In conversation with Raj Singh Chaudhury, the director of the Netflix film Thar on the making of the film, being a director for the first time, getting Anil Kapoor and Harsh Varrdhan for the film and more.
It is not easy to be a director and being a first-time director, the pressure on your shoulders is even more. Raj Singh Chaudhury, director of Thar wanted to tell a story of Rajasthan in the manner of a western narrative. Set in the 1980s, Thar traces the journey of Siddharth (Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor) through a remote village in Rajasthan that has recently been rocked by a series of violent killings. Anil Kapoor plays the role of a cop Surekha Singh, who investigates these murders. Raj Singh Chaudhury says being a director is not an easy task even if you don’t have the box office pressure on your shoulders, the movie needs to be received well by the audience. Excerpts from the interview:
How did the idea of Thar come to you? Was it an inspiration?
I had this story playing in my mind for a very long time. The two things that are important to making a film, one is what you want to say and the other is how you want to say it. I wanted to say it in a very unique way and since my childhood days, I have loved watching western films. I belong to this part of Rajasthan that is being shown in the film and landscape-wise and the faces of the local people are so similar to the western movies that we have seen. I wanted to tell this story of Rajasthan and at the same time, we wanted to put together this western look by very organically fitting into Rajasthan. And that is how Thar came into being.
Being a director or the captain of the crew is not an easy ride…
It is a difficult task to be a director. And even putting the film together and getting money to make it even tougher. To make a film with Netflix and Anil Kapoor producing it was a huge responsibility for me. Being a new director, to be honest on the first two days of the shoot, I was slightly overwhelmed. We had worked so hard on the preproduction and I have been living with the thought of the film for a while so, slowly I got into the groove. It is a task to make a film and put it together and shoot it and then finally release it. And for a new director, it is also more challenging to get things right. There is a lot of responsibility on your shoulders as a director because so much money and effort have been put into the project. And my only worry was that I should not let Anil Kapoor down. True that there is no box office pressure, but the other pressure is the film should be well received and there is a lot at stake otherwise too.
On casting the father-son duo Anil and Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor, how did that happen?
Harsh was basically the first person to come on board for the film. When we were discussing the casting of the film, there is this character of Inspector Surekha Singh, and the picture that I had in mind, I felt Anil Kapoor fitted it perfectly. And he is a wonderful actor and I went up to him and asked him to read the script. He liked the script and the character.
I am a new director and he hasn’t seen any of my work as a director, so Harsh and I shot three scenes and showed it to him. He liked it and that’s how he came on board. He has the star power and fitted the role perfectly. It just happened that Harsh and Anil Kapoor are father and son, but they are true to their characters in the film.
How has OTT changed the life of new filmmakers?
OTT has honestly given everybody around a huge platform to showcase a lot of things. There are a lot of films that are not meant for theatres. And even the shows are brilliant on OTT. The quality of content has improved drastically with the coming of digital platforms. It also gives a lot of work to a lot of people in the industry. For example, Harsh Varrdhan’s Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, didn’t do well in theatres, but on Netflix, it has suddenly become a cult film. A lot of good directors and actors are on OTT because everybody knows that it is a huge platform to showcase your talent. And not just India, like for example Netflix is going to 190 countries where else will you find that. It also gives us, the content creators, a lot of freedom to do things that we want to do. It is a huge industry by itself creatively and economically.
Women’s roles are changing with the OTT boom, what do you have to say about this change?
In real life, there are so many powerful women and I am not talking of women who are known and in places of power, but if I give the example of Fatima’s character Chetna in Thar, I have seen village women who are stronger than the menfolk. They do housework, they work in the fields and they come back and do housework. I have seen women do all of that and they are very strong physically too. I know of a very wonderful lady called Anuradha Koirala from Nepal who rescued 30, 00 traffic children. And when you meet her, it is like you are meeting somebody divine. So, all across if you look around there are so many powerful real women. It is just looking around for these women and putting them on celluloid.
What do you have to say about the popularity of South Indian films?
A film is a film be it in any language. I think the accessibility is there and the audience will like a film with a good story in any language. I feel this is just the beginning of the intermingling of the south and the Hindi film industry.
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