First-time director Avinash Kumar Singh agrees that a big star helps in selling a film but a strong script and content are more important to him. In an exclusive chat with Tarneet Puri from Oneindia, the humble director tells us about his first experience of directing a film (Listen Amaya), working with veteran actors like Farooq Sheikh-Deepti Naval and much more...
Tell us about your movie Listen Amaya.
Me and my wife wrote the script of Listen Amaya. We wrote its screen play two and a half years ago. In fact, my wife wrote the script of the movie eight years ago and then we forgot about it. Our friend read the story and said that this has the potential of a film, we have got a good script. So we went ahead with it.
What is the USP of your film?
The USP is that it's a real and entertaining film, and it breaks through the clutter that Hindi cinema today is in. Though most Hindi films resemble each other in many ways, Listen Amaya not only looks different, it actually speaks a very different story. And most importantly, it appeals to the heart.
How was it working with veteran actors like Farooq Sheikh and Deepti Naval?
They are supremely humble beings and very talented. As a first time director, you want to make sure that you don't step on their toes and disregard what they are saying but they gave us the benefit of the doubt and respect that a director deserves.
Why did you choose Swara Bhaskar (Tanu Weds Manu fame) for the role of Amaya?
Every script and character demands its own actor. There is no way that I can say that Swara's role needs to be done by Madhuri Dixit or anybody else. The character of Amaya demanded somebody like Swara. Though we did not write the script keeping the actor in mind, we knew that the character needs a certain panache, chutzpa, so we approached Swara.
In fact, there is a very funny story behind it. I was chatting with somebody in a cafe in Mumbai and this very attractive girl walks in and stops at our table and chats with the other person, not looking twice at me. And I just asked the lady - Is this Swara? The lady said, 'Yes'. So, I called Swara to talk about the movie and she thought that I am just a fan who is possibly trying to talk to her.
Listen Amaya is a very different and unique title. What made you choose this title?
Amaya is the name of Swara's character in the movie. It's a very different story, different at many levels. I would compare it to an Onion. Every layer of an Onion that you peel off reveals something new in it, in that respect Listen Amaya is very layered.
Listen Amaya makes you ponder over the plot for ten days at a stretch, and this does not happen in today's cinema. Most of the times, you don't even remember a dialogue of the film after coming out of the theatre. Though you feel entertained, you do not take anything back with you. This is where Listen Amaya differs and it does this without being preachy.
The title 'Listen Amaya' is meant for the viewers and also for the character in the movie asking them to stop for a second and think. We are living such a hectic life today. Stop and think what is happening around you. So Listen Amaya literally means 'stop and listen' for once.
Was there any emotional scene that really moved you while shooting?
My wife Geeta always tells me that every script should have all the nine emotions within it. In real life also we are not happy or sad all the time. Similarly, in Listen Amaya there are many places where you laugh and feel angry. As a director, when we were shooting it, we let the actors handle it.
So, our most emotional scenes are shot in just one take. This put a lot of pressure on the actors as they had to get it right in one take. But it also introduces an honesty to that as you have to be continuously in sync with the character in order to emote.
In one of the scenes where the daughter confronts her mother for the first time, we shot it in one shot. We did not say 'cut' as it would have destroyed the anger, the vulnerability that Swara brought to her character. It's about a sense of betrayal that Amaya has towards her mother and the mother's disappointment in Amaya. And after watching it I was shaken by the fact that how real that scene looks on the monitor. I was amazed.
What is more important to you - Box-Office success or critical acclaim?
Critical acclaim does not get food on my table. I have two young children and there are bills that need to be paid. We have got critical acclaim from many film festivals abroad. But we need Box Office success to feed us. I am not saying we need to be a hundred crore film. In fact, I am not even saying that we need to be a 10 crore film. But it should give us back something. We have put our heart and soul into it and if I am not getting anything out of it then why should I do it?
What do you have to say about the 100 crore club? Do you believe in it?
I don't have to believe in it, it's there for you to see. I don't have to subscribe to it, but there is nothing to believe that. If you have a film that can make 100 crore then all the best to you. Never say never. If 3 Idiots can make 100 crores then I would love to work on a film like 3 Idiots and make 100 crores.
Tell us about your future plans. Any upcoming projects?
Hope Listen Amaya brings us lot of money and also give us critical acclaim. The script of our next film is ready and it's a crime thriller. We have already started approaching actors for it. We are story tellers and we write our own story. Because I think a writer is the best director of the story as you know exactly what you want to do. We also did not want to be type casted and we consciously made the decision that our next story would be different. I am hoping that Listen Amaya would show the world that we can tell a really good, engaging story....story not necessarily backed by superstars. And if we can tell a story that can engage the public then hopefully there would be superstars open for our next film.
Do you have any particular actor in your mind for your next movie?
We have approached somebody and he has shown a lot of interest, but I can't reveal his name now, as nothing has been finalised yet. There would be two male stars who will play the lead role and two heroines opposite them.
Listen Amaya will hit the screens on 1st February.