Many a times in airports, railway stations and restaurants, people have walked up to Amit Sharma asking him why he has been staring at them. Sharma ends up doing this almost inadvertently in public spaces — observing people around him.
Being a filmmaker, he says, there are stories he can draw from real life. Sharma recollects a scene from an airport in France like he is narrating a scene from his script — where a black guy and a Caucasian girl refused to leave each other’s arms while saying goodbye. “It’s in places like these where you witness stories. There are all kinds of people, with contrasting emotions. Some may be happy, others sad,” he says.
In the advertising world, Sharma is a star filmmaker with a showreel studded with blockbuster commercials — think back to the Google reunion ad featuring two childhood friends divided by Partition of India and Pakistan; or the ‘Silent National Anthem’ campaign featuring hearing and speech-impaired children that won a silver at the world’s biggest advertising awards Cannes Lions 2011. Sharma, along with his two partners, runs Chrome Pictures, a production house that has some of the most reputed brands and agencies as their clientele.
But it’s been 10 months since Sharma shot a commercial. Currently he’s living his debut feature film ‘Tevar’, a remake of the Telugu film ‘Okkadu’. When we meet him at Clinton Cerejo’s studio at Juhu, Sharma is engrossed in the background score session of ‘Tevar’.
From the promos, ‘Tevar’ looks like a generic action fare but Sharma insists that the film has its heart in the right place. ‘Tevar’ was first offered to him by a newly-formed production house three years back but Sharma didn’t want to do a remake. But the central conceit — that of a guy who is a hero by chance and not by choice — stayed with him. When producer Bonny Kapoor approached him with the same idea again after one-and-a-half years, with Arjun Kapoor and Sonakshi Sinha already on board, he accepted it. “Tevar will be called a remake but it’s more like how I looked at the central idea of the original and made it my way,” says the 35-year-old from Delhi, “Arjun plays a normal guy minus any in-your-face heroism.”
Even though he is making a Bollywood potboiler, Sharma swears by realism. He shot ‘Tevar’ in Mathura and Agra. According to the filmmaker, the characters and the milieu make a film believable and Sharma has a history of going to extreme lengths to get it right. For instance, when they needed a monkey for an Idea commercial, he found out that it is illegal to shoot with the animal in India so he went to South Africa in search of the perfect monkey. “They have their rules there as well, where after every hour of shooting, the monkey had to be given a break of 40 minutes,” he remembers.
Sharma has tried to keep the action scenes, whether it’s the hand fights, car chases or climactic showdowns, in Tevar realistic. “I don’t understand all those gravity defying stunts we see in some of our movies,” says the filmmaker, who started his career assisting ad filmmaker Pradeep Sarkar.
He recalls one of his first shoots in Himachal Pradesh where the sticker reading the brand’s name couldn’t be made to face the camera. Sarkar apparently asked someone to get a strand of a local woman’s hair and had it tied to the sticker in a way without the hair being caught on camera. “I was immediately intrigued by the whole act. It was magical,” he says.
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