Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Flogging a Dead Horse

Flogging a Dead Horse

It has been a while since I have said something on my blog. Not that it was intentional, but I just did not have anything to say. Many people wanted me to write but I refrained. I did not want to say anything till I have something to say that may be relevant. Who wants to listen to what I did today, what I ate today etc. It would bore me if I had to read what a person does with his everyday life.

The topic of this post may not be as interesting to some as it may be to others; nevertheless I wish to state my opinion... and my opinion alone. This is what I think about the state of affairs in our industry.

The audience is complaining. Most films don’t work. Where is the entertainment they ask. A lot of money is pumped into big films that we have trouble sitting through. Occasionally a film works. Some say that over all Entertainment is lacking, that we have got lost somewhere in the search for a perfect film. You know what? There is no perfect film. Each film has an audience that likes it as also audience that does not. So, a good film is a matter of perspective. What is entertainment to a person need not be to another. Ah, we must not forget that a film that entertains the majority of the audience works financially.

Here is the catch 22 situation.....

This being a male dominant industry we shall discuss the male actors for now. There are no more than 10 film stars. (Those that draw an audience which results in a good opening, exceptions to the rule of course sometimes even stars can’t get a good opening.), and there are about 100 films to be made in a year. Stars work on 1 or 2 films at a time. So, at least 85 films will be made without the stars.

Films with stars

These stars have their own problems. They are popular. They have to attend to other PR related work besides working in movies. They have to also attend shows internationally. They have to give time to act in ads (as ads with saleable actors will get eyeballs). They have to plan further films, listen to scripts (if they do) and generally be a busy person. Some stars reach to work late and leave early. I said some, not all. The film makers have no choice but to wrap up the scene ASAP. Some won’t dub so film makers have to do sync sound which is more expensive. Especially in our noisy cities. The cost of production of these films soar and more money needs to be made to break even.

Of course I need not mention, but I shall, that they depend on Big Directors so that the directors will handle the story-screenplay. These Directors must know more, they have made hits earlier. So, why bother to read the screenplay. If I was a star actor, would I read the screenplay?? Sure but who has the time, I already told you how busy stars are. No wonder they will work in subjects that don’t make sense at all. They did not choose the subject, they chose the film maker and let him handle it.

I don’t blame the actors they are busy.

Audience to blame??

Audience wants to see good films. People always say we want to watch good films, but with stars. So, they can watch only 15 films a year that may or may not be good. So what happens to those 85 films without the glitz and glitter? Some work. Good films work. Some good films do not. I saw a couple of films recently without stars, they were good. But there was hardly any audience in the theatres. You see the cost of any film ticket is the same with or without the stars.


Promotion is top most need. How will I watch a film that I don’t even know exists? The Producers cannot afford to promote smaller films like bigger films are promoted. Audience watches TV and knows of a silly film with stars but misses out on the good film which is a relative smaller film.

Aamir Khan ad.

This is the trend. I wait for a film to release which is a non starrer. Wait for the newspaper the next day and check out the *** it got. Then I decide to watch it.

I saw a great ad on TV recently.

Aamir Khan plays a owner of a Barber shop. He gives a new haircut to some guy. Question... Do we get our hair done according to the barber??? NO.

Aamir Khan plays a owner of a clothing store. He gives a new freaky clothing to some guy. Question... Do we get our wardrobe done according to the owner of the clothing store ??? NO.

And yet we see the star rating in the newspaper and decide what film to watch.

We forget that the movie has been rated by an individual who has his own sensibilities. Do I have to agree to that person’s sensibility? Have they not proved to be wrong many times?? So, Mr. X will decide what films I should watch or not? He finds a film funny, I fall asleep. See???? Sensibilities do not match all the time.

What is the solution???

The audience is the problem and the audience is the solution.

The audience has to agree to watch non star films, don’t depend on star ratings in newpapers. Smaller films will work. New stars will be born. The industry will not have so many flops. The star system (which exists because of the demand from the audience) will ease, and, over time a new breed of film makers and actors will emerge. Entertain you. Make films for all kinds of audiences. A revolution will happen.

Do I think this may happen soon? I don’t know. I hope though. I hope that we shall move on and stop Flogging the Dead Horse.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Film Director

As a kid, I was exposed to film making very early in life. I recall when I was around 4 or 5 years old, shooting on a set meant that audio was exposed on ‘film for sound’ in a van that was outside of the stage. I have seen people edit at the Moviola, then on 2 plate Steenbecks and then on 6 plate Steenbecks. Avid and FCP came later.

I lived in a joint family, comprising of a total of 10 people. Each night our whole family had dinner together and guess what was the topic most of the days. Movies and Screenplays. This had a profound effect on the growing kid called Vikram Tuli. He started to ‘see’ himself making movies.

As most of the family from my Maternal and Paternal sides were into film making, most of what I knew of film making I learnt being around my family.

At one point I started assisting Directors. My Gurus are Mr. Naresh Kumar (who is my My Father), Mr. Shantilal Soni, Mr. Rahul Rawail, Mr. David Dhawan and Mr. Sachin Pilgaonkar.

Sachinji taught me the most. Perhaps because I assisted him for the longest period of time. He is one of the most talented people I have known. His sense of music and screenplay needs special mention. I recall he telling me ‘I can teach you how to make movies but I can’t teach you how to feel... that you have to learn on your own’

So, one day, I thought now I know how to make movies. I had learnt that Film directors are responsible for overseeing creative aspects of a film. They develop the vision for a film and carry the vision out. They also direct what tone it should have and what an audience should gain from the cinematic experience. Directing a film is a kind of storytelling. They coordinate the actors' moves and also may be involved in the writing, financing, and editing of a film.

The director works closely with the cast and crew to shape the film and may often take suggestions on pertinent issues.

The director also plays a key role in post-production. He or she works with the editor to ensure that the emotions of the scene appropriately reflect which character is driving the narrative. He also participates in the sound mix and musical composition of the film.

However, I did not learn the most essential aspect of film making. PEOPLE SKILLS.

This is a skill that most people learn, gradually, as they grow up, on their own. I had to struggle to learn it and even now it is my weakest skill.

The term “PEOPLE SKILLS” is used to include both psychological and social skills. People skills are understanding ourselves and moderating our responses, talking effectively and empathizing accurately, building relationships of trust, respect and productive interactions.

In short “the ability to communicate effectively with people in a friendly way, especially in business”.

GAWD.... That seems like a tall order. Moderating our responses? Building relationships?? Communicate effectively with people in a friendly way???

I had never heard of these things before, why was there a need to change? My Father and Mother tolerated me! My Brother tolerated me!! (heheh obviously they tolerated me, they love me) But this world would not tolerate me !!! I had to change.

People loved my script, they said my narration is out of this world; but no one signed me to do ‘Main...Joker’. Probably, it seemed that I was not to be trusted. So, if I wanted something to change I HAD TO change something. This change is a slow and tedious process for me. I grow as a person each day and yet I feel so far behind. What others seem to take for granted I continue to struggle with. I know I don’t seek perfection, I only seek growth and I see an iota of change now. I hope this growth rate will accelerate as I get better with it.

If not for the trust that was displayed by Mr. Kishan Chowdhary, Mr. Sunil Thadani & Mr. Rajeev Khandelwal, I would still be running pillar to post.

Now, it gets tougher. More scripts needed, better ideas needed and more ‘people skills’ needed. I continue to learn. For all those that aspire to make films all I can say is what I was told and learnt....

‘I can teach you how to make movies but I can’t teach you how to feel... that you have to learn on your own’ and also you’d better get along with people (even if you don’t like them hehehe). That is the only way. As Munnabhai had said....

Main Vinamra hoon.... (at least...for now )

More later

Vikram Tuli

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Walk Uphill

Hi All,

We are back from a shooting stint in Kashmir. Srinagar and Aru (8 kilometers from Pahalgam) to be precise

People say that Kashmir is not a safe place and that maybe there could be trouble if we film there. This is not true at all. It is all safe and the place was flocked with tourists.

We were stunned by the visuals. Mother Nature has blessed Kashmir with so much beauty, which ofcourse was needed for the film.

The songs were Choregraphed by Longines Fernandes. He had also done 'Slumdog Millionare' and was mentioned by Danny Boyle at the Oscars. I found him to be a humble and gentle man with a great sense of humor. He is one of the fastest Choreographers I have known.

Our Director of Photography, Alphonse Roy is a genius. One has to see to believe what he is capable of.

Now there is a last schedule to be done. 85% of 'Main...Joker' is filmed and it has been a great experience.

This movie will be a emotional roller coaster. The ups and the downs, entertaining as it is watched. It is a simple story told simply.

More later.
Vikram Tuli

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Birth of Joker

Hi all,

Himani asked me how was "Joker" conceived. So, here we go....

Mayank Sharma, my Associate Director and a dear friend, has been with me a long time and we were generally brain storming for a subject that we would like to do.

I was walking in the living room. Pacing up and down. I remember that it took 5 paces to get the idea for the first half of the film and another 5 paces for the second half. It was just like that. Eureka... I shared the thought with Mayank and he said it works.

The first few drafts had the Heroine being introduced at the Interval point. Only later we introduced her in the 3rd scene.

Then we started writing, and writing and writing. It took a total of 13 drafts of the screenplay and 6 years to get the final screenplay that we were happy with.

Sameer Joshi, a competent writer and friend was involved in the earlier versions. By the 12th draft we were fed up. It was an overdose of Joker for us and we had what is known as the Writer's Block.

We were stuck. We knew that the screenplay was good, but not good enough, but we could not write more.

That is when we took a break... A loooong break.

I struggled to get the film made. I met many known Actors and narrated the story to them. Most liked it but did not agree to do the film. Maybe because they had no faith in a new director or maybe they actually did not like the subject but were being polite by telling me that it is a good story.

I could never manage to meet any BIG star, it seems impossible to meet them directly. One has to meet people who work for them and pass through the levels. These people are more interested in Directors who have a proven track record, so a new director is not of much value.

I did manage to narrate the story to Mr. Aamir Khan. He is a great listener, very polite and a down to earth guy. He declined to do the film as he was making "Taare Zameen Par" which involved kids and he had plans of "Gajini" and others. He had no time for "Joker" but he appreciated the effort which was a huge moral boost to me even though I was not even close to making the film.

Then there were others. People wanted to buy the script off me. They said that just because I write well does not mean that I can make a film. I was offered a huge amount of money. Yes, I was tempted but I could not let it go. I was living with "Joker" day and night. That is when I decided, either I will make the film or take the story to my grave.

After 6 years I gave up. I went to London and a dear friend there promised me a job. My family agreed to move where ever we could make a living. In India all I could do was think of making movies. I knew I was born for making movies but I knew that, the industry did not and no one cared.

My brother, Ajay Tuli was the only support I had, he believed in me from day one and he tried as well, but it never worked out.

Then one day, I was sitting in a park in London, feeding the ducks and the geese, waiting for my work papers to be processed. I was in deep thought. I said to myself, here I am, ready to take up a job and fulfill someone's dream. We only live once, why should I not dedicate my life to fulfill my own dream, if I don't do that who else will???

The decision was made. I have to go back to India and continue to struggle.

Once I was back. Mr. Sunil Thadani (Co-Producer of Joker) and an old friend happened to narrate the idea of Joker to Rajeev Khandelwal who loved it instantly. I was called and Rajeev and me met the very next day and viola. The film was happening.

Sameer Arora (a very good writer) was brought in for the final draft. With renewed vigor and zest, Sameer, Mayank and myself wrote the 13th draft which is what we are shooting.

This was the birth of "Joker" of course there are many more details that will be shared at a later date. I don't want to go on and on.

Till then.


Vikram Tuli

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Hi all.
I know that, for now, there is noone to see this blog; but it is a matter of time before I have some followers.

I do intend to update my blogs periodically.

The question is 'Who am I writing for?'
Is it for me? Is it for you? or Is it for us?

I expect it to be for us. This, sharing of information, exchange of opinions, debate (if so) on issues, should benifit both of us as people. We must use this platform to grow as people and enrich our minds.

That should be the ultimate goal. There is much to share.

We are nothing else but 'our experiences and our belief systems'.

I have experienced all strata of society, been there, done that. As I am sure you have as well.

So, off to a new beginning.
More later.

Vikram Tuli