“I Knew Tumbbad Would Be A Success.”
Sohum Shah has been acting in films since 2010, however, he got his first big break in the film Ship of Theseus which he also produced. Since then, he’s appeared in more mainstream successes like Talvar and Simran and gave a critically lauded performance in Tumbbad. Read on…
Did you expect Tumbbad to be such a big success? Yeah, definitely, I expected at least that much. I knew Tumbbad would be a success. We’d been making the film for six years and we believed that ‘ haan, iss film mein definitely kuch naya hai’. And we wanted it to get to a wider audience and work at the box-office. So we did work with the mindset of making the film a big success.
The movie took six years to make! What challenges did you face while making this movie? A lot of challenges. When Rahi (Anil Barve) showed me the script, main uchchal padha tha! I’d never seen a film like this before. And I wondered why no one had made something like this before and I decided to go with it. That’s when I actually realised why it hadn’t been done before - it was such an Indian, rooted tale. Daadi maa ki kahaani jaisi movie thi. When you make a feature film of it, working on the VFX can really drain you. Like when the film called for rain, it was hard to create that mood. We shot in 3-4 monsoon seasons. The film keeps evolving throughout. Writing took a lot of
time, editing took a lot of time. We were writing while the film was on the edit table. There was never anything we could use for reference, when we started it back then and not even now once it’s done. It was such a unique kind of film that I think that’s what took up so much time.
Did you ever at any point feel like giving up on the film? No, yaar, that never happened. I always knew that I wanted to keep making movies and if I gave up on this, what would I do? What can I make better that would be than this? This is such an amazing script and story, what could I possibly make that would top this? I never thought of giving up. No doubt at many points we did think it was painful and frustrating. But we always had that faith that this film would work and reach the masses because there was something so fresh about it.
What was the motive for starting your own banner, Recyclewala Films? There was no motive as such. When Ship of Theseus was having such a hard time being made, I decided that I had the resources so I could make the film. I came from a business background and had a good understanding of the business, so I decided to take the film up myself. Even when Tumbbad came, I didn’t want to let go of such a phenomenal opportunity as a producer. I never had a specific intention with Recyclewala Films, I just came here to be an actor and had no intention of creating a business out of it. But it never always goes the way you think it will.
You choose off-beat films like Simran,T alvar, Ship of Theseus and Tumbbad. Why? Pata nahin yaar, I grew up watching Shah Rukh Khan! (laughs) It’s probably my destiny, what I wanted and what ended up happening. I think Ship of Theseus was a little more offbeat, but the rest are pretty accessible and commercial. Although the line between commercial and off-beat is blurring nowadays. Content is the king now and I feel that all these films fulfil that criteria. I definitely want to explore more films with more drama, more comedy. So far destiny ne mujhe yahi offer kiya hai, but jo bhi offer kiya hai I’m very happy with. I’ve made some good films.
Would you ever want to do a more commercially oriented Bollywood film ala Shah Rukh Khan? Yes, of course, I’ve grown up with Bollywood. I want to make all kinds of movies, action, drama, comedy, melodrama. I’m just waiting for a good script which seems interesting enough to make. But I would definitely make any kind of film.
You run a real-estate business to finance your film career. Could you tell us more about that? I came from a small place called Sri Ganganagar. At that point, all we dreamed of was making money. My father made just enough for food and clothing. When I was 14, I started my journey by assisting my father with his work. I worked gradually and I eventually created a realestate township. At that point, I thought I was done and I had fulfilled my responsibility of earning money. It was time I go to Bombay and chase my dreams. I finally moved and expanded my business. Then Ship of Theseus happened, which I produced. That’s how it all happened.
Considering the kind of films you’re into, what sort of movies would you like to see coming out of India in the next few years? We should have more films like Woody Allen’s, I find his concepts so interesting. I’m working on a film like that now, actually, although it’s just in the writing phase. But let’s see how it works out.
Sohum Shah is a Bollywood star on the rise who is championing the content-driven market. Post the massive acclaim for his latest Tumbbad, Soham talks to Ahad Sanwari about his small town beginnings, filming in production hell and Bollywood aspirations.