Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Rajshree Ojha: Be it fictional or realistic, the character needs to have an emotional connection

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In an exclusive chat with The Pioneer, filmmaker Rajshree Ojha, known for happy family dramas including Chaurahen, Aisha, and the Potluck franchise, gets candid about her most-loved sitcom drama Potluck, her filmmaking process, and more.

Tejal Sinha

Big dreamers achieve more than the big doubters, they say. And Rajshree Ojha is one such filmmaker, who turned her dream into reality and how gracefully, paved her own path.

Having wanted to become a filmmaker ever since her childhood, Rajshree never really thought of anything else but filmmaking. Known for her sitcom and happy family drama including Chaurahen, Aisha, and the Potluck franchise, the filmmaker gets candid with us sharing about her most-loved sitcom drama Potluck, her filmmaking process, the gender bias in filmmaking, and more.

No surprise, the pandemic has led to a big boon for the OTT platforms. While many of us binge-watched the series all day long, there was another light-hearted series, Potluck, which had gained huge traction. It was during the post-Covid that the first season was out, turned out to be a critically acclaimed series. And, for all the obvious reasons, Potluck has been very dear to her as she says, “Even the characters have been very dear to me. I know them pretty well that I know how they’ll react, even the showrunners, and what they will be writing and that’s why I feel I am really connected to them. When Potluck 2.0 happened, it was just like as if we were going back home. Potluck 1 was happening during Covid at a very close set. We all worked in one little environment. We just become a family and when we returned for the second season everyone knew what they had to do.”

When the first season of the show turned out to receive good reviews, from the audience and critics. But that also led to huge expectations for the audience when the second season was announced. Was there pressure to keep the narrative light and connected with the second season? She enthused, “As filmmakers and storytellers, we want to challenge ourselves and we want to make it better. As a filmmaker, I kept pushing myself and I feel not only me but also the collaborators, actors, DOPs, editors, we all had kept this in mind to get it better, we tried to make the storyline better, understand the stress because we were shooting in a much open environment, the show has gone to various occasions and festivals, the new DOP had came onboard. I think we challenged ourselves and we did it.”

Every filmmaker has their process of bringing out the story as effectively as possible to the audience. Sharing about her process of filmmaking, she says, “I put a lot of effort in writing or ideating because I feel a lot of it is in your vision of how you see and feel about it. Sometimes I feel that many people have forgotten that the director has a vision too or has something to say. I feel if I know the character and who this person is, and know the journey then I know the world. Be it Cyrus or Harman or any of the characters, I knew them, I knew their feeling or even in Aisha, I knew her so when I take these characters I know who they are and then I watch the world around them. For me, the characters are very important. As a filmmaker, my first process is my character, and then I find the world of the character, then I do the writing of that, put in their world, then the actors and that’s how the project takes up.”

Rajshree is a strong believer that be it a fictional or realistic character needs to have an emotional connection. “Characters need to connect emotionally and that is what is more important than realistic because realistic is the world and you can set it up in any way. For me, the world doesnt matter, but the emotional connect, the journey of the character will connect you because for me as a filmmaker and storyteller that is what is important. I read a lot, thats my way of escapism. When I read I try to connect with the character of that book and somehow take the journey of the character just went with that and that’s what I’m trying to do as a filmmaker. I want to connect with my audience emotionally.”

While gender bias is something that’s seen in every field, Rajshree shares that there’s nothing as such called male or female directors. “That’s one thing that I like about the industry. However, gender bias comes when we talk about ‘who is going to watch your film’. Romantic-comedy, romantic films or drama’s, are my forte because it’s through these that I connect with my character. When I personally don’t like a genre, I wouldn’t make such a film and I want to be honest with my work. Even in a lowkey film, you might find a character you would connect to. When I try to create content, be it comedy, drama, or coming of age, I love coming of age, I try to maintain it. There are people who want to see these male-driven films and not such films.”

The auteur further highlights that more such films and shows like Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, Potluck, and Gullak need to be made. “This world is very rarely captured by filmmakers. There should be more of these happy stories out there. Last 2-3 years we’ve gone through literal hell, and it’s time we have smiles on our faces and not just keep complaining. As filmmakers, we need to at least bring that back,” signed off the filmmaker who is currently working on three films that are all in talks, and before we end, there’s a short revelation by the filmmaker, “I am hopefully going to do Potluck season 3 (wink).”

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