In the recently released short film The Affair (produced by Drishyam), we see a man and a woman on Mumbai’s iconic Marine Drive. They, like many other couples in the city, had chosen that particular spot to hug and kiss freely, away from prying eyes.
This observant and touching tale about the lack of personal space in Mumbai has 300,000 views on YouTube and counting. This is director Hardik Mehta’s fifth short film. In 2015, he made Skin Deep which was part of an anthology called Chaar Cutting. In the same year, Mehta also won the National Award for his documentary, Amdavad Ma Famous – a fantastic report of a young boy who bunks school to fly kites. The documentary is available for streaming on Netflix.
An engineer by qualification, Mehta has been juggling jobs in the film industry for a while now. He’s been a script supervisor on films like Lootera and Queen, an assistant director to Dev Benegal, Vikramaditya Motwane and Vikas Bahl, and recently co-wrote Motwane’s survival thriller Trapped.
Mehta is currently looking for producers for his feature film and is on the writing team for an Amazon Prime Video show. Here he tells us about his biggest learnings as a filmmaker, making films for a digital audience and future plans.
You worked as a dairy and food technology engineer, what made you take the leap and pursue filmmaking?
It’s the same story as most other engineers. It was never satisfying. There were a lot of prospects in that industry, especially for a Gujju boy like me. But I wanted to be able to look in the mirror and be happy. So I started by joining an ad agency as a copywriter since I thought ads also use a type of filmmaking. And eventually I left that to do this.
You’ve been a script supervisor on films like Queen and Lootera. What is the role of a script supervisor?
I have to thank Dev Benegal sir for teaching me script supervision when I worked with him on Road, Movie. Since the film was being shot on 35mm, I used to make sure the film roll didn’t roll out during a take. I was in charge of timing rehearsals, keeping a track of how much coverage for a scene was being done from different angles. He also taught me the basics Final Cut Pro and using the footage that was shot on that day to make a scene out.
In an interview you said that director Vikramaditya Motwane taught you the difference between a director and filmmaker. What did you mean?
A director comes on set and says yeh shot le lo and yeh karo and then leaves. A filmmaker imposes himself on his material. It’s like the auteurship that Godard and Truffaut spoke about. A filmmaker is there throughout the duration of the making of the film. Everything is a product of his vision.
You’ve been on the sets of great films like Lootera and Queen. What’s the single biggest practical tip you’ve picked up over the years?
Discipline. We’re not like architects or space research scientists doing the world a great favour. We’re privileged to be able to spend so much money to tell our stories. A lot of people are giving you their time, resources and money and you need to respect that.
You’ve made 5 short films and a documentary – do you see these forms of filmmaking as an end unto itself or a stepping stone to Bollywood films?
There are so many filmmakers who have made only short films. People like Daniel Mulloy and Spanish filmmaker Juanjo Giménez Peña are making short films even today. So I definitely don’t think it’s a stepping stone. Some stories lend themselves to this medium. And if the story is bad, at least a short film is less boring than a full length feature film!
We’re not like architects or space research scientists doing the world a great favour. We’re privileged to be able to spend so much money to tell our stories
Your short film The Affair has got 300k views on YouTube and counting. Are streaming platforms the new way for young filmmakers to reach an audience? Does that satisfy the artist in you?
Definitely. It’s a great feeling to know that your work has reached so many people. 5 years ago, who would have even thought about it? These films would stream at NCPA, Prithvi Theatre and then you’d get a call from a professor in Sophia College who would say, “We would like to screen your film,” and that’s it. My documentary Amdavad Ma Famous that streams on Netflix is reaching 192 countries in 26 languages!
What are you working on next?
I’ve written a feature film so I’m hoping The Affair will help me find producers who would be interested in making it. I’m also on the writers team with people like Sudip Sharma for an upcoming Amazon show being produced by Anushka Sharma and directed by Navdeep Singh. It’s an investigative noir-ish thriller that I think hasn’t really been done before so I’m really excited for it.