That Sohum Shah believes in putting his money where his mouth is, is amply demonstrated by the latest announcement from his production company Recyclewala Films. On October 15, the company embarked on the Recyclewala Story Search 2015, which seeks interesting stories from every part of India and incubate them in order to produce original screenplays, with the possibility of making them into films. Shah says, “Whatever films we have made at Recyclewala films first came to us as ideas, and then we nurtured them into good screenplays. This has shown us that there are a lot of ideas brewing in this country and that there is a lot of storytelling talent out there. The trouble is that most of them don’t know how to go from the idea stage to the screenplay stage, and this is what we want to help them with.”
As part of the incubation, the selected writers will be given Rs 5 lakh each, so that they are not bothered by mundane worries like bills and rents, says Shah. The atmosphere will be “judgement-free” and the production house is willing to risk the possibility that some of the selected ideas may not come to fruition as completed screenplays. “As an actor, I know what it’s like to be sensitive, especially if you’re new. If you want to do something, you need a space that is safe and without judgement.”
The Story Search is part of what Shah has done since he acted in and produced Anand Gandhi’s Ship of Theseus. He says that he doesn’t go by labels and is very open to working even in “mainstream” films, since he is only driven by his desire to work in movies with a good, strong script. This was what attracted him to the Meghna Gulzar-directed Talvar too, he says. “I saw that the script authored by Vishal Bhardwaj was very strong and engaging, and Meghna Gulzar’s research was superb. She knew the case inside-out.” It was also difficult to resist the chance to work with Bhardwaj and Irrfan Khan, he says.
Shah’s work in Talvar, in particular, has drawn a lot of praise and he says he’s delighted when people tell him that they couldn’t tell it was him in the film. “So many people have said that even after the film ended, they didn’t realise that it was the same guy who was in Ship of Theseus,” he says, “That’s a huge compliment, because the two characters of Navin (Ship of Theseus) and Vendant (Talvar) are complete opposites.”
Shah will next be seen in Gandhi’s “epic film” which is set in 1920, playing the lead.