Home » Interviews » “I envision myself as a creative producer handling multiple projects simultaneously” – Prashen Kyawal

When you speak to Prashen Kyawal, two of the first things that strike you about him are his love for storytelling and his passion for cinema. Being a writer in his teenage, after spending more than two decades in the IT industry, Prashen decided to follow his long-time dream of being a part of the movie industry. His love for stories drove him towards being the pioneer in MultiMedia in the ‘90s and heading several innovations in this space. His journey in films started with the Sanjay Mishra starrer ‘Rakkosh’, India’s first POV film. Since then, he has worked on different projects in the capacity of a Creative Producer, Post Producer, Marketer & PR.

In this interview, he talks about his love for telling stories, beginning his career in the MultiMedia and digital video editing industry, running web designing and development for 15 years, the ‘Trojan Horse’ technique he used to get into the film industry, upcoming projects and more. 

You started out as a graphic designer and an animator in the ‘90s and then headed the multimedia division of a company at one point in time. What attracted you to graphic designing and animation?

When I was in the sixth grade, I had seen a show on Doordarshan that explained how Disney makes animation films. It fascinated me immensely. From that point, I had this desire to do something in the media industry. I thought animation was the first step towards me getting into this industry. I come from a rural area in Vidharbha, Maharashtra. I was living in Taluka level places and there was no access to any kind of training in animation. When I came to Nagpur, computers were slowly becoming popular in India and there were many institutes in the city that provided training on operating them. I used to go to every institute and ask them how publicity brochures are designed through computers. I was interested in anything related to creativity, so I started learning how to do design on a computer. I learnt different desktop publishing software like Ventura, PageMaker, Coral Draw that were being used at that time. While doing these courses, I saw an ad in the newspaper about an animation course in the city. I joined that course. This was a time when PCs were in black and white and Windows OS had just launched. In the animation institute, there was a keyboard like a machine called Commodore Amiga that used to be connected directly to the TV. I was very good at drawing, so the institute offered me a job after the completion of the course. I started working there as a graphic designer and an animator. We used to create animations and backgrounds for the wedding video cassettes industry. We used to copy the content onto a floppy disc and I used to visit Central India and states like Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh to sell floppies. I started interacting with video editors during this time and got interested in the process of editing. I learnt it on my own and at one point, I even trained some of the employees of Nagpur Doordarshan in video editing on computers. All this was happening while I was studying computer engineering. By the time I passed out of college, I had three years of experience with me. The group running our college offered me the job to head their multimedia division in the IT company they started. There I explored everything and anything possible in multimedia, digital media at that time. We even made the touchscreen kiosk in 1995. This was much before ATM machines became common.  

In the early 2000s, you started your own company of web designing and development. The company was a very big success and you had so much work that you did not come out of the cabin for almost seven years. 

The media industry was capital intensive then. The machines were very expensive. Sitting in Nagpur, I wanted to do something with software exports. Web designing and development was an area that I knew I could manage with the bandwidth available at that time. I worked really hard for seven years and life was good and luxurious. After that, there came a point when I realized this was not my calling in life. I wanted to tell stories. It took me another 7 years to get back to the creative industry.

How did you get interested in storytelling?

I got into computers and multimedia to tell stories. It was not the other way around. I have been writing since I was a teenager. During my school and college days, I had won several state-level story writing competitions. I have several published novels to my credit too. The urge to tell a story was always there. As a child, I was fascinated with animation shows like DuckTales and He-Man. Once I set up my own business, I was playing a managerial role. I used to create teams, delegate jobs to different people and oversee their work. After seven years of doing this, I was feeling frustrated and felt that I should not let my storytelling skills go to waste. 

And then, writing film reviews reconnected you with cinema. 

Yes, that’s right! I had created a portal called BollywoodReviews.com and used it to post my reviews on it. Fortunately, social media was just getting popular then. It was not as crowded as it is today. I got in touch with a lot of people from the industry through social media. A lot of people from the industry liked my reviews, appreciated my knowledge of cinema and that’s how I first connected with a bunch of them. 

This was a time when a lot of independent filmmakers were making their space in the industry.

Yes! At that time filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap got a breakthrough. A lot of people had also started discovering world cinema. Around 2010, the digitization of the film industry had started happening. I had some funds with me, so I thought of coming to Mumbai and making Marathi films. The 2008 recession, however, hit my business hard and I had to cancel those plans. After 2013-14, I started feeling an even stronger urge to leave the IT industry and go to the film industry. I just put my stuff in a car and came to Mumbai. 

‘Rakkosh’ was your first major project. You worked as a creative producer on the film. How did you bag this project?

I have believed in using the ‘Trojan Horse’ technique. In the war against the city of Troy, they made a wooden horse in which the army was sent inside the king’s fort. When I started my IT company, the internet was very expensive. People would end up spending 20-25,000 a month on the internet every month. Being an IT company, we needed 24/7, so I converted a part of my office into a cybercafé to manage the expenses. Before taking a major risk, I always think of ideas through which the risk can be minimized. I used social media to develop my network and get into the industry. What normally happens is that you come to Mumbai and start building your network. I did all of that while sitting in Nagpur. I had the opportunity to work with a company that was into making trailers for films. I used to supervise the post-production process there. I also worked as an operations manager in Drishyam VFX. I was also interviewing a lot of film personalities as a freelance journalist during this time. I had interviewed a producer in 2014. Two years later, he called me up and offered me the opportunity to work on ‘Rakkosh’ which he was producing. 

‘Rakkosh’ was touted to be India’s first POV film. Was the process of shooting this film any different from any other regular film?

Yes! When it comes to regular films, we take mid-shot, long shots, close-ups, etc and construct a scene on the edit table. In ‘Rakkosh’, we were showing the POV of a single person, so we had to shoot that movie on a single lens. Most of the scenes were shot in a single, continuous take. We had to develop certain editing techniques. Stories are usually told in third-person, so the viewpoint can go anywhere. With POV, you cannot do that. The person’s presence in the scene needs to be justified. Right from the writing to the post-production stage, we did a lot of innovations. 

You worked as a post-production manager on the series ‘The Missing Stone’ during the lockdown. How was the experience of working on these projects?

The editor of ‘Rakkosh’ was editing a Marathi film called ‘Lapachhapi’. The film was directed by Vishal Furia. He had taken me to the premiere of ‘Lapachhapi’. I met Vishal there. Vishal was quite amused by the fact that we were making a POV film. On seeing the WIP version, he was very happy with the film. During the lockdown, all his team members were in their hometowns. He was working on a Marathi film and needed someone to handle post-production. I got the chance to work on that film as a post-producer. Last year, Vishal started working on ‘The Missing Stone’. It was shot with a limited crew and was shot in 2-3 locations. That was a very smooth working experience. It was released on MX player on Christmas 2020.

How would you explain the role of a post-production manager to a layman?

When a film is being shot, the production team headed by the executive producer ensure that the production goes smoothly. Once the shoot is over, you need to put that footage on the editing table. The post-production starts from the edit. Once the edit is locked, it goes to four departments, namely, colour grading, background music, sound designing and VFX. One needs a lot of technical knowledge to oversee processes like colour grading, background music and VFX. A lot of software and hardware is involved during these processes. The post-producer needs to ensure that data is distributed properly and is in sync across different departments. He has to create a post-production schedule and ensure that it is followed. He also has to make sure the deliveries happen in the formats requested by each distribution medium like theatrical, digital and satellite. Depending on the scale of the film, it takes 4-6 months for the process to get over.

Was it easy to move to Mumbai?

No, it was not easy. I always say that when it comes to working in the film industry, start as soon as possible. During your younger days, you can make a lot of adjustments to your lifestyle. Once you come to the city, it takes 4-5 years to just build connections in the industry. I started in my 40s and wish I had followed my dreams a little early in life. Having said that, I am finally getting to do what I always wanted to.  

Your next project is ‘Chhorri’. 

Yes, it is a remake of the Marathi film ‘Lapachhapi’. It stars Nushratt Bharuccha and is produced by Abundantia Entertainment & T-series. A major Hollywood company Crypt TVs co-produced it. We finished it throughout the second lockdown applying remote working methods. Starring Nushrut Bharucha, this film is releasing on 26th November on Amazon Price. 

What is the next step for you?

I envision myself as a creative producer handling multiple projects simultaneously. A creative producer is one who looks into each and every aspect from the inception stage to the time the final product is ready. That is what I did with ‘Rakkosh’. I want to work on multiple projects. I have a creative bent of mind and possess technical, managerial and business knowledge as well. I envision myself handling 3-5 film and web series projects, at different progress levels, simultaneously. I hope to give opportunities to talented newcomers through these projects. I also hope to direct a film someday but I know it will take a while for that to happen.