Arun Shekhar is relaxed, worried and anxious – all at the same time.
As a director he is eager, things are falling neatly into place with his first film expected to hit theatres on July 31. It was a long wait to turn his dream into reality, or as Arun puts in his own words “more challenging than climbing Mount Everest”.
Arun’s long journey to the silver screen itself is an inspiration for aspiring filmmakers as he struggled and worked hard before coming out with this road movie that is also a clean family entertainer titled Jilebi starring Jayasurya and Remya Nambeesan.
“It took me years to reach this stage. It is not as easy as you think it is when you see it from the outside. There are several hurdles you face. If you know how to cross that, things will rightly fall into place. All you need is patience and belief in yourself. I did just that,” said Arun as he sat for a free-wheeling conversation with Nishad Padiyarath.
Excerpts from the interview
So what does it take to be a filmmaker? What’s the magic formula?
I do not think there is any magic formula. I wish, I knew such a magic formula. I would then have had this interview with you many years ago. (laughs). I think patience makes up a large part of it. But I think it also involves a lot of hard work, a lot of commitment, dedication and sacrifice. And I know that to the outside world it seems very glamorous and it seems a lovely life to live, but it is not as easy and as glamorous as it looks. It took me years of hard work to reach here. Technology may have made things easier but not in the life of a director.
You started off as a video editor and soon got into shooting corporate videos, before graduating to television commercials and now into full-length feature films. How was that transformation?
I think the transformation to become a filmmaker had to happen. Like I said before, I believed in myself. I climbed too many ladders before reaching here and during that course, I fell a few times, but there were people who supported me, including my wife Sandya. It is all about self-belief and patience. The moment you lose hope everything is over. But in a way, the transformation happened in stages and I could learn from every stage and reach this platform (filmmaking). You know, few years ago, I penned an action-comedy with four protagonists. I did approach a number of young actors who are now making waves in Malayalam cinema. But since this script did not have a solo hero, they turned it down. That was when I thought, I needed a good storyline that holds the script with the true hero. That is how Jilebi happened.
So tell us more about this movie Jilebi?
Jilebi is the down-to-earth story about a sour-sweet confrontation between a village youngster and his city-bred nephews who are brought up in Dubai. I still remember discussing this plot among the several other stories with my wife and she readily liked this story about children.
How did you work on these characters and their relationships? I know writing is a painful job.
Even when I was writing, in my mind I was a filmmaker. I was just writing for survival. I did it in stages. The idea of a story comes with a glimpse of the characters. There is more clarity when you write the dialogue. But a character takes shape only with a person performing in a certain space. Creativity is anywhere in that spectrum. Frankly, I never had any actor in mind while writing this script. When I approached Jayasurya, he was kind enough to sit through a story-telling session that lasted over two hours. After the end of it, he just stood up, shook hands and the project was on. You may not believe it, but I was stunned and numb for a few seconds because it was my first experience of an actor saying “yes” to a script in his first sitting itself. It was a blessing for a debutant like me. Whatever happened later is history.
The moment you lose hope everything is over. But in a way, the transformation happened in stages and I could learn from every stage and reach this platform.
Who are the heroes that inspired you to become a director?
I do not think I have really been inspired by anyone. I admire the work of a lot of people, but I do not think I have ever grown up saying I want to be like anyone in particular. I like to be myself. (laughs)
The Indian audience varies from the very young to the very old to the very educated to the very uneducated. How challenging is it these days to come out with a film that can please everyone?
Story telling is a challenging process on the silver screen these days. I have to admit that. Like you rightly said, you need to have a story that needs to be accepted by all. At the same time, you need to be careful about the story idea to ensure that it does not have shades of any other films. You have to do a lot of research, and you have to have a little bit of intellect. Frankly, it is a tough job!
Looking back, how was this journey?
I think everyone has their own journey, their own ups and downs. I had mine too. Everyone has their own challenges and I do not know what it would be like for someone who has come from the film industry. I think I have been really fortunate.