Mandate - - Creative Minds -


“Peo­ple see me as a very sorted and ma­ture per­son. But, I’m none of those things when I’m cre­at­ing and that’s the way I like it,” said Hansal Mehta as we chat­ted in his of­fice. The direc­tor, at the peak of his ca­reer af­ter de­liv­er­ing the bril­liant Na­tional Award win­ning Shahid and the crit­i­cally ac­claimed City­Lights, seemed re­laxed and in his el­e­ment.

“Shahid came from a bank­ruptcy of ideas. I felt that I had noth­ing left to say, no story to tell. I was mired in medi­ocrity and flow­ing the herd. That’s when I read a news re­port and it’s a ter­ri­ble thing to say, but from his death I found life.” The killing of Shahid Azmi, a lawyer who de­fended those ac­cused of ter­ror­ism, touched a chord with Hansal. Azmi’s unique jour­ney of go­ing from a ter­ror­ist camp to be­com­ing a de­fender of the de­fense­less was an ideal ve­hi­cle for him to talk about his con­cerns for so­ci­ety in the form of a film.

The tra­vails of the com­mon man is a re­cur­ring theme in Hansal’s work and other than news re­ports, an­other big source of his ideas is talk­ing to peo­ple and ask­ing them where they come from, what they are do­ing and how they feel. Hansal also sees his cooking, a hobby he is very pas­sion­ate about, as giv­ing him the space for his cre­ativ­ity to blos­som. “In­put and out­put, the kitchen and the bath­room are two places of cre­ativ­ity for me,” he added with a grin.

The film­maker fol­lows the clas­sic process of hav­ing an idea and then con­sciously not think­ing about it, while al­low­ing his sub­con­scious to fill in the blanks for him. “Shahid ap­peared in my dreams and I saw cer­tain images, and those images are there in the film. When you are rest­ing, those ideas in­habit your sub­con­scious, so when they come into con­scious­ness, you need to be aware. Other times you may have an idea you think is bril­liant and maybe it is at the idea level, but later you re­alise it’s too one di­men­sional.”

An­other crit­i­cal part of his process is the feed­back stage where he dis­cusses the idea with the peo­ple close to him. But at the same time, he does make it a point to shield him­self from the prac­ti­cal­ity of, ‘How will you make this film?’ dur­ing the early stages of his idea. “I’m not an­a­lyt­i­cal, I don’t do pros and cons and I won’t make a PPT about my idea and com­pletely fuck it up.”

Hansal, in many ways, sees this phase of his ca­reer as a sec­ond birth, af­ter spend­ing years in a cre­ative drought that he blames en­tirely on his fear of let­ting go. “I was be­com­ing a se­nior direc­tor and get­ting cer­tain op­por­tu­ni­ties, so I thought I had to be­have dif­fer­ently. Be­fore Shahid, I only pre­tended to di­rect be­cause I just wanted to prove to the pro­ducer on the set that I knew my craft well. So, that is gone. Now, I’m re­liv­ing that time in pri­mary school where all your emo­tions flow nat­u­rally. You don’t want to do homework, you throw a fit, you don’t want to eat some­thing, you throw a fit. And, it doesn’t come out of con­di­tion­ing. Cre­at­ing is a very in­no­cent space, oth­er­wise you’re very guarded.”

When asked to share the se­cret of his suc­cess, Hansal replied, “The rea­son I’ve sur­vived all th­ese years in this in­dus­try is that I’ve al­ways been ready with ideas to sell. A lot of peo­ple get stuck wor­ry­ing about the lack of op­por­tu­nity, but I know if I am pas­sion­ate about an idea, it will bear fruit. Af­ter all, that’s how I mar­ried my wife, I knew that if I love her so much, she’ll be mine some­day.”

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