Director Aleya Sen, who awaits the release of her debut film Dil Juunglee, says she was not nervous while sitting in the director’s chair but is actually nervous before the actual release of the film.
Q: It must be quite a transition for you after directing ads and making your debut for a Bollywood feature film. Do you want to share something regarding that?
Definitely the shift from advertising to feature film was my biggest challenge, but the technical stuff is similar in many ways. I am used to it. Because it’s a long format, the process is very different. For me it’s my first film. This is probably the journey that I know. Therefore for me it was nice and beautiful. My first schedule was in London and we were there for 30-35 days with my cast and crew and working for long hours in London and coming back together. So by default, it becomes a family bond. Probably it happens because of the outdoor shoot also. So that kind of bonding is different from advertising
Q: You have trained in Indian classical music. You never thought of making singing as a career option for yourself?
My origin is Bengali and it is very standard thing in Bengali houses where you learn music, dance, theatre, art, like any other subject. So it is a part of your upbringing. Also as parents, they don’t send you in classes with the intention that one day you have to become a big singer, if you do, that’s a different thing. So this is more of a part of my upbringing than thinking of it as a career option. I did my graduation in fine arts but film making was always in my head. So all these aspects of art – music, dance or even theatre — everything is more or less by default. It was probably to shape me into what I am today.
Q: What is so special about Dil Juunglee that you decided to make your debut with this film?
Dil Juunglee is a film that I have written and it’s straight out of my heart. The film is my perspective of what love is. So that is the most special thing why I wanted to make the film.
Q: Were you nervous while sitting in the director’s chair for the film?
No, not at all because I have been sitting in the director’s chair for very long now. Of course for every director, it’s a different journey and a different story. But I have been a director for very long time now, so I know what set is, what shooting is, and everything else. I have an old school method of doing things and I have a director’s formula that I have crafted in so many years. So I wasn’t nervous because I know what shooting is like. But now when the film is releasing, I am anxious and this is the sensation that finally the film has been made and it’s going to be on released.
Q: You are an outsider in the industry with no prior connections but were your family always supportive of your decision?
Absolutely, yes. I am a newcomer in Bollywood and have no connection whatsoever in the industry. But my father’s was also from advertising. So I started working as an ad film maker. It’s a different world altogether and my family has been very supportive.
Q: In your opinion what is the foremost thing for a director while making a film?
I think foremost thing for any creative person is to stay true to you. When you create a product, not just a film, it can be a song, a script, when you write you make it public and then it is open for the judgement. When you are in the creative process then you cannot be under pressure, fear, insecurity. If you want to make people happy then be a candy seller that is what I feel.
Q: Dil Juunglee has hit the right chord with the audience. How do you feel about the response the fans are giving to the film?
I think it’s very overwhelming for me that the feedback that I am getting for the film is very desirable. It is exactly how I desired it to be. The comments and feedback that I am reading in the media, it gives me a feeling that people are grasping it exactly the way that I have tried to portray in the film. I like the fact that people are saying that the film looks very fresh. Also as a director I am very involved in every department, whether it is styling of the characters to everything and by default, this is in me. I go to that extent of detailing. So when I am getting a feedback that when people are liking every cast from the film, it feels good. Also, the music of the film is appreciated and I personally love, ‘love songs’.
Q: Be it KBC’s ad or Mc Donald’s, your creativity as a director has always been appreciated. But according to you what is tough – directing a film or directing a 30 seconds – 1 minute ad?
To ask what is tough is something I cannot answer. But if you want to know which pulls or needs my attention then the difference is there that I feel for me. Whether I am doing a 30-second ad, I give as much of myself as when I did my first feature. I think I have stretched beyond my means. The only difference I felt is the process of film making. It could be because of the time spent with cast and crew. You are dealing with creative people for very long time on the same subject. So the kind of patience, perseverance, motivation as a director is much needed and I can’t be the only one who is passionate about it. I have to make sure every person on my set is passionate in doing whatever I am doing too, right. So the drive is of course at a stretch required much more in a feature, the emotional bond gets created at least my experience for such. And in an ad film, maximum we shoot it for 2 to 3 days and you make some friends and you move on. In this case I think the cast crew bonded very well.
Q: ’18 Again’ must be special to you as it fetched you universal critical acclaim. Anything you would like to share about it?
It was the first film and that too not in a very big way of course. I kind of read a lot of comments because of the product that it is. The film was very well taken and appreciated and spoken about. I think it was my first experience when people kind of troll you or they judge you. But having said that, it was like any other film that I would give so much attention to.
Q: As a director you must be having quite some expectations from your first film?
This is not correctly framed for a director like me as I have huge expectations from everything that I do. Every film that I do. “Mujhe toh lagta hai ki is pe award milna chahiye” (Giggles) but jokes apart. When I do something, my attraction to do any script, whether an ad or feature, the attraction is always what is high that I will get out of it. It cannot be materialistic and that I am doing for the heck of it. Every job I do, I have this thing in mind that it has to give me some gain or an intellectual high.
Q: It’s a new era where women are truly ruling and it’s quite safe to say that they have another name added to the list with your arrival. But they still have a long way to go in this male dominated world what are your thoughts on it?
If this is specifically answered by a woman director, everybody has their own journey. Specifically making of a feature film is no child’s play. There is lot of dedication and devotion and it is not gender centric, especially for those who have no contacts at all. Like I have come from Delhi and I am here making a Bollywood film. It’s a very big deal for me so therefore coming back to women centric, yes there is a kind of encouragement and appreciation happening on lot of women. But having said that, it’s not like we didn’t have good women directors before. We have had directors like Aparna Sen, Mira Nair and others. I started working at an age 20 in Delhi. I started working at a place that does not even have a proper industry culture and by the time I was 25, I already had a company – Chrome Pictures. So if ever it crossed someone’s mind, it must have been the other person not me ever about my gender or any limitations. But you actually make sure you are safe when you are working outdoor or even personally. So getting challenged in a male dominated industry, I don’t probably have the time to think that way.
Q: After Dil Juunglee, what are your future projects?
My script is ready and I am going to start my pitching of course after the release. I am a kind of a very restless and I cannot do same thing again and again. Also in my ads, if people see my show reel, they will see all kind of genres. So therefore even with my feature film, I just want to do different shades of storytelling. Only one thing I cannot do ever, is violence. I cannot do a war film.
Q: Is singing still in your priority list and if not a director then was singing your backup plan?
I have been trained in fine arts as much in music and dance. I did my Bachelors in Fine Arts. So, none of it was my priority ever. I had an exposure to shooting from a very young age as my father was in advertisement. It was always a fascination and the journey went through this way. Right after college, I was working with Pradeep Sarkar. So it was pretty quick in that sense.