“Big screens were the only way to watch films… now, of course, the same films are available but I don’t think my assistants have watched anything beyond K3G (Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, 2001), so it’s scary. A film becomes retro in five years now,” said filmmaker Sriram Raghavan, recalling how director Ram Gopal Varma once told him that he had never watched a black-and-white film.
Sriram and his writer-brother Shridhar were guests at the Express Adda in New Delhi on Monday. The two spoke to The Indian Express Deputy Editor Seema Chishti and Film Critic Shubhra Gupta on a range of subjects, from depicting crime on screen to choosing stories over stars to Bollywood closing ranks on #MeToo.
With their twist-in-the tale and dark humour, Sriram and Shridhar have helmed many of Indian cinema’s most gripping narratives. While Sriram has directed films like Ek Hasina Thi (2004), Johnny Gaddaar (2007), Agent Vinod (2012), Badlapur (2015), and last year’s runaway hit Andhadhun, Shridhar has written films such as Khakee (2004) and Apaharan (2005) and popular TV series Aahat and CID.
The brothers’ love for cinema blossomed in their growing up years in Pune, where they lived between two theatres, Apollo and Alankar. Sriram went on to join the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). “I graduated from FTII in the late ‘80s. At that time, there was only Doordarshan. And I was trained to look down on television,” he said.
But in the ’90s satellite-TV era, he said, “I would do an episode only to take care of myself for the next three months, but Shridhar has done a fantastic body of work in TV.” CID wrapped up two weeks ago after a 21-year run. “Actually, 25,” said Shridhar. “It took four years for it to come on air…we were there at the beginning of the so-called satellite wave,” he said.
So, what made the two turn to crime for stories? As youngsters who grew up on a steady diet of Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie, James Hadley Chase, Raymond Chandler and James M Cain, mining crime for content was a natural progression.
The two also answered questions on #MeToo in Bollywood, with Sriram calling consent not a line but a “ big fat grey area”. “It is great because it is making the workplace safer. At the same time, accusation may not be the same as indictment,” said Shridhar.
On Bollywood’s refusal to speak on issues, Sriram said one should engage in a discussion but “you can’t thrust a mike in front of someone” when he/ she is promoting a film.