A few years back, Souvik Gupta completed his MBA from a reputed management institute. However, instead of settling down for corporate life, Souvik decided to follow his heart and carve out a career as a filmmaker. In recent times, he has worked on several successful shows for OTT platforms like VOOT, Zee5, Eros Now and Alt Balaji in different capacities like creator, writer, creative producer and director.
In this interview, Souvik talks about his newly released web-series ‘Yeh Dooriyan’, journey in the entertainment industry, the growth of streaming platforms, upcoming projects and more.
Humara Movie is a platform that is known for showcasing short films. ‘Yeh Dooriyan’, perhaps, is the first series released on the platform. Tell us about the process behind conceptualizing this show. What made you feel Humara Movie would be the right platform for it?
Yes, HumaraMovie is known primarily for short films though they released two mini-series long ago, and I had directed one of them back then as well. Moreover, besides being a YouTube channel, they have also produced feature films and have a sensitivity towards stories. Since ‘Yeh Dooriyan’ is a small, intimate story, I was not personally very keen on it going to a larger platform where it might get lost amid grander shows or movies.
As far as conceptualizing “Yeh Dooriyan” is concerned, I have been planning to write and direct a love story for a long time. I think we don’t see enough of those realistic romantic stories these days. On the other hand, in the last few years, I have seen a lot of my friends and relatives undergo long-distance relationships and marriages. Some have survived very well, and some, unfortunately, did not. I have heard their experiences and been deeply moved.
I think that it’s a very contemporary issue, and it’s going to happen more and more with a certain age group, mostly due to professional commitments. And with the pandemic hitting us, forcing people to stay away, even when they were in the same city, I felt it was the most appropriate time to make such a story. In fact, we must have all encountered or witnessed heartbreaks and breakups during the pandemic. It was such a life-changing experience.
However, ‘Yeh Dooriyan’ is not a story about lockdown or the pandemic. It’s just a catalyst and finds very little mention in the series. It is very much a love story about a long-distance marriage. In fact, I had the skeleton of a story about a long-distance marriage earlier. I modified it later when the pandemic hit us.
What made you choose Paresh Pahuja and Manjari Fadnnis for the principal roles?
HumaraMovie has worked extensively in the past with Manjari Fadnnis, and obviously I have known of her from the “Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na” days. However, when I saw the short film “Khamakha”, I knew that she was just right for Aisha’s character in “Yeh Dooriyan”. So, she was definitely the first choice for both HumaraMovie and me. Moreover, I had heard from many people within the industry that she is lovely to work with, which is absolutely true. I needed someone who would cooperate in the shoot because “Yeh Dooriyan” was shot completely remotely. I am quite fortunate that she agreed and gave it her all.
Paresh worked with HumaraMovie on short films in the past. Though I had not seen much of his work earlier, I did see a couple after HumaraMovie suggested his name. Moreover, I had seen him in many TV commercials and I felt that he has a very youthful and pleasant screen presence, which works very well for Vikram. In our first meeting, after he had read the script, I really liked how much he understood the character and the overall script arc. So, I didn’t have any misgivings before we started shoot. I am quite grateful for his help and wonderful performance.
You have worked extensively in the OTT space. Do you think the digital boom has helped young filmmakers in bringing new stories to the audience?
I think the digital boom is absolutely great for new voices such as mine to reach out to people and share stories. At the same time, it has made the culture of watching global content much more prevalent. I am an avid consumer of films and shows from all over the world, and a significant percentage of those are in languages I can’t speak, be it Malayalam or Spanish. It would have been impossible for us to have that wide access had we depended on theatres only.
You completed your MBA from Indian Institute of Foreign Trade in 2009. What made you take the plunge into filmmaking?
Ever since my childhood, I have wanted to tell stories or be a part of the process of telling them. I used to write short stories and acted in plays at school. At the same time, I was also a major film buff even as a kid, and I used to watch movies of all kinds. So, at home I would enjoy watching everything from ‘Pather Panchali’ to ‘E.T.’ to ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’. By the time I was in my late teens, I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker. I started doing amateur stuff with a handycam.
However, my family is quite academically inclined and I was decent at studies, so MBA, in a way, became a natural or obvious progression. It was not the ideal case scenario for an aspiring filmmaker, but I took solace in the fact that one of my role model directors and biggest influencers, Mani Ratnam, was also an MBA who turned to films after working in the corporate sector.
Nevertheless, I must say that my friends from the MBA days have been my biggest pillars of support in my dream to become a filmmaker. I remember that I told everyone on the first day of the MBA induction program that I wanted to be a filmmaker. They were amused but also quite supportive. Even today, they constantly boost my morale and appreciate that I have decided to follow my heart. Moreover, they were also surprisingly well-versed with international content, and their knowledge broadened my horizon. It was in my hostel dorm that I first saw Christopher Nolan’s “Prestige” and “Requiem for a Dream”. My roommate introduced me to “Prison Break” and “House of Cards” among others. All of us friends used to have long, informed and critical discussions about these movies and shows. We used to talk about what worked and what didn’t. We would discuss about both the aesthetics and the mass appeal. So, in a way, my two years in IIFT helped me tremendously in my journey to become a filmmaker.
You have conceived/directed/been the creative producer on several short films and web shows. Do you plan to direct a feature film next?
Yes, that’s certainly the plan. I am working on my feature film script right now. I hope that turns out well and gets made soon.