Rucha Pathak: Giving vision and wings to the entertainment-fare.by Aparajita Krishna September 3 2020, 2:20 am Estimated Reading Time: 33 mins, 31 secs
Aparajita Krishna goes on a long walk with Rucha Pathak and gets her talking about her journey - from a student of media to leading some of the best cinema of our times.
“Sometimes it feels that as a producer my job is about protecting the film and the filmmakers.” With this emotion Rucha Pathak has given wings to many cinematic dreams that were in someone’s head or on paper or in the laptop. Her 27 year young professional career has covered advertising, television, films and digital streaming. She has built a very credible portfolio as a facilitator, nurturer and enabler of films that have been creatively and box office feted.
Her work has traveled stories and journeyed Indian television and film space from the days of Doordarshan to satellite TV to film-fare and is now creating digital streaming programs. Her current placement is as a producer with Excel Entertainment, headed by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani.
A rewind from the updated to the earliest dated career placement marks a very impressive list of work associations: Producer at Excel Entertainment, CCO (Chief Creative Officer) at Fox Studios India, UTV Motion Pictures and UTV Spotboy, Pritish Nandy Communications, In-House Productions, Plus Channel (India) Ltd., and internship with Ram Madhvani and others on advertising films. A showreel of television programs and films she has been associated with is a most impressive roll-call.
In this very comprehensive, informative conversation we talk of her familial background, career trajectory, people, the moods and moments of work, film-picking, interesting anecdotes, nepotism, gender issue, awards, Indian cinema’s placement on the global scene, pandemic time, the present and the future of films. This piece will in parts sound personal and that is because once the professional was personal; as in one has shared a working past.
First a rewind to the very beginning of Rucha’s life. She was born in Wardha, Maharashtra and is the only child. “When I asked my parents why they had only me, I remember them telling me that they had decided, irrespective of a girl or a boy that they wanted to have only one child. I think somewhere in their thoughts they felt they could only afford one child.” Dwelling over her growing-up years she reminisces, “My maternal grandparents were at Wardha, the place, which also has Mahatma Gandhi’s Sevagram Ashram. Paternal grandparents would live in Ahmedabad, also home to Gandhiji’s Ashram. Being close to two places in my childhood that had Gandhiji’s Ashrams are, I believe landmarks. Those landmarks were taken for granted in those days. It is only in my later years that I made the connection. A couple of years ago I visited Gandhiji’s Ashram in Ahmedabad with friends. It’s crowded, but is still an incredibly peaceful place. Back then I was growing up in Nigeria, West Africa. So everyone felt how could my parents send their only child to far off India to study? But it was the best decision they took. They sent me to an amazing boarding school in Ooty called The Blue Mountains School. It is considered to be one of the ten best schools in India today. I got introduced to J. Krishnamurti’s philosophy and there was an inculcation of Individual Responsibility that I feel really built my personal outlook towards life. It is something that I imbibed then and is second nature to me now. I will forever be thankful to my parents for sending me to the boarding school much against the wishes of my grandparents. The Education I got at The Blue Mountains School; the people I met there from all over India and the world have been a very valuable part of my upbringing.”
In another throwback recall Rucha remembers her first exposure to film-making. “I had been exposed to film making once in school when a bunch of us kids were allowed to be in a movie since a lot of movies were shot in Ooty. I used to love identifying Ooty in movies in those days. Karz was a film shot in Ooty that I watched too many times!”
A liberal, independent growing-up followed. She would now chuckle while informing, “Of course my parents didn’t bargain for the fact that I became incredibly independent as a person when I got out of school and joined them in Delhi, after they returned to India. My world view was drastically different from my parents. In terms of career choice, I think my father’s generation had it even tougher than my generation. They gave me freedom to study and pursue what I wanted to even though there was a bit of a disappointment that I didn’t do an MBA, which my father really wanted me to do, as I didn’t want to. I am thankful for that because I’ve seen many parents force their kids, especially sons, to take up careers that they had no interest in and potentially destroyed many lives.”
And then came the career choosing curve and the study for it.
Rucha did her Social Communications Media (SCM), Post-Grad Diploma, from Sophia College (Polytechnic) Bombay. “One was constantly being asked what job do you want to do, which profession do you want to take up? My ready answer even before the question could be completed was - Journalism! I think it was also an easy way out. I didn’t really know anything about Journalism. I just wanted to leave Delhi and come to Bombay. Before SCM I was watching too much TV. Cinema was what one could afford to watch in theatres once in a while with friends. There was a time when Doordarshan showed award winning regional movies every Sunday afternoon and some really good English or foreign language films late at night. I remember watching Fedora once on DD and loved it! At SCM I got to watch World Cinema and I got to learn about the history of Cinema. I then got a chance to go to the Film Appreciation weekend at FTII in Pune. I basically got exposed to a world that I had no idea about in Delhi.”
Ruminating on the effect and the ways of film viewing Rucha says, “Film viewing does get impacted by when we’re watching it. Spike Lee (American filmmaker who has explored race, colorism of the black community, crime, poverty, political issues in his films), recently said on a Documentary Series on Apple TV show called Dear.., about how he watched Birth of a Nation (1915 film directed by D. W. Griffith), and how the rest of the students were watching it and that really brought home the point of context to me. Because how I saw Birth of a Nation in college in Bombay was very different from how Spike Lee or other African-Americans would have seen it. The film held a completely different meaning to African-Americans. We were watching it from a different gaze. At that time I didn’t realize the importance of context.”
SCM was a learning and a turning point. “Although it was a lot of hard work, one really enjoyed it. And my eyes opened to a new world thanks to Jeroo Mulla, P. Sainath, Siddharth Bhatia, Kaumudi Marathe. Though I was learning about films, I still didn’t think I could have a career in movies or films. What I did learn is that I didn’t want to be a journalist as such and that I didn’t want to be a writer. But I did discover that I liked video. I was especially inspired by Sumantra Ghoshal’s Cherry Blossom advt film with Charlie Chaplin. I created my own PSA idea with Charlie Chaplin teaching kids to cross the road for a project and that kind of led me wanting to intern with Sumantro Ghoshal at Equinox Films and I ended up interning with Ram Madhvani when he was doing his advertisements like Dhara Oil and Lux. This was in 1993. And, he did the first music video too at the time I was working with him on Sunita Rao’s Paree Hoon Main. My internship in advertising films was great at one level because one got to learn a lot. Advertising films have such huge budgets and they work with the latest of technologies. But one particular incident left me sad. While doing screen tests for kids I met Bhagwan Dada’s (veteran old time film actor, director) grandson. He was a quiet and shy child who looked a little uncomfortable in front of the camera. I felt bad for him because I thought he shouldn’t do this if he doesn’t want to and I thought back to Bhagwan Dada and his life and what a huge star he used to be in his time and how he was in penury when his life ended. I wasn’t keen on doing advertisement films soon after.”
The film that greatly impacted her young mind was Garam Hava (1974). I asked her if in today’s politically, socially fissured, charged times could it have been made and released?
Garm Hava is an amazing film. A true classic. The performances are brilliant and watching Balraj Sahni and Farooq Sheikh, the old guard and the new generation respectively, is truly mesmerizing. And of course what the film says holds even today. Even the question hasn’t changed much. We still hear people being told why don’t you leave the country. You will find the answer to it in Garm Hava. Would it be made and released today? I think it would be made, but the release would possibly be in a multiplex if the theatres were open and on a streaming platform if the theatres were not.
Then came the next curve in Rucha’s career-path. “I was at Plus Channel (India) Ltd., from 1993 to 1996. I think I arrived there thanks to my friend Anuradha Sengupta who was working at Business Baatein. I started off as a Reporter for Business Baatein and slowly moved towards doing stories for Sangeet Sitare and Mirch Masala and anchoring shows; ultimately directing for game-shows. Plus Channel was a boon for young people. It was a hub of fiction and non-fiction TV in those days. There was all kinds of content being made. I learnt a lot logging tapes and watching you doing your interviews, sitting behind Usha Dixit while she was editing, sitting behind the great Renu Saluja while she edited and seeing scripts develop. Thanks to Amit Khanna and Mahesh Bhatt being at the helm of things, on any given day, Hindi film and TV personalities would be walking in and out of the office. Yash Johar, Javed Akhtar, Basu Chatterjee! And more so after Amit Khanna suddenly decided to launch 14 movies in one go. I was still not into movies in those days. I was too busy directing for TV. I was having a good time doing Sangeet Sitare, where I got to interview singers, music directors, do behind the scenes of movies. Sangeet Sitare was in Hindi and dedicated to Hindi film music but once in a while I would try and sneak in stories on English music. So suddenly you would see a salwar-kameez clad me interviewing Richie Sambora and David Bryan from Bon Jovi! Or covering a press conference with Bryan Adams! Sadly, I didn’t have a camera in those days so I don’t have any pictures. My parents would see me on TV on the shows. They could see I was alive and kicking so they would be very happy about that. The film world collided a little with the TV world when Prashant Narayan would do voice overs for short documentaries for us. And I remember telling Sushant Singh to move from Delhi to Bombay so he could host a show for me. And of course there was the Filmfare Awards Show that we would stream live for TV. I was also imbibing a lot of knowledge from you and Usha about films just by listening to both of you talk about their love for films.”
The next post was Rucha joining In-House productions to executive produce TV shows. Rucha recaps, “TV world was progressing rapidly. Friend Alka Bhanot was doing a show called Movers & Shakers for Sony TV and they were looking for another Executive Producer. Harmony (India’s first unplugged show), was a trendsetter. It was Dabboo Malik’s concept and it was to showcase singers - singing live with minimal instruments. We had not seen singers perform in front of the camera before so this was pretty unique for TV in those days. The first episode we recorded was with Amit Kumar. He was emotional and had tears in his eyes by the time he sang his father’s Door Gagan ki Chaaon Mein. The show was so good - it re-ran for 9 years on Sony TV I think. From 1996-1999 I was with In-House Productions.”
Our girl then went to Toronto to study production and media. Upon her return Rucha chose to align with films. Her first film job was with Pritish Nandy Communications where she worked from 2003-2006. She worked on five films including Shabd (2005), directed by Leena Yadav, Pyaar Ke Side Effects (2006), directed by Saket Chaudhary and Ankahee (2006), directed by Vikram Bhatt. “PNC was very prolific at the time. They were the one Production Company that was giving breaks to new directors and fresh talent. I was one of them. I was really happy to start from scratch as an Executive Producer (EP). PNC thankfully only worked with bound scripts - so that was a breath of fresh air in the Indian film industry at the time.”
It was Rucha’s long stint with UTV Motion Pictures and UTV Spotboy from 2006 to 2014 that was a very defining phase.
Life In A Metro (2007), directed by Anurag Basu was one of my earlier films with UTV. One learnt that what Anurag wants to do is in his head completely. He has an internal chaotic process of seeing his films. This was a multi-story feature that came together really well and it wasn’t about the stars. It brought together the best actors around: Irrfan Khan, Kay Kay Menon, Konkona Sen Sharma, Kangana Ranaut, Sharman Joshi, Shilpa Shetty and Shiney Ahuja. The whole story was woven together by musical bards - Pritam and his band. This film I believe had the FASTEST post-production ever done in history! From locked edit to release. Then there was Mumbai Meri Jaan (2008), directed by Nishikant Kamat. He came with the synopsis of Bombay Meri Jaan - it became Mumbai Meri Jaan before release when the name of the city was changed. I think Nishi was deeply affected by the Bombay train blasts of 2006. Film had a stellar star cast. I remember Nishi shooting through torrential rains in Bombay. The film did not do too well at the box office but I personally feel this was Nishi’s best film to date. Also amazingly, after we screened the first copy for the internal UTV team - I saw my producer boss Ronnie Screwvala actually get on a bar and have a drink! It was truly a special moment because even though it wasn’t a commercial film everybody loved it! We tragically lost Nishikant Kamat on August 17, 2020.
As for the UTV Spotboy brand…..
I was contemplating quitting UTV when Ronnie Screwvala called me in and said let’s start another brand for Movies. I remember having written to Ronnie right about the time I had joined UTV in 2006, that, can we make all kinds of films - the big, the medium and even the small films instead of making just big star-driven films. I don’t know if he ever read that feedback but that’s how UTV-Spotboy started. We wanted to make movies that were about the script and not about movie stars. But initially we had to ensure that the budgets were tight so we didn’t lose money.
I was curious to know more about the diverse line-up of important cinema, which the UTV Spotboy Motion Pictures had produced. What Rucha told me was…
Aamir (2008), directed by Raj Kumar Gupta was the first UTV Spotboy film. I was the most experienced person on the film! It was a debut film for the writer-director Raj Kumar Gupta, for the actor Rajeev Khandelwal, for music director Amit Trivedi and for the Spotboy team which included Vikas Bahl. We made it on a really small budget which was a great learning experience.
As for Welcome to Sajjanpur (2008) directed by the veteran Shyam Benegal, Rucha tells the backstory.
I always wanted to work with Shyam Babu. I had heard so much about him while working with you at Plus Channel. And of course, imagine getting a chance to work with the Director of such amazing films - Ankur, Kalyug and the list is extensive. Someone who was key to the parallel movement in Indian Cinema, Ashok Mishraji, walked into the office and narrated his script Welcome to Sajjanpur. I loved it and there was not a single note that was changed in it. But Shyam Babu lifted it to another level while filming it. For me the best scene of the film (which seemed like an innocuous scene on paper) was when we see that Ram Singh (Yashpal Sharma) who cannot read or write, is trying to scare people into voting for him but his political opponent Munnibai (the transgender character played by Ravi Jhankal), signs her nomination papers with her name. It was such a beautiful thought.
Dev D (2009) directed by Anurag Kashyap, created a niche and a template of its own. Many call it a cult film - I asked Rucha to elaborate.
I’ve known Anurag Kashyap for many, many years from my college days. So when I joined UTV, I had written to him asking if he would like to work together on a film and he had sent out a long angsty message (to almost everyone in the industry I think). When UTV Spotboy started, Abhay Deol and he pitched us Dev D. We said yes to it in 10 mins because it was a good idea especially for a fledgling company like Spotboy. Working on Dev D was fabulous. It was a great young cast and crew. Abhay, Kalki and Mahie Gill were great to work with. I got to see another side of Delhi (Paharganj), that I had never seen even though I’d lived in Delhi for five years through college! And I made a lasting friendship with The Twilight Players - Sinbad, Jimi and Ammo. I was really pleased with Dev D because it had two really strong women in the film and our belief in the project really paid off. I was pretty nervous before we screened the edit for Ronnie Screwvala, Siddharth Roy Kapur and Zarina Mehta at UTV. I wasn’t sure if they would like it. After the screening there was pin drop silence in the tiny edit room in Aram Nagar and then Zarina got up and clapped and said she loved it! Whew! Till date the first screening for anyone gives me butterflies in my stomach! We got a 5-star review from Nikhat Kazmi in Times of India and nothing is better than critical and commercial success!
Paan Singh Tomar (2010) directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia too got critical as well as commercial success. Rucha rewound to inform, “Paan Singh Tomar (PST) shows the power of the script. Tishu (Tigmanshu Dhulia) and Sanjay Chouhan wrote an amazing script. And, Tishu only wanted Irrfan (Khan) in it. I had worked with Irrfan in Life In A Metro and Mumbai Meri Jaan, but by the time we shot Paan Singh Tomar he was a pretty big star. The script was so powerful and Tishu was such a good director that everyone was happy to work on the film. When in the middle of shooting, recession had us working with a smaller budget, Irrfan and Tishu both took pay cuts to make the film. My learning was that the cast and crew are really hungry for good scripts and PST is a testament to that. It took a while to release but when it did - it was hailed as a great biopic as well as a superlative sports-drama!”
As for Chillar Party (2011) directed by Nitesh Tiwari and Vikas Bahl, Rucha’s flashback quipped, “Only Spotboy would have greenlit a film with 9 kids and a dog!”
No One Killed Jessica that released in 2011 was director Raj Kumar Gupta’s second film. Rucha remembers, “We were really thrilled that both Rani Mukherjee and Vidya Balan said yes to doing the film when they heard the script. They were the biggest stars that Spotboy was working with at the time. It really helped our fledgling brand. The script was also written really well by Raj Kumar Gupta. We were constantly being told - female oriented film - how will it do at the box office? And we had an unheard of release date for it - in the first week of January which is not a very coveted release time. But it did really well! We were thrilled. Also Rani and Vidya were both super to work with.”
Rucha dipped into her recall of Barfi (2012) directed by Anurag Basu. “Barfi started off as the most misunderstood film. Everyone thought it was a dark film because it had differently abled protagonists in it! I was extremely happy it did well at the box office. I also realised that Anurag Basu, who is such an accomplished director, really plays down his film. He’ll narrate badly. I think sometimes he does it on purpose so that people have no expectations from it. It took me a long time to learn that trait. I’m still learning it!”
Harud, directed by Aamir Bashir, was released in 2012. It was an independently produced film with which Rucha was closely associated. It had the Kashmir socio-political narrative as its content. She shared her thoughts on the making of the film. “For me personally, I didn’t know anything about Kashmir and used to wonder why one never saw a film from there. So Harud for me was an introduction and exploration of Kashmir. I had tried to make a film with Majid Majidi (renowned Iranian filmmaker) in Kashmir and I had gone there with him on my first trip - he really wanted to shoot there, but he could not figure what kind of story to tell about Kashmir. In the meantime, Aamir Bashir had shared his story and script with me. Harud for me was a very important story to be told and making the film itself was great fun. It is till date the smallest crew on any film that I have worked and working with Aamir Bashir as a director and Shanker Raman as a DOP was really a very treasured experience. So people would tell me - you work with a studio, why aren’t you using it to your advantage for Harud? And that’s the one thing I learned on Harud; that an Indie (independent) feature is special because it does not get diluted by the expectations of a studio. A big budget can destroy a film because of the expectations that come with the large budget. And it is possible to create cinematic art with a minute budget. So for me a small budget is not a hindrance, it is actually a blessing in disguise.”
ABCD (2013) directed by Remo D’Souza was a passion project for her. “Because I had always wanted to make a dance film and I had worked a lot with Remo as a choreographer. I think people thought we were a little nuts for doing a dance film in 3D with an unknown star cast (unknown for the movie industry - the actors were very well known to dance fans). And it turned out to be such a good franchise film.”
In her years with Fox Star Studios from 2014 to 2020, Rucha has steered films like Neerja (2016), directed by Ram Madhvani, Jolly LLB 2 (2017), directed by Subhash Kapoor, Lootcase (2020), directed by Rajesh Krishnan and Dil Bechara (2020), directed by Mukesh Chhabra. She informs me about the three. “In the case of Neerja I was greatly inspired by Neerja Bhanot when I was in school. So when the idea was pitched to me I jumped on board right away. I brought it to Fox Star and the script was so good that nobody could say no to it. Lootcase, I thought it was a very funny script when Rajesh Krishnan narrated it. He’s a very funny narrator too but I had to convince people that it won’t be over the top like his narration! Because it was a comedy and because it wasn’t too expensive, we managed to get it greenlit. Also when I pitched it, our aim was to cast only good actors in it. I think that really paid off. As for Dil Bechara, around the time I had joined Fox Star Studio they had released The Fault in Our Stars and they wanted us to adapt it. So we worked on it for a good four years before we pitched it to a lot of directors till finally we took it to Mukesh Chhabra to direct it.”
I asked her how easy or not so easy is it to handle the business of art and commerce?
The film industry in terms of business is like any other business where ultimately whatever you make you have to ensure it’s in budget and that money is recovered on it with a decent enough margin so you can make more movies. And it’s not just ensuring that the art and the commerce come together perfectly well. Producing the art is to also get together a large number of creative and technical people to achieve one film, one creative vision.
Regarding her experience of having worked with a whole line-up of star-actors, Rucha said, “I’ve enjoyed working with all the actors. In my experience actors are really hard working and are just very happy to serve the vision of the film. I treasure every film and film experience and each film is a different learning. We never see how actors prepare. Their preparation is quite a lonely experience for them I feel. So somewhere in my heart I feel for them; they have to reach out to the world with their performances and yet the preparation they go through is quite a lonely journey. I admire the stillness that they must be experiencing to get there.”
It was a wonderful perspective of a production facilitator towards film actors. The directors Rucha has worked with have ranged from Shyam Benegal to a line-up of today’s generation. Did she find a different approach or worldview?
Yeah, every director has a different approach to their work. And each one has a different way of arriving at the film they want to make. Some directors feel that I’m out to destroy their film, but the smart ones realise that as a producer, I’m only helping them achieve their creative vision. I think so far I’ve had a good relationship with all the directors I’ve worked with. Creative discussions with directors is actually one of the great joys of filmmaking.
As for her favourite film moment, well there are many moments.
I have many favourite film moments. When Rishiji (Rishi Kapoor) had tears in his eyes after watching Barfi! He loved the film. Then discussing creative with Ram Madhvani on Neerja, working with Shabanaji on Neerja, with Shyam Babu on Welcome to Sajjanpur; when Jolly LLB 2 made over 100cr at the Box Office, when we were screening Dev D at Chandan Cinema in Juhu and came out at midnight to see Nikhat Kazmi’s review that gave us 5-stars and also when we had a midnight screening of Dev D at the Venice Film Festival. When Paan Singh Tomar got selected at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival and the London Film Festival and when it released, when Harud premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and the Rotterdam Film Festival, the year 2013 when Irrfan won the National Award for best actor for Paan Singh Tomar and Harud won the National Award for Best Urdu Film on the same night! - filming in freezing cold on the Alexander Bridge in Paris for Dil Bechara. The list is endless… and keeps me going and still making films!
I wondered if critical appraisal and awards mattered as much as the box office. Do awards validate cinema? Is the Friday release an extra heart-beating moment?
Well both matter I think. Though in the larger scheme of things it’s important that your film works commercially because it means more people have gone to see your film. And critical success helps in building good word of mouth so that more people watch your film. Over the years I’ve mainly worked with directors and on films that are slightly off the beaten track, so critical success matters in that sense.
We also spoke about the fairness and transparency in the award scene in India. How fair and transparent was it?
I have no answer to that question because the films I have worked on have been on the receiving side of the awards and I am quite certain that I have never had to lobby for any awards. Whatever awards the films that I have worked on have received have been a cherry on the cake! Most of these awards have been in the Critics Category and the National Awards. I feel grateful when films we work on get awards because it really makes the crew happy. Every crew member that has worked on that film is happy that their effort has been acknowledged. Having said that, one doesn’t work for awards. If you get one great, if not, then it doesn’t matter because the joy is in the process of making films and not in getting awards.
I asked Rucha if the workplace scenario in Hindi cinema was now more egalitarian in terms of the level playing field? Rucha was quoted saying, “Well, at the end of the day the industry is very gender agnostic. If a film does well whether it has a woman making it, or in the main cast, or a kid’s film about an alien - if a film does well people make more films like that. It is not necessary to push women oriented films.”
If so then what explains the very limited participation of Indian women filmmakers/directors over generations. Not even 1/4th in number to the male counterpart? We have had a growing number of women dancers, singers, actors, doctors, MBAs, corporate heads etc.?
Speaking completely from my own experience - I have not come across any sexism in the Hindi film industry or the corporate world as such, but then maybe I don’t know better. And this is probably because I have always carved out a space for myself wherever I’ve worked. I have not compared myself to men in the business - and maybe in the process I have possibly lost out on equal pay - but I sometimes feel that it’s not because of my gender but because I’ve not worked for only money as such. I have always wanted to do a job that I enjoy doing and when that enjoyment goes - then I get restless. In the corporate world and the film industry, irrespective of your gender - if you do a good job, make a good film and make a hit film then you’re rewarded. I don’t wish to be a part of that rat race so my playing field is a little different. I think fewer women are in the working world and in any industry because we lost out on education. So our entry into the workforce was delayed. It was tougher for women to get access to education in the old days. It was really convenient to keep women working at home rather than sending them to school. Also this idea that women who were doing housework were not working has done a huge disservice to women. My mother is a housewife and she worked at home, so did a lot of women I know. A lot of women and men would have realised this in this current pandemic - that housework is a crazy amount of work and our mothers have been doing this unpaid work for centuries now.
Our talk had to touch upon the raging Nepotism debate.
I don’t believe so. Not in my case. I had no link to the TV or film industry when I came to Bombay.
Sushant Singh Rajput’s death was playing out diverse narratives. Was the industry pressure and pull so acute?
There can be pressure and pull from any side and it’s not related only to the Industry. We deal with pressure from the time we are born - it can be from parents, it can be from peer groups and even from one’s own self. And this may sound very simplistic but each of us reacts to pressure in a different way. The nature of the industry is such at one level. Also look at the new pressure of the digital world and social media. That’s a whole different kind of pressure that’s not necessarily only linked to the film or television industry. Each one of us handles pressure differently and it can be from anywhere.
In the present Rucha is working with Excel Entertainment. How did she see the future trajectory and the projects lined up?
We’ve been in lockdown since I’ve joined Excel Entertainment and I’m mainly developing Features and Series. I’m not sure how this pandemic is going to unfold and where it’s going to lead us and what the future is. For the time being I’m working on interesting material that I hope will see the light of day soon.
I wanted to know her process of selecting a film script for development. Did the originality, the rootedness in India matter or a script could be derivative? Shouldn’t the local be global?
Original scripts matter tremendously and I do get derivative scripts also. I feel a lot depends on how that script is envisioned and ultimately brought to screen. Even a remake/adaptation should have a unique quality to it. Every film doesn’t go global. Each film has its own audience and finds its own audience whether it is local or global, in theatres or on streaming platforms. Therefore every film has its own marketing and distribution strategy. Each film should be nurtured in its development, in its making, and the same nurturing should extend to the marketing and distribution of it and not be subject to a templated style of marketing and distribution. Also regarding local going global question… filmmakers don’t set out to make a film with the intention of say “Now I’ll make a film that will go global”. I think filmmakers are interested in telling a story. The labelling etc., happens once the film is made and released and people start trying to figure out how they should make sense of its popularity or unpopularity by giving it labels. One film that did go from local to global recently was Gully Boy from last year and there was The Lunchbox a few years ago.
Taking my Devil’s Advocate-ism further I asked her why Indian cinema, in particular Hindi cinema and more so the mainstream, has not made a significant mark on the global scene? One was not talking of the NRI audience. Our best creative references abroad are still the films of Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Bimal Roy, Shyam Benegal and our regional language specific artistic cinema. Why have we not been able to merge newness in cine-vocabulary with box-office? Is the audience only responsible?
Rucha Pathak gave a fitting reply. “Tough question to answer. I’m guessing because we haven’t been scouting, developing and nurturing artistic talent like the phenomenal filmmakers you’ve mentioned. Though we’re seeing an amazing Indian talent, Chaitanya Tamhane who made Court (2014) and is taking his The Disciple, to Venice. But he wasn’t nurtured by a film school or an NFDC. He was ultimately nurtured by young film maker and producer Vivek Gomber. There are many more talented directors who have been making a mark on the international film scene - in their own little way. Ritesh Batra, Gurinder Singh, Amit Datta and Ivan Ayr who has made a mark with Soni (2018), and also has a film going to the Venice Film Festival this year. So it’s not all bleak - but because of so much other noise - we lose sight of the gems out there.”
In her cine-festival tours Rucha has met many international cine-personalities. In the photographs herein we see her with Joel Schumacher and Ang Lee.
I was very keen to know from this very fine navigator of Indian cinema why in the rush of technical advancements had Hindi cinema lost the beauty of its songs? The music and the words are floundering.
Maybe because our storytelling has changed so much. We’re not lip synching songs as much as we used to in the earlier days. Maybe because films have become more real? I think music and songs have taken on a different avatar in the present times. We had 14 songs in Dev D. And, in Harud there was no background score. So it really depends on how one is telling stories. It’s true that the golden age of music seems to have passed… but maybe there’s a new form of music waiting to happen?
In these corona, pandemic times the traditional film screen, movie hall outing has got affected. Is the digital, OTT, streaming platforms the future, the new norm? Or will cinema hall-multiplex business bounce back?
I hope so! I hope cinemas bounce back because there is nothing like the magic of movies and nothing like watching movies on the big screen. It would be truly unfortunate if the world does not get to see movies in theatres. I think theatres will open slowly. They have started opening up internationally and hopefully, India will open too but I cannot say at this time if people will go to the cinemas. We have to wait and watch. My friends in the UK have started going to cinemas which is a great sign.
As to that one interest apart from helming films that kept Rucha company? She said, “I love traveling and miss it immensely!”
More power to our corona free future and to Rucha Pathak’s higher flights at work and in travel.