Sony LIV’s ‘Potluck’ has been one of the most well-received web shows this year. The show, featuring Cyrus Sahukar, Shikha Talsania, Ira Dubey and Siddhant Karnick in principal roles, also marked the comeback of director Rajshree Ojha who is known for making films like ‘Aisha’ (2010) and ‘Chaurahen’ (2012). In this interview, the filmmaker talks about shooting in a bio-bubble, why the digital revolution makes her happy, memories of shooting ‘Aisha’, upcoming projects and more.
‘Potluck’ was shot in a bio-bubble and you had to adhere to several guidelines because of the Covid-19 situation. Was shooting it any different from your earlier projects?
It was actually better. When you work in a restricted environment, there is not much disturbance and you can concentrate better. You just need to get your work done and get back home. We went to earlier days of filmmaking when they would shoot with a smaller crew.
You had stated in an interview that with this show you wanted to show how Indian families have evolved over the years. How did the basic idea come to you?
The credit goes to my creative producers. They had brought the story to me. When I read it, I easily identified with the script and the characters that belonged to an urban Indian family. That’s how the whole journey begun.
You had earlier produced a finite series called ‘Bin Kuch Kahe’ for Sony. We don’t see finite series being made for television very often. Now, with the digital revolution happening, do you think you are getting more freedom to tell the stories you want to tell?
Yes, now is a very good time for storytellers. TV is a different medium. The digital medium is much more open. It is a combination of television and film. It has a very evolved audience. The content is also like that. OTT platforms are enabling us to tell good stories.
The Sonam Kapoor starrer ‘Aisha’, which was your first release as a director, completed 11 years of its release this year. Any special memories of shooting that film?
‘Aisha’ will always remain very special to me. It’s my first baby in a way as it came out before ‘Chaurahen’, which was the first film I had directed. There are lots of good memories of working on that film. One particular memory that stands out is of the day when we shot ‘Gal Mitthi Mitthi Bol’. It was shot in a day. The choreographer had come a day early and we had to shoot the song the next day. We got up in the morning and weren’t sure how things would pan out as the actors didn’t get enough time to practice. Thankfully, everything turned out to be fine and it eventually became one of the most iconic modern wedding songs.
Back in the ‘90s, you had gone to the US to study computer science. How did the shift to filmmaking happen?
I always wanted to do cinema but going to a film institute was not very common in the ‘90s. I thought of studying computer science as I had interest in the subject. I had taken up theatre as a minor subject in college. By the time I graduated, I had done a lot of theatre workshops and gained some experience in directing actors. Since the desire to be in cinema was always there, I eventually ended up becoming a filmmaker.
Your first film ‘Chaurahen’ was shot in 2007 and released in 2012. After ‘Aisha’, you had to wait for a while before making one of the anthology films for ‘X: Past Is Present’. Is it difficult for a filmmaker, working in the Hindi film industry, to tell the kind of stories he or she wants to tell?
It is very difficult. What I like may not be liked by others. When you don’t come with any kind of backing, friend circle etc, getting opportunities becomes even more difficult. You have to keep going at it. If you are from the industry, people believe in you. If you are an outsider, they don’t trust you easily. They don’t see your earlier work and judge your capabilities or commercial value by the last project you had done. My parents have been hugely supportive and I am truly grateful to them for everything they have done for me.
Are you planning to make a feature film next?
There are a couple of projects in the pipeline. I am collaborating with some writers on the adaptation of another Jane Austen book. It will be a film. The second season of ‘Potluck’ should roll soon.