National Award winning filmmaker Onir, known for helming independent films, says the nature of struggle has changed for small budget movies, but the challenges haven’t vanished altogether. “Earlier, the merit of the film used to speak for itself, along with the word of mouth. But now the fate of a film depends on its first weekend performance. We are competing with big studio films, star-driven films at the multiplexes. We are fighting with publicity, marketing and the new practice of media net.
“Earlier, making a film was expensive, and now releasing it is. So our struggle has changed, not stopped,” Onir told IANS in an interview.
The filmmaker made his debut as a director in 2005 with My Brother… Nikhil, and went on to make Bas Ek Pal and an anthology like I Am that captured a range of social issues. He has a knack for telling tales on issues of concern, and has delved into subjects like AIDS, single motherhood, displacement, child abuse and same-sex relationships via his movies.
Around 13 years and seven films later, asked about what keeps him motivated to deal with the constant struggle, he said: “For me, a good story comes first, and good actors. I am not saying stars are not good actors. I have worked with some of the great female stars who are willing to experiment with their craft.
“But producers are interested to invest in a star, not on the script. So the struggle. But I will keep telling stories.” Onir has worked with some popular actresses Juhi Chawla, Urmila Matondkar, Manisha Koirala and Radhika Apte. On whether he ever foresees himself making a film with a superstar like Shah Rukh Khan, Onir said: “I think they do not want to work with me… (laughing).
“Jokes apart, I can see myself working with Shah Rukh Khan in future. I have admired him in all kind of films, whether it is ‘Yes Boss’, ‘Chak De! India’ or ‘Swades’. No one can romance the way Shah Rukh does.
“Of course now things have changed. Now I cannot make a love story with Shah Rukh, but if the right script comes my way, we will hopefully work together.” Most of Onir’s films are critically acclaimed and have received good reviews, and according to him, such things really work for smaller films.
“For films like ours, which are neither star-driven, nor big budget, what brings people in the theatre are good reviews. If people are talking about the film, and it is getting positive reviews and praise from influential people of the fraternity, people get interested to watch them. So, reviews matter to us.” He feels happy that there are universities and film museums in the US that have archived his films.
“In fact, the Museum of Houston will host a week-long programme where they will screen my films ‘Shab’, ‘I Am’, ‘My Brother… Nikhil’ and will have a discussion in the month of May. I am happy and feel content about such things.”