, directed by actor-director Anshuman Jha, will make its world premiere at the prestigious IFFM — and quickly give him a ring because it’s the first mainstream Indian feature film to be shot using a single lens, and is a revelatory tale about the Asian diaspora overseas. Decades ago, maybe this story would have been unthinkable! What happens in our industry is that stars are stars, but with mature directors like Anshuman coming in, he insisted on artistic control.

“I am a huge Alfred Hitchcock fan — was resolute on shooting it as “Hitchcockian” drama. So, the script was developed over two years. As soon as it started to do well in the international markets, we got a lot of confidence. But I couldn’t have filled both the roles of an actor and director, most probably when I turn older, but I wasn’t ready to do so at the moment. I chose to direct the film because it was my ideation!”, added the Lakkadbagha fame.

The movie is set in the United Kingdom. Elaborating a little on his recee process, he shared, “I found a two-hundred-year-old “haveli” — after being to almost forty other houses in the country. The recee was crazy! I had already made specific notes for the kind of shooting locations I am yearning for, one of which was a house built of stones. Just to give the old-world charm! So that’s why it was getting difficult for me to scout for a house like this in London. Everything was booked, the cast was locked and we were about to fly to the United Kingdom, and bang: pandemic hit us. My cast was worried now. That year turned out to be extremely hapless for me because I lost both my parents. I was mentally jiggling!”

Moving ahead in the exclusive interview, Anshuman claimed that he wouldn’t have made this film if not for Rasika Dugal and Arjun Mathur because, “I developed those characters keeping only these two stars in my mind and nobody else. It’s an actor-oriented script and they fit the part! If they would have refused, the film had to be shelved. They stuck through me during all the pandemics. Right casting wins half the battle in filmmaking, I have an experience of a total of twenty years in this industry and it’s not superficial talks. Rasika is one of the finest Indian actors to exist, period. This was one of most the complex roles and nobody else could have pulled it off other than her! I needed her acting sensibilities in all her craft firing.” Now when it comes to his male protagonist, “Arjun Mathur is madly known for Made in Heaven fame, my question is why aren’t others looking beyond his acting sensibilities from the famous franchise? From my movie, he’s going to tap into other extremities! He’s an insane actor waiting to be tapped other than being cast in a Zoya Akhtar directorial only. He’s aging really well. I see a solid actor in him, somebody beyond fame and popularity on social media.”

Problems were never-ending, as soon as they reached Yorkshire — they were hit by a continental storm. Disturbing, isn’t it? Anshuman calls it an experience because he managed to find originality in it like the vintage style. Wondered, how? He expressed, “I had to do very little colour correction, hardly any VFXs. There were natural sounds throughout! And this genre has never happened in our country. Besides, what’s happening is with more and more technology and equipment, filmmakers are losing on simplicity. So to speak, the viewing experience for cine-goers will be very consistent this time. This is a thriller, not a mystery!”

Now this is not one of the biggest of bigger theatrical releases and as a director, he really doesn’t care. He begs to differ! He opines, “My upbringing is very strong — thinking about the box-office outcome is the silliest thought you can evoke in yourself. I am not in this competition, only. The lines are getting blurred, anyways. I crave for flattering remarks, not a business. Stop obsessing over the number game you guys! I am an economics graduate, by the way, the industry’s comparisons are dreadful (he laughed). For example, my film Love Sex aur Dhokha was made on a budget of two crores and did twenty-odd crores, so that’s what we call a successful commercial. The list of cult films has my film on the top, now that’s success to me! The hundred crore films are forgotten. Cinema is not just about numbers. There is a new obsession in the industry — who has more followers and like? To date, to me what matters is your body of work and the legacy you are leaving behind.”

Finally, how has Alfred’s filmmaking influenced Anshuman Jha, we were extremely curious to know. “Oh, he was a timeless classic. I have a whole Hitchcock collection at home. All his films were masterful. He was the one who defined the thin line between a thriller and a mystery movie. All of his fandom comes from the factor of engagement! He used to shock the audience. The tension of his acts was always simmering. That’s his emotional engagement! Those kinds of movies have stopped being made and it’s a disappointment.”

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