Passion. It makes you do crazy things… And it makes you create crazy things too. Scroll a little on YouTube and you’ll stumble upon the quirky and — going by the topic – supremely crazy trailer of an upcoming movie Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota. Honestly, the first thing you wonder after looking something as fun but so ridiculously unheard of, rather unthinkable to common minds, is – ‘Whoa, just how?’
So, we, at The Red Sparrow, decided to do something about it. And who better than the creator himself, Writer-Director of the film, Vasan Bala, to go and talk to?
Let’s get to it right away. Here are the excerpts.
How did films happen to you?
Films, I think they happen at a young age to everyone or whenever they discover the magic, they cant keep away from the medium, you understand, you read more and more of it and then you decide what stream you want to be a part of. So eventually, that’s how it happened. Watched some movies at a very young age, watching it on VHS and then once you grow up, you feel maybe you can give it a shot. It’s on a whim, I think. It’s like one day you wake up and you make a stupid decision, that is filmmaking.
Was there a particular moment/incident/person/film that influenced you?
No, no, nothing like that. I don’t think that’s how it happens in real life ki ek cheez ne duniya badal di, you know.I think it’s a collection of all of it and it keeps growing within you and one day you feel you’ve reached the boiling point. I discovered it much later, in fact after finishing college. While in college I thought of making films but I never really shared it with anyone. It was only much later that I started sharing it with people that this is what I really want to do.
I had downloaded ‘Fight Club’ (David Fincher’s) and tried to cut a promo. So there was this software called Sony Vegas which was working on Windows and it was a pretty interesting one and somewhere I read that, “to learn filmmaking, you learn editing” so that’s the first thing I tried to do, try and cut my own promo of a film, just to see if whether in two, two and a half minutes I can tell a story or make it interesting or whatever. That was one of the first things I remember I tried to do.
Your first project was with Anurag Kashyap, how did you land it?
There was this website called ‘passionforcinema’ and everyone used to write on it, this was way back in 2006, so Anurag and me and a few more people who are making films today were on it and we used to just go on it and write about films and that’s how a community was born and that’s how I got in touch with Anurag. It was all organic, there was no getting a call or anything, it was just that we used to hang out together in those times and you are very instinctive about these things, that’s how that film (Pramod Bhai 23 for Mumbai Cutting) happened.
You’ve been a writer for a long time, was direction always on the cards?
I always wanted to be a director. If I had to become a stuntman to be a director, I would become a stuntman.
How difficult was it to keep going?
It’s always difficult ya. I mean no one really wants to make your film but you are forcing it. So there is no entitlement as such and you just need to believe in what you are trying to do and keep at it everyday and wake up thinking ‘today is the day, it is going to happen’! So ya, it just takes time. Some days you feel, it’ll happen tomorrow. Some days you feel, it’ll happen next week. Some days, next month. Some days, next year. And then, its 14 years! You dont know ya, you just have to keep at it. I don’t know about easy or tough but some days will be good and some bad, it can’t be all bad days and it can’t be all good so it is a mix of it and then you somehow see and ride through it. It’s the conviction that keeps you going.
Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota looks really quirky and great fun. How did a concept like that come to your mind? How did talking about a lesser known disorder, Congenital Insensitivity to Pain, come to be?
So there was a friend of mine who had told me about this other friend who’s a dentist and she (the dentist) had a patient who didn’t feel pain and wouldn’t take anesthesia, that’s how I came to know about it and there was this video of a guy who put his hand and take samosas out of boiling oil. Then I started reading about it and came to know about the condition called congenital insensitivity to pain and its various levels. It is a very rare disorder where someone doesnt feel pain. And there was a documentary on BBC about it, following a girl who was suffering from this condition. Then one things leads to another, you start reading, you start watching videos anything related, internet is a rich resource for everything.
And it’s not like a project ya. If you chance upon something and you connect to it, it gets meat and then you try and pursue it with all enthusiasm. So it just happened like that, there was no agenda to it.
Like you mentioned, it took 14 years for you to get a theatrical release, what was the journey like?
You always start off very optimistic, and then there is always that low when you think nothing is going to happen and then suddenly you feel optimistic again! It’s like a film screenplay only, it has its highs and lows and somehow you keep doing other things to keep you afloat, which is what I did. You just keep at it. The good thing is, there is family around, it is a huge motivator. They do give you a sense of purpose to keep going, and courage. My parents, my wife and now my daughter, they are a huge support.
About the cast for MKDNH, Abhimanyu Dassani and Radhika Madan are relatively new, how did you know about them being your Surya and Supri?
Usually you never know these people exist and then it starts, you start seeing people, you start auditioning them, try and keep hunting for more and then suddenly one day they appear! So this also happened, there were long audition processes that were happening and I wasn’t sure about the options that were available. They were all good actors but sometimes you know your characters better and it’s not really about the people being talented or not talented, obviously they are all very talented, but when I saw these two I was convinced that they should be a part of this. That’s how it happened. Also, the producer was okay with new faces, which was great. Which is also very brave in these days to do that. Also, once I found Radhika and Abhimanyu, I really wanted to do it with only them and no one else.
And Gulshan Devaiah?
So, Gulshan has been a friend for past 10 years and I am a great believer in his talent. I really want to work with him in every film I do, I want to write something for him in everything I do. I hope I can continue this association with him.
The film recently won the People’s Choice Award in the Midnight Madness section at the Toronto International Film Festival. What was that like?
Oh! It was amazing because the films that were playing in the section, Shane Black, who is like an absolute favourite director and Gaspar Noe and all these guys on that list were amazing. And ‘Midnight Madness’ is one of the favourite sections of Film Festivals for me, a lot of these genre films broke out and just being there was great, winning was huge! I still can’t believe it. I don’t know if there’s an articulation to it but just waking up to that message, I don’t think I can ever forget that. Taking the award is formality but that message and knowing for the first time, it’s amazing!
How was your experience working with Ronnie Screwvala?
He is amazing ya! He has this wealth of experience and he has made so many films and so many great films not just movies. He has been one of the leading and one of the most daring film producers out there. He has nurtured great talent. He is still so grounded, so relevant and so full of ideas, also so accommodating of ideas, I think that is very rare. He is very secure in his position and he is almost out there as an entrepreneur, father-figure. And there is a warmth in the way he guides you, also more than guiding he just puts facts in front of you and he trusts you to be matured enough to make the right decision. So there is no enforcing, really. I really cherish that, respect that and look forward to making a lot more films with him. It’s been really good. I mean, he is an institution in himself and he talks to you as an equal which is great, which is so rare for someone to be in a position like he is in. Its amazing the way he lets you make your choices and puts the reality in front of you. As a director you have complete freedom and that’s so rare these days. These ideas are not easy to make, I have faced so many rejections, suddenly it was a shock for me when he said yes!
When asked for an advice he would give to aspiring filmmakers, he said, “It’s very important that you are here for the right reasons. For your love for cinema and the medium. And because you really want to tell stories. It’s always better to have your work talk for you and that’s why just keep working, keep at it!”
We are more than excited for Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota and hope you are too! Coming to a theatre near you on 21st March. Happy watching!