In a career spanning over two decades, Niraj Kumar Mishra has worked as a writer, showrunner, creative director, researcher, executive producer and several other capacities on some of the most memorable shows made on television. In 2018, he made his feature film debut as a screenplay writer with the hugely successful ‘Baaghi 2’. Now, the multi-faceted filmmaker has donned a new avatar. Under his company Anirati Films, he plans to produce content that entertains, engages and makes a difference.
You recently wrapped up the shoot of your first feature length film as a producer. How long did it take to shoot the film?
We wrapped up the film straight in fifteen days. Though in terms of film infrastructure and environment we had almost nothing, but my entire team was very efficient and, we planned each and everything in detail, and accordingly we worked very fast and very hard in spite of hostile weather. I had produced a couple of short films in the past but this is my first production made under my banner Anirati Films. The company has been functional since the last couple of years and this is the first feature film I have produced.
It is, what one would call it, an independent film made in a controlled budget and under unfavourable circumstances. It is quite a departure from the lavish, large-scale productions you have been a part of in the past in the TV, web and film space. How did you get the idea for this film?
Ever since the lockdown happened, things have been dead slow. I was sitting at my apartment in Mumbai for as long as six months. I had enough and desperately wanted to feel fresh air and see landscapes. So I decided to hit the road with my car and came all the way to my hometown in Bihar in three days. When I left Mumbai, I didn’t think I would be making a film. I thought I would stay at home for a few weeks and drive back. Nothing was planned. Months passed and I felt this strong urge to do something substantial. One day, I decided that I must go ahead and make a film with whatever resources I had at my disposal. We had to shoot with minimal people due to the Covid-19 situation. Though there is a lot of crowd during daytime, but surprisingly post 8 pm, the roads get deserted. That was the time when we could shoot without facing any kind of disturbance. A lot of people would have looked at it as a disadvantage but I tried to use the fact that we were going to shoot only during the night as my advantage. When the film comes out, people will realize why I am saying this.
You shot in many remote areas in Bihar. Was it difficult to put together a team for the film?
It was difficult as I was producing the film on my own and had no backing as such. I needed people who could work fast and in extreme conditions. We were going to shoot almost only during the nights. Also, there was dense fog all around. That made things even more difficult. Most of the people who worked on the project are from non-film background. The film has been shot by two fresh power-packed cinematographers, Archit Mishra and Pulkit Rathi. Some of the crew members had come from Delhi and Mumbai. The actors had come from different parts of the state. Since the stories in the film are set in Bihar, 90 per cent of the crew was from Bihar. Finding the right actors was the most difficult part.
Your father Mr. Ratish Chandra Mishra has acted in the film too.
Yes. We were looking for an actor who could portray the part of an elderly man and it was very difficult to find one. Then, this idea popped up in the mind of one of the crew members. He suggested that we should consider him for the part. I was not sure about the idea as my father turns around his head even in a still photograph (laughs). We spoke to him and he said he will give it a try. Not as a biased son, but as a director, I can say that he delivered a fairly competent performance.
What are the challenges you faced while making the film?
Honestly, shooting this film was not a very smooth task. Bihar is not a film friendly state. The resources are very limited, no film infrastructure, no film environment. Even procuring the equipment was a difficult task. Another major problem was securing permission to shoot in specific locations. There was a particular sequence which needed to be shot at a railway station. Since we did not get the requisite permission, we had to re-write the story and shifted it to different location altogether. But then we did find support in some wonderful people. When we were shooting in Saharsa, we got a lot of support from Mr. Kaushal Kumar, who is the current district magistrate there. Bihar has many wonderful locations but there are many things that need to be worked out. Film tourism should be promoted and the government should create an environment that would encourage more people to come here and shoot. I have immense hope from Shri Alok Ranjan, who is the newly appointed Art and Culture Minister of Bihar.
Why did you choose to name your company Anirati Films?
My mother’s first name was Anita. My father’s first name is Ratish. So, I joined the initials of their names and named my company Anirati Films. Incidentally, initial of my name ‘NIR’ is also in it.
How do you plan to release this film?
Like any other filmmaker and producer, I would want it to release in theatres and then on OTT platforms as well. But right now, the immediate plan is to send it to festivals. Since it’s an experimental film, I am eagerly looking forward to the kind of response the film gets. In future also, I want to back quality content as a producer. I am keeping my fingers crossed!