Amar Kaushik: ‘The Future of Small Films is Very Bright’

From Stree to Bala to Bhediya, Kaushik’s filmography shows a love for quirky characters. His new film is Chor Nikal ke Bhaga
Amar Kaushik: ‘The Future of Small Films is Very Bright’
Amar Kaushik: ‘The Future of Small Films is Very Bright’

In Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga, Yami Gautam Dhar plays a flight attendant, who along with her boyfriend, plans to carry out a heist 40,000 feet in the air. Their plan goes terribly awry when the plane is hijacked. The film is directed by Ajay Singh and is written by Siraj Ahmed and Amar Kaushik, who has also produced the film along with Dinesh Vijan. In an interview with Film Companion, Kaushik said that years ago, he was set to mark his debut as a feature film director with this film, which was called ‘Barah’ initially. “I really think he made the film better than I would have, had I directed it,” Kaushik said of Singh’s direction in Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga.  

Kaushik made his debut with Stree (2018), which he admits he was initially sceptical about. “I thought I should be making my debut with a hard-hitting kind of film to make my mark as a director,” he said. Over time though, his interest in the fantastical has only intensified, and central to all his stories are the characters who make the magic happen. Kaushik spends plenty of time thinking about them. “ It makes me happy to think that just as I am moving ahead in my journey, they must be too,” he said. The filmmaker, who went on to direct Bala (2019), which is about a man dealing with premature balding, and Bhediya (2022), featuring Hindi cinema’s latest werewolf, also discussed what he thinks the future of small-budget films is, and said that ultimately, “filmmaking is not mathematics”. 

Here are edited excerpts from the interview:

How was the story for Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga conceived? 

It was the year 2012 or 2013. I met a writer called Siraj Ahmed. He came up to me with a script called 'Barah' (12) which he wanted to make. I read the script and thought it was a great idea and started working on it. Then its title changed to Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga. It became a very tight thriller. I wanted to direct this film as my debut, but somehow it didn't work out at that time. I went on to make my short film called Aaba (2017) and then I moved to my first film, Stree but this story was always there with me. I asked Siraj to go ahead and make Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga whenever he wanted to. As luck would have it, Siraj came to Maddock (Films) to pitch the script, and I got excited again for this film. This time I wanted to produce it along with Dinoo (Dinesh Vijan). We assigned a new director – Ajay Singh. Ajay and I worked as assistant directors (AD) on Aamir (2008), Ajay was the second AD (assistant director), and I was the third AD. We have been good friends since then. I always give my scripts to him to doctor. We had written Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga from our perspective, but when Ajay came on board, he wanted to change a few things and he made the film his own. That's how the film came into being.

Was there a particular part that you enjoyed writing?

It was a rollercoaster ride from day one. Every page, every motion, and every scene is something which I'm very excited about. There is no such specific scene or situation. But yes, the pre-climax is something which I'm very excited about.

Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga

Can you tell me about your relationship with Maddock Films and Dinesh Vijan?

Maddock Films and I are like a family now. For me, I come from one home to work at another home. That’s the feeling and love I have for Maddock. Maddock, as a production house, gives a lot of freedom to its directors and I really respect that about this place. Dinoo is like my elder brother who is now my friend, philosopher and guide. Apart from producing my films, I need Dinoo to keep correcting me when I get carried away. Touch-wood, the rapport and the understanding I share with Dinoo is very precious to me.

What is it that you are looking for in a story?

My characters are key and need to have personalities that make them memorable. The way I think is, “Is my character funny enough? Is my character quirky or charming? Will people enjoy watching this character on screen?” For me, the audience should remember Bala instead of Ayushmann (Khurrana), Pari instead of Yami (Gautam Dhar), Vicky instead of Rajkummar (Rao), and Bhediya in place of Varun (Dhawan).


What makes a small-budget film work?

Story is the basic foundation. Stories can be simple yet great or complicated yet captivating. But how you are telling your story (and) deciding its treatment is critical and that’s why the screenplay is the most important part of filmmaking. In my opinion, filmmaking is more a craft than an art. There is nothing called a ‘small film’ for me. Every film I watch should entertain me and give me something to take away – whether a thought, memories, smiles or emotions. I’ve been watching Malayalam films like Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hai (2022), and Love Today (2022). These films are made on small budgets but the way they are telling the story, building their characters and keeping the audience hooked is something that makes any film, any story, great!

What is the future of small-budget films?

Very good! The future of these films, that we called ‘small films’ is very bright. Smaller films have helped us discover some amazing new talent, including actors, directors and technicians in the past and will continue to do so in future. Now, with the emergence of OTT platforms, smaller films have new avenues and routes to reach the audience. OTT platforms are welcoming to newer and out-of-the-box concepts too. That’s very encouraging for the filmmakers. I loved watching Monica, O My Darling (2022) and feel it’s an outstanding film. However, the discussions and speculations on what will work in theatres and what is apt for OTT are just useless. If it's a good film, it will be, remain and be remembered as a good film, irrespective of where you watched it. 


What about the future of off-beat, unusual stories?

If we stick to one formula always, it won't work. We have to keep on breaking the formulae in every film. Filmmaking is not mathematics and if we keep offering new formulae and concepts to the audience, they will appreciate it. 

What do you like most about world-building?

For me, creating worlds is always about characters. A lot of efforts go into building those characters and after two hours of the film, their existence ends. However, I am unable to forget them and think of those characters, like what must be my Vicky doing in life now? Did Bala grow hair or accept his baldness? Did he meet another Pari? If we ever make a sequel to these films, what would have happened since? It makes me happy to think that just as I am moving ahead in my journey, they must be too. As a kid, I used to think that we all are part of cinema and playing characters. Whatever we are doing, somebody must be watching our expressions, body language etc. Sounds crazy but I was crazy about films like that.

You’ve said horror isn't something that appealed to you as a movie-watcher. As a filmmaker, what about it was alluring?

Before Stree, I had hardly watched any horror movies and found horror movies very fake. I was naturally more attracted towards drama, thriller and comedy. However, now after watching some classic and well-made horror films, I'm more into the fantastical world and something which is unusual. The genre excites me now. I feel horror or supernatural or the unusual theme can be used as a fantastic storytelling tool. For example, Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022) is a simple mother-daughter story, but its beauty lies in the way the story is told and that makes the film very special. If in the trailer itself, the idea feels different, the cinema-lover in me gets excited.

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