Raj Kumar Gupta Curated

Indian film director and writer

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This profile has been added by users(CURATED) : Users who follow Raj Kumar Gupta have come together to curate all possible video, text and audio interview to showcase Raj Kumar Gupta's journey, experiences, achievements, advice, opinion in one place to inspire upcoming directors. All content is sourced via different platforms and have been given due credit.

  • Do you see the story as a member of the audience first?

    No – as a human being. If I am able to connect with the emotion in the story then other people will also be able to connect. At that moment, I don’t know if the film will be made. Whether it can be made. Whether I can cast it and get a producer on board. So the audience doesn’t come to my mind. The audience comes to my mind once the film gets made. The only thing I think about is how would another human being react to this story, this emotion, that’s how filmmaking starts for me.

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  • How have you changed as a director throughout your career?

    Filmmaking has changed. Digital has come in. The kind of opportunities that are there have also changed. When I did my first film, it was a small film that really worked and inspired a lot of filmmakers to also make small films. For some reason, there was a gap between 2010 and 2013, but now small films are being made again. It’s a form of telling your story in limited space and time. There are people who believe in short films and put money in them. And there are people who like to watch them. The audience wants good content. As far as I’m concerned, all my films have been different and the audience has been receptive of them. There’s not been much change in terms of approach. Everybody always wanted to make a good film. But changes have taken place in the platforms. Things have become aggressive. But also more professional. The digital platform has come in so there’s a lot of opportunity for somebody young who wants to start out and do different stuff. Not just filmmakers but also cinematographers, music directors, everybody for that matter. However, from an emotional point of view, I’m hoping that the passion for telling a story remains the same. As a filmmaker, as a director, it’s always about telling that one story that you always wanted to. And I’m hoping people continue to work hard on direction and that never changes.

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  • How difficult is it to shoot in real locations with a Bollywood star? 

    It depends on the passion of the actor.  Shooting in real locations is not about the take you want, it's about what you get on the day and making sure that's what you wanted.

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  • What was the research process for India’s Most Wanted?

    It took me three years to write this film and one to make it. The research started with articles and reports of what had happened. Many reports about the same incident were contradictory, so I had to verify everything. I hit a dead-end at one point. However, because of my investment in the story, new leads kept coming up and I spoke to several people who gave me the material I needed.

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  • You have said that there is an emotional cost to recreating emotions on film. Please explain.

    Many times you write the scene and then come on set, and say let’s do this. What happens is that you are living that moment, as it may have happened. For example, in No One Killed Jessica (2011, about the Jessica Lal murder case), you are living the emotion of something that happened to someone. It's not easy to recreate those emotions and you cannot be disassociated from them either. While recreating the blast sequences in India’s Most Wanted, one is aware of the responsibility and that there are people who have experienced this in reality. As a filmmaker, you get visuals in your head and suddenly, you become numb. There is empathy and then you get depressed also, but you cannot be so deeply affected otherwise how will you bring an objective perspective. That's the emotional cost and that responsibility constantly plays on your mind. It takes me one year to make a film, but while making it, I think I aged by two and a half years.

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  • Is it easier to do a true-life story than create something fictional?

    Not at all. In fiction, there are many things you can get away with. In terms of representation on screen, both are difficult but in fiction, there is still some leeway in terms of the commercial factor that we have attached to our films. When making a film inspired by true events, there is a thin line. You either go in the direction where the cinema is too real, or you go the other way where you have diluted that reality. So you have to find that fine balance while keeping in mind that you want certain cinematic elements introduced. In other words, it's not easy making any film!

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  • What is the challenge of writing a story that straddles the line between fact and fiction?

    When you are writing something inspired by real life, there are a few important things to consider: to bring in a certain sensitivity and responsibility to the material and to the people involved and, as a filmmaker, to maintain a certain integrity to the subject. With respect to India’s Most Wanted, I cannot quantify how much is fact and how much fiction, but I would say it is inspired by real life event and what you see will not be incredulous. Of course, for cinematic purposes, you bring in some dramatic moments and fill in some blanks. The truth is that reality is stranger than fiction. I gravitate to these stories because they give me a sense of reality and keep me connected to the world I am living in. 

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  • What attracted you to the story of ‘India’s Osama’ and his arrest?

    What struck me most was how five men, who captured this most wanted terrorist without firing a single bullet, pursued a man who was responsible for the death of so many people. It sounded a little unbelievable and interesting. When you start thinking about how true it is and start peeling off layers, getting details through research, you realise what they pulled off. I had to build on the narrative by creating scenarios of their personal journeys to give some emotional connect. As a filmmaker, I do need to understand this. But it does not mean I need to show these things in the film. I do need to make their world believable and for that, I need to be accurate with mannerisms, behaviour with one another, and the world they inhabit.

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  • Most your films have been thrillers. What’s with the fascination with this genre?

    It’s something that comes naturally to me and is not genre-specific. Yes, Aamir, No One Killed Jessica, Ghanchakkar, Raid, India’s Most Wanted are high on thrills, and drama and humour too. Every film has different moments and I approach them in a way that all the elements come together in a thrilling manner. 

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  • Do you have plans to turn producer with a feature film this year? 

    I produced Aaba, Amar’s short film which bagged the Special Jury Prize at the Berlin International Festival and the National Film Award for Best Short Fiction Film. There was so much passion behind the film and I am fortunate to have been associated with it. This is what makes me a content filmmaker. I look at my journey one film at a time. The idea now is to promote newer talent and I will be producing two-three projects, some of which will mark the debut of my assistants soon.

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  • With ‘Raapchik Films’, you have also turned producer with India’sMost Wanted, it’s been quite a long journey from Aamirto India’s Most Wanted. What are the new responsibilities or new challenges that you have to take as a producer?

    I think me and my partner Myra under ‘Raapchik Films’ have co-produced India’s Most Wanted with Fox Star Studios. I think I am primarily a writer and director. I firstly look at myself as that. The rest of the producer responsibilities are shouldered by my partner Myra. I think challenges for me are the same. Because for me it is more about how I don’t want to compromise on that vision. That is why I let my partner take the producer’s responsibilities. I concentrate on writing and direction. But again there are challenges, you become more responsible in terms of how you perceive things. But having said I do not compromise my vision as a writer-director. I would like to say I am a writer-director in that sense, rest of the responsibilities are handled by my team and my partner.

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  • Do you find it difficult as a director to shoot scripts that have not been written by you?

    You know when you’re writing a film, you are visualising it. Both writing and direction have their own challenges, but when you are directing a film you have written, you have already visualised it once. So, you’re pretty much clear in your head in terms of what you see. Although I must tell you that when you’re writing, it’s still within the confines of four walls and you have imagined a space. But I think when you’re writing it you are already picturing it, the film. So, in that sense,it is more organic. But, when you are taking someone else’s script and reading it, of course it takes time to internalise it. There is something already on paper, that has been written in a certain way. As a director, it’s also challenging, and I love to take that challenge because a lot of times as a filmmaker you are writing and directing, so the process is that you live the film once, then you live the film twice when you are directing it, then you live it thrice when you are at the editing table, where as when you direct a script written by someone else it’s still fresh.

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  • What are the factors you think of while choosing between a real location versus a set, and what makes you favour a real location instead of a set?

    I think there’s no substitute to a real location. From my first film onwards, like if you see Aamir I have always loved the energy that a real location gets you, the imperfectness that the real location gets you when you’re shooting, because nothing is under your control. It’s not that you don’t get what you want, you get what you get. And in that getting you have to make sure that you’ve got what you wanted. I always get charged when I have to shoot in a real location, and I am very dull when I have to shoot in a studio or a space which I am not used to, which doesn’t give me a sense of reality. A lot of times you would see that the shot might not look perfect but that is what makes that frame special, that is what makes that scene special for me and that is why I always prefer it.

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  • The look of your films always complements the world that it is set in, the cinematography does not overwhelm the narrative or the story that is being told. Is that a conscious choice to not make your film overtly “beautiful”.

    My films are more real, rooted in reality and I don’t want the cinematography to stand out. As far as I go, for me good cinematography is when no one is pointing out what how great the camera work of a certain film is. I need cinematography that’s close to reality, a lot of times there may be frames which are not very finely composed but that’s life, it’s not finely composed, and finely coloured all the time. So that’s what I keep in mind whenever I do films, the cinematography shouldn’t stand out, it should seamlessly blend in.

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  • Do you think your forte lies in doing films which are based on real events, and which draw a certain inspiration from reality?

    I won’t say it is my forte, I guess I try to make films about something that touches me, something that inspires me. Maybe emotionally, intellectually, something that I have read or seen or could be real or is real. I want to try and tell stories, write stories and direct stories that inspire me. It might not be something that has made a big headline, but something even small, something that has an emotional connect to it. Something which makes me feel that this could happen in this world, the world that we live in, the people that I meet, the situation that I could have been in as a human being. So those are the things that give me a sense of reality, gives me a sense of identification with these characters.

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  • Looking back do you accept the main criticism a lot of people had with Raid, which is the songs there were not well placed?

    The thing is when you are shooting the film, you don’t try to force anything into it. What you try to do is to bring in certain elements, so the songs while we were shooting it were not meant to forced into the narrative but when one looks at it in retrospect because many a time one loses perspective since you are too close to things, so looking at it in retrospect, I would say that I should have paid more attention to that.

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  • How do you ensure yourself against getting into a controversy when you’re making a film which is based on real events?

    The idea is to make a film... the inspiration comes from incidents, and one tries to be true to it. You’re not thinking about what could get you into a controversy or what could not get you into a controversy. What you are thinking about is the true nature of the event that you are inspired by, and you try and be as true to the event, as true to the subject as true to the people involved in that telling of the story. And apart from that being in the zone that the film is in, it should have that representation of the reality or the sense of the space that it is in. As you know, we have become so hypersensitive that anything can be said or politicised. But as a filmmaker, as a storyteller you have been inspired by something and then you are trying to tell that story. That is what runs through your mind, nothing more than that.

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  • Given how much national sentiment recent films centering around our armed or police forces have generated, do you have to be careful in your depiction of them and how they are shown in your film? Do you give them too much credit, or do you downplay their role?

    I am just trying to give them due credit. Because that is something they have never asked for. Forget the forces, but even in any other area of life, whether at home, or office, it would be nice to be credited for a job well done. A cricketer scores a century and the whole country is singing praises. Why not praise someone who has saved lives and put their lives on line to do it? They are playing a match every day and they cannot lose. It becomes all the more important to give them due credit.

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  • How do you retain authenticity and realism in a fictional film?

    The one thing I try and do is to write the film. The second thing is to be sensitive to the subject. There are people involved in the real-life event, and one has to respect their sentiments. When you are adding fictional elements to that, it has to co-exist with the real story. You can do something to make it more dramatic, or bring in elements that are not there, but it is important to me that you marry them seamlessly.

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  • Are Indian audiences increasingly drawn to true-crime stories?

    I have always been drawn to these stories. I cannot do something where there is no sense of reality, to set a film in a world that may never exist. I have no problem with people who can do it because they might understand that world. I don’t. For me, the basic understanding of the people that inhabit the film, and how they live, speak etc., is very important.

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  • How important is it to keep some mystery and suspense before the release of a movie?

    It is not easy to decide what you want to give away or what you want to hold back. But when you are promoting and marketing a film, it is not just about your input. There is a team involved. Which is also right, because sometimes, as a film-maker you can lose perspective in terms of what can work for it. What I have learned in the five films that I made is that people want to see a truncated version of the film in your trailer. That is my effort, and I tell the marketing team that we should not lie to the audience about what our film is.

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  • Your view on content being recognised in bollywood.

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  • How do you deal with pressure in bollywood?

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  • How do you deal with pressure in bollywood?

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