Television

"Terrorism interests and fascinates me":Vivek Agnihotri

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Vivek Agnihotri is one of the most modern minds in the Indian entertainment industry today.

An advertising and Harvard background have laid the foundation for a repertoire that is both futuristic and experimental. It was during a year's break after graduation that Vivek did a course at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication. After a stint at Harvard came jobs with O&M and McCann and then his own communication-consulting firm Offbeat. A number of ads later, he ventured into television programming, an exercise that has won him several awards.

Gurpreet Tathgur and Hetal Adesara met Vivek Agnihotri to hear him speak about his work and his enthrallment with global terrorism at a time when it is at its peak.

Excerpts:

What drew you to filmmaking?

I did my mass communication from Delhi IIMC. Advertising just happened to me. I look the entrance to IIMC as filler till I could go to the US for further studies, topped it and did the course. But it changed all my perceptions of the field.



On the set of Irshaad, the crane hovers in the background.
I don't believe in icons, so I'm not inspired by very big people. I have learnt everything from people around me.

Where do you draw your inspiration?

People and stories around me are my inspiration. I don't believe in icons, so I'm not inspired by very big people. I have learnt everything from people around me.

What are the natural instincts required of an effective writer, editor and director?

I can't speak from what is written in the textbooks. The most important instinct required of an effective writer, editor and director is to be aware. Awareness is the single most important aspect of a good communicator. One must always keep one's eyes open, interact with people and not look at things but look into things! Direction is a highly glorified field. To be effective as a director, it depends on how creatively you manage everything, just like an interior decorator manages his work.

Do you always edit your own work, and if so, why?

Yes, I always edit my own work, I prefer doing that. It gives me more satisfaction.

What kind of themes generally interest you?

Themes that interest me are usually true stories and human life dramas, but that's not what I actually make. It's a mere coincidence that most of my stories revolve around terrorism be it Sikander, Chocolate or Yeh Kahan Aa Gaye Hum. Urban terrorism has always been present in my mind and leaves a very strong impact.

Robbery, murders, rapes and lootings don't impress me but terrorism is what I always enjoy - it interests and fascinates me.

Only because we don't yet do it that way in India, people think that I am inspired by the West.

Have you been inspired by western movies/soaps in your work?

I never watched soaps on television when I was in the US for two years. I somehow was never interested in them at all. I work in the same manner the whole world does. Only because we don't yet do it that way in India, people think that I am inspired by the West. All my producers think that I make something well ahead of the times, but in the near future my work does hold true. When I made YKAGH the producer wanted more emphasis on the love story angle, I wanted to focus on terrorism, which was not a big thing then, but it is now.

Why was your much-awaited directorial venture, Prisoners of War (POW), scrapped?

Zee would be the best to answer this question. They called me and asked me to do POW. I was only the creative designer for the show, not the producer.

In an earlier interview with indiantelevision.com, you spoke of your excitement about the forthcoming POW. How did you feel when you were told it would not take off?

Yes, I was really excited about the series. It was depressing to hear that it was not on as I was too emotionally involved in it. It was one of my unhappiest moments, but perhaps it was a blessing in disguise. If I had done POW, I would have been doing only that currently. So, I am glad that I have some breathing space now.

Do you believe in sticking to certain genres or do you believe in experimenting?

I am working in a medium where I'm not the sole decision maker. Most of my films are highly technical thrillers but I do believe in experimenting and I keep doing so.

What prompted you to start your own film production unit?

Vivek Agnihotri Creates was founded in 1995 as an alternative to the mainstream entertainment industry. The company serves as a source of the current trends in Indian TV, film, and advertising, and create independently of conventional thought.

To be effective as a director, it depends on how creatively you manage everything, just like an interior decorator manages his work.

_________


At the Asha Bhosle music video shoot

What of the two films Baarish and Friday Chicken, which your company is presently working on?

Baarish is presently undergoing a name change. It is a mob film about very high society boys and girls who get wrongly influenced. It is a true story. Friday Chicken is a joint venture between America and India. It is about an American woman who comes to India and helps an Indian soldier find justice.

How different is working on a music video from serials and ads?

Personally, I don't enjoy doing music videos because I feel there is nothing to tell in them. It is a cakewalk for me, so I don't enjoy it. It is just an edit, copy and paste job for me. I was asked to do this music video for Asha Bhosle and Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, and I did it only because of the names involved. And secondly, because I like experimenting.

What was your film Chocolate about?

Chocolate was about the art of lying. There was no research done, it is solely a matter of fiction. It was shot in New York and was about global terrorism.

How important is it to know your characters and what kind of research do you do before taking a plunge into your ventures?

Research should be very extensive, but it does not mean that you are going to use everything that you know. You should get to know your character very well so that as a writer you have a complete picture and you start growing and flowing with the character. All my films are thoroughly researched.

What are the different aspects you keep in mind before starting a project?

Firstly you should know whom you are catering to, and secondly whether I would like to watch it or not. I haven't done too much, but whatever I do has to match my sensibility.

Most of my films are highly technical thrillers but I do believe in experimenting and I keep doing so.

How paying is this field?

You get paid in cash and kind. You get to interact and know so many people and build your contacts. And yes, there is a lot to be earned in cash too.

What do you feel is your best work?

Yeh Kahan Aa Gaye Hum has been my favourite production so far. Apart from that I liked my work for Gillette and Coke.

Are you always content with your work?

Nobody is ever satisfied in this world, the more they have, the more they crave for. But yes, I am more content than I initially was.

Who are your favourite actors?

I like Rohini Hattangadi, Kitu Gidwani, Pallavi Joshi, Om Puri and R Madhavan. Among the foreign films, I like Anthony Hopkins, Jack Nicholson and Jeffery Rush.

If you had the opportunity to remake one film, which one would it be and who would be your star cast?

The film would certainly be Deewar and I would remake it with my own style. I think it had the most perfect scripts ever written in the Indian film industry. I would cast Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor to play the main lead.

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