Our guest director Sanjay Gupta entered the venue to the soundtrack of his own film. The audience gave him a warm welcome as he walked in to the tune of ‘Jaane kya hoga Rama re.’ Prophetic words they turned out to be. ‘Gupta’, as the industry calls him, spoke about his career and the industry with such candour that it made for a particularly riveting session.
The self-confessed ‘ hardcore Bandra boy’ Gupta spoke about his beginning and his determination to be a filmmaker. He said, “Not many people know that my father has produced two films – Parwaana and Manzil – with Mr Bachchan. But he didn’t know it when I started assisting. I was a state level cyclist in school. After my tenth standard exams, I saw Pankaj Parashar talking to Mazhar Khan and kept cycling round and round the building till they finished their long conversation. I went up to Pankaj and said that I want to assist you.”
After attending college, Gupta would assist on the sets. He said, “My father caught me and asked me why are you doing this? He wasn’t approving of it initially. So I asked him, ‘Would you rather I go to college and hang out on the streets with the kids and crash out or work?’ This was around 1984. I was an assistant for five years and moved into post production and editing.”
Conversation inevitably veered towards original content and how he got flak for his ‘inspired’ films. He said, “I don’t give a damn about the media. I’ll use the media to promote my films. When I made Aatish, Khalid Mohamed wrote a long review. The film had MTV-style editing, experimented with background music and special effects that started a new way of making films. ‘Gupta frames his close-ups well’, that’s all Khalid had to say. Ram Shastra, which was possibly my shittiest film, released later. ‘Gupta shows remarkable growth as a director’ Khalid said about it. ‘What is wrong with you?’ I thought.” And that made Gupta bulletproof as far as the media was concerned.
He talked about Zinda and Kaante as the films were said to be inspired from the Korean film Oldboy and Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs respectively. “It’s not where you take it from, it’s about where you take it to,” he said. “Reema Kagti had made a comment about me in a newspaper and said Kaante is copied frame-to-frame. I said let’s sit down and I’ll tell you where your films are coming from.”
He went on to explain, “For somebody to get a break at 22 was unheard of. You need the star or you will not get the budget. But from now on, I’m not going to make an unofficial remake, I’m making an official remake.”
A session that was truly revealing and Sanjay Gupta was perhaps the most candid guest we have featured on the show. He fielded our host Indu Mirani’s questions with candour and honesty, and that is one of the hallmarks of The Boss Dialogues sessions – you’ll never hear them say it like it is anywhere else.