‘Ek Jhoothi Love Story’ is a sharp departure from the kind of work you have done in the past. As a filmmaker, you are largely known for dabbling in dark and serious subjects. How was the experience of making a light-hearted show?
Yes. Also, ‘Ek Jhoothi Love Story’ is a long series as opposed to a film or a telefilm. This was my first experience in this kind of a genre. There is nothing like having an incredible script to work with. The actors understood their characters well and were wonderful to work with. It was a very happy set. It was an experience I would love to repeat in the future.
You conducted a workshop with the actors for three days before the shoot started. Do you believe in doing extensive preparation before diving into a project?
It is a great way to projects which require ensemble cast. It is a show where the focus is on multiple charters. Unfortunately, because of time constraints, the concept of rehearsals in television has dwindled. I do believe in them. At the same time, I do not believe in over-preparing. Every actor brings something new to the project. It is wonderful to get to know each other before the shoot starts. Homework is very important. You cannot land on the set without adequate armour and ammunition.
You have earlier made TV shows and films but this is your first web series. Did you find working in the digital space more liberating?
Yes, this is my first web series. The digital space is liberating in terms of the kind of genres one can explore. TV, generally, is driven by the ratings and what is giving the channels more revenue. Web is a different animal. You cannot really define what you can make for an OTT platform. While catering to what the audience wants, there is a space to explore the kind of genres and subjects that would perhaps would not get a greenlight in television. When you are not worried about certain external constraints, you can focus on getting the right actor instead of having the most popular actor on board. Also, there is no censorship which is quite a relief. Good content is required no matter what the platform is. The foundation of any project should be a good story.
On Ramchand Pakistani, you worked with a lot of people (Nandita Das/ composer Debojyoti Mishra/ editor Aseem Sinha) from India. How was that experience?
I have very fond memories of making ‘Ramchand Pakistani’. It was a great collaborative process. I feel fortunate to have got the opportunity to work with some Nandita, Deb Mishra and Aseem sahab. We were working on telling the story as well as possible. We were working together as a team and not as people belonging to different countries. I stayed for a month in Mumbai when the music was being composed and Aseem sahab was editing it. I really hope that things ease up between the two countries. On the cultural front, there should be no barriers or boundaries. Cultural exchange can help in reducing tension. Only positivity can come out of it.
Back in the early 90s, you studied filmmaking at the University of California Los Angeles. How has being a trained filmmaker helped you?
My time at UCLA gave me a theoretical understanding of the craft of film and television. It allowed me to you go through the process of dissecting the film. You discuss and write about cinema all the time. I do not believe that you have to go to a film school to become a filmmaker. Of course, it helps but you can learn on the job too. I came with a certain amount of knowledge but on the ground, one adapts to what is available. Having academic knowledge along with experience is a good thing.
Do you hope to collaborate again with Indian talent in the near future?
I am definitely a believer in collaborations between different countries. The more you know with each other, the less will be the chances of ignorance and fear succeeding. Storytelling is an age-old technique of bringing people together. India and Pakistan has had a shared history of several years. There are many things that are different between the two countries but we have so much in common too. Pakistanis love Indian films and Indians love Pakistani films and music. I am very open to collaborations and exchanges which mutually respectful and in a space where there is integrity and the presence of right intentions. We must try and create compelling stories which both Indians and Pakistani would love to watch.