In Conversation with Pulkit – the young and talented director of Maroon!
interviewed by Souranath Banerjee
Nowadays it’s difficult to find the right combination of talent, determination and humility all in one person. And Pulkit, the young and gifted filmmaker have all these qualities and that too with a great sense of humour!
In Conversation with Pulkit as he talks about his journey as a filmmaker!
Hi Pulkit welcome to Cinema Forensic!
How does it feel to watch your first feature film Maroon on the big screen at the prestigious Mumbai Film Festival?
It’s Great! It’s also a very weird kind of feeling I must tell you. You know when your film gets selected in the film festival they do a technical check, so they called me for that. On 24th morning I was sitting alone in the theatre and they played my film. Suddenly I started crying you know – what was happening! Something that I always dreamt about – I felt my career, my schooling, my college, came to Bombay, just being 5 years in Bombay and now watching my own film in the big screen – it was a superb kick!
And then I was very nervous on how people will react, because you always love your baby, but the film is not for you na? So during the actual screening I couldn’t watch the film with the audience. I left the theatre. I came down, had coffee, cigarettes; and my assistant who was there in the theatre, she kept messaging me – like people are smiling, giggling, how they are reacting and all that.
Even after the screening, the question answers and all, I met the audience – ya it was superb. I know I will make another film but this thing won’t happen again – the first time experience – it was like ‘pehli baar apko pyaar ho gaya‘. Very beautiful feeling!
Congratulations again Pulkit! Now let’s begin from the beginning. Tell me something about yourself, your background.
I was born in Bihar, Muzaffarpur. My parents still live there.
As a kid I was never good in studies (laughs). Actually my father being a businessman in Bihar I had so many restrictions – because at that time in Bihar children of businessmen used to get kidnapped a lot. So I wasn’t allowed to play with other kids, it was just going to school and back to home. I didn’t have any friends. I didn’t know what was happening around the world. Even in the newspapers it was always stories about crimes and murders. May be that’s why I am so keen in making dark films (laughs).
But the best thing happened to me in Bihar was music. Since I wasn’t allowed to play I got interested into Indian classical music – I played Tabla for thirteen years!
And so I asked my father to get me out of Bihar. And after 10th my dad got me admission into a boarding school in Haryana and I passed my 12th from there and that too with superb grades!
Then I took admission in Amity university Lucknow but I never wanted to be a graduate. So I didn’t attend any classes and just before my final exams I shifted to Mumbai!
It was May 2011. I got admission in Barry John Acting Studio but then again I realised i am too shy to be an actor. Then I tried assisting few people, some of the big shots in this industry. And within two years I became an associate and made good money but still there was no satisfaction. Night after night all you had to do was watch foreign films and copy references from them. I don’t believe in this module.
So, then me and Jyotsana (Jyotsana Nath is the current producer of Maroon), we both decided to quit our jobs and start something of our own.
And soon I wrote my first short film Bombay 1992, but that time we went over budget on the film. So I had to sell my car, ask money from my dad and finally the film got made. This short film taught me how important it is to control your budget.
And then how did the journey of Maroon got started?
Actually before Maroon I wrote another script in 2014 and one of the big studios was backing it at the time but due to their interference in the casting I had to take leave from the project.
Then it was very difficult, people here in Bombay they don’t entertain you, don’t trust you – why will they talk to me, why will they listen to my script? You go to a producer and they ask who is the actor? Then if you go to the actor he asks who is the producer? So independent directors are always in trouble.
So after writing the script of Maroon I narrated it to so many people, everyone loved it and they said ‘you should make it’ but no one actually stood by me. That’s the sad part.
But then Jyotsana was brave enough to come as producer and make this film happen because it was very important for me and Jyotsana to set an example – and we really did it without any compromise!
So after you wrote the screenplay of Maroon you were sure of Manav Kaul as the lead?
I approached Manav in 2014 with a different script of mine, a satire – controversial and dark. Manav said it will be difficult to get this film funded and even released and asked me to write something else instead. He even assured me that he won’t charge a single penny from me!
And then I wrote Maroon. The idea was there with me for some time and I wrote the full screenplay in just thirteen days! I was assisting a friend of mine who was in the hospital and there only I wrote my first draft. And on the 14th day I went back to Manav, narrated the script and he said ‘let’s do it’!
How difficult was it to shoot the entire film within the specific time and budget constraints?
We started preproduction in June and we finally shot Maroon in October 2015.
We didn’t have any production team and we didn’t even know much about production. So a friend of ours, Vivek Kajaria who is a well known Marathi film producer – I asked him for guidance and he came on-board. So we took an estimation of how much money we have in our hands and how many exact days can we shoot without compromising the film.
The good part was all my actors, be it Manav Kaul or Sumeet Vyas didn’t take any money from us. They just loved the script and said ‘we will make it’!
So we shot the entire film in 15 days without a break!
Everybody got so tired. And then again I wanted the film to be handheld and the Alexa camera is very heavy – so my DOP Soumik Mukherjee was drained and frustrated. For actors also, specially for Manav – what did go in favour of his performance was the actual lack of sleep which his character did require!
Three months of preproduction, fifteen days shoot, three months for sound and for music another four months!
Wow! So how did you plan out the sound design and music for Maroon?
The basic sound design of the film was there in my very first draft. Sound plays such a important role and I always wanted that sound should be the hero of my film. So yes Mandar Kulkarni did a great job.
And for the music Sagar Desai came on-board only after the edit of the film. When I met Sagar I asked him to see the rough cut without sound, without music and asked for his suggestions. And he was so excited and came up with so many ideas – I really liked his excitement.
And lastly Pulkit, now that you have made your film and I am sure you will keep making many more and keep inspiring us, which are the directors who inspired you?
Till 10th, 12th standard I didn’t have much exposure to films. While in Lucknow I started watching a bit of Hollywood films for the first time.
And then of course after coming to Bombay I started watching the so called classics. The first film that really inspired me was A Short Film About Killing by Krzysztof Kieslowski. Then I watched films of David Fincher, David Lynch and Hitchcock. I am always attracted towards dark kind of cinema because I really feel we all have a dark side that we tend to hide from everybody. And I know every one loves to watch dark films.
Thank you so much Pulkit for sharing your journey with us!
Most welcome (smiles). Will you have some tea?