Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Dear Ma, 

   … this is the only picture I have of you. I’m sorry it’s old and faded. But your memory lives on forever in my heart. 

You named me ‘Aladin’ but I don’t even remember what it felt like to hear you call me by my be scolded by you, to be told by you that everything will be alright, to be told to go to school and do my homework and eat my food on time and I...wish you were here to tell me everything will be alright. 

Wish I could wish you in person today.

Miss you…

Tell dad also that I love him and miss him.



Thursday, May 7, 2009

'Aladin' Genesis - Part 5 - Ringmaster Arrives...


I get invited to the screening of a film. For the first time in my life, I am seeing a film before its release. And here I meet for the first time, Sanjay Gupta, one of my favourite directors and a fine technician. The man who taught me that it’s always good to start with a poster when you are staring at a gaping blank wall. 



For the first time I am seeing an actual film shoot, and that too in Mumbai. Gupta is shooting ‘Jung’ and I have gone to meet him. Inside the studio there is a set - of a cage - in which two men are going to fight. Reminds me of ‘Naseeb’. Gupta is a little hassled, as he needs more extras. More spectators to surround the cage. He talks to his producer on the phone while I stand on one side.  

And it’s only then that I see a huge man walking towards the entrance to the floor (that’s what a film set is called in industry parlance: floor - NV). There is a unique swagger to his walk. It’s evening, dark and his cigarette floats in the air ahead of him as he emerges from the shadows and into the light. A couple of men besides him. For the first time I see Sanjay Dutt, in the flesh. He speaks to Gupta and leaves. 

At that point in time he doesn’t even know I exist.



My first day of shoot with Duttsaab. He gets out of his van and swaggers towards the same entrance. The cigarette floats in the exact same spot. Except it’s day and not dark. Everybody on set stands up. 

Ringmaster has arrived.


After my first draft of ‘Aladin’ fell flat on its face I revisited the script and the biggest flaw I found, apart from few hundred others, was Gamal, my main villain. The dude was only wrecking havoc on earth because my pen allowed him. Aladin really didn’t need the help of the all powerful Genie to bring Gamal down. A few strategic slaps and maybe even I could have brought Gamal down. So goodbye Gamal. Back to the drawing board.

I wanted to create a fun, evil character. A man who is happy in what he is doing. A man who is good at being bad. A man who doesn’t need to do twenty thousand bad things to prove how evil he is. A man whose smile would scare the living daylights out of you. A man so big that even the all powerful Genie would be rendered helpless in front of him. 

And Ringmaster was born. The happy face of evil personified. He wasn’t always bad. He was once a Genie but his powers were taken away from him. He tried to reason, he tried to say that he only used his own powers for himself because he had to… but no one listened. The laws are strict in the land of the Genies. A Genie can only use his powers to serve his master

. Nothing else.

Nobody saw Ringmaster’s desperation or heard his plea. And now Ringmaster is not going to see or hear anything. He is going to find the lamp, kill the owner, get his powers back and destroy everything. And he is a fair man. If Genius and Aladin think they can stop him, they are welcome to try. But it’s party time for Ringmaster!



I finish an almost 3 hour narration with Sir. This is my revised and seriously worked upon script. I have let the juice flow on this one. No holds barred. When I wrote I couldn’t give a monkey’s bottom what was possible and what was not. I didn’t care how much it would cost. The goal was to create serious dope on paper which will take the audience on their biggest high ever. I even storyboarded what seemed impossible on paper to help me visualise. And thank god I did.

After the narration the first thing Sir said.. after a long pause and I remember it verbatim.. ‘…its going to be a nightmare to make this film but lets make it…’ YES. 

Second sentence “But who will play Ringmaster? Who CAN play Ringmaster”



I am in the best gym in the world(no really.. I kid you not) .. Duttsaab comes in and calls me. He asks me that if I could write something for him and this new kid who he is really very fond of. 

“Bro write something good for me and Ritesh” I agree. And then Duttsaab asks me his much-asked question: “Bro whats happening to Borivali? When are we doing that?”


APRIL 2005

My Dad decides to take off upstairs. Like any other responsible dad he decides to go ahead to check out everything and make sure everything is in place when we arrive. It’s not a good time. Borivali was still stuck because of budget and I needed another actor who could stand up to Sir. But it was a very dark and disturbing role. Not many wanted to do that role. 

At the same time ‘Home Delivery’ was suppose to happen later that year and I was panicking big time because I had no cameraman. I was up shit creek. Everything piled up at the same time. I was once skiming through a Bengali film “Swapner Ferrywalla” in which one frame caught my eye. The lighting  of the set was something I had never seen before. It was shot by an unknown cameraman called Sirsha Ray. I didn’t have time to go to Calcutta so I looked for a cameraman in Mumbai. I desperately needed help. Dad pulls his stunt on me and I have no option but to go to Calcutta. Sirsha Ray was my Dad’s parting gift to me.

When Gupta heard about Dad he called me up and somehow we got to speak about Borivali. “What about Sanju?” Gups said “Why haven’t you asked him? You meet him in the gym don’t you?” I did, but didn’t have the balls to ask him to do such a dark role. “Are you mad? Sanju is perfect. And no one but him has the guts to play this role...” Gups was confident. “You go to Cal and do your work peacefully. I’ll talk to Sanju”



Duttsaab is having a meeting at the coffee shop. Gups drag me there. I am genuinely nervous. He calls Duttsaab out. He comes and joins us. Gups tells  Duttsaab that I am in a bit of a problem and than can be solved if he did that role. 

“ Cool bro...I’ll do it”. 

That’s it. No script. No narration. All he needed to hear was that someone was in trouble and he can help that someone. Nothing else mattered. 

No heart gets bigger than this. He had to rush back to his meeting. As he was going, on his own he guides me: “Bro take a letter from will help you”. 

I still have that letter.




I tell Sir that the only person who can play Ringmaster is either Sir himself or Sanjay Dutt. “That’s it. Sunju is the only person.. where is he?” I have no clue where Duttsaab is. “Talk to him” Sir tells me. I prepare myself to talk to Duttsaab when I meet him in the gym that evening. But before I could tell him -

My mobile rings. Its Duttsaab. 

“Bro Amitji just called me.. he was damn excited.. what is this new movie we are doing now? And why haven’t YOU told me?” I try to explain that I was going to because I had no idea Sir was going to call. 

That evening I showed Duttsaab all my homework on Ringmaster and a storyboard of a Ringmaster sequence. He looks at everything and especially his getup and gives me his consent in 4 words. And this too I remember verbatim. 

“Keep the moustache Bro”. 


JULY 2007

Aladin prep is on full force. We are almost there. Duttsaab takes a sabbatical. Things are unclear. There are choices laid out in front of me. 

But I am clear about my choice. Aladin will only be made with Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt and Ritiesh Deshmukh. Else it will not be made. 

I wait. Happily. 

Rest, soon...

             - Sujoy

Saturday, May 2, 2009

'Aladin' genesis - Part 4

(The fascinating account of the genesis of 'Aladin' continues with Sujoy sharing some of his first concept drawings for the film when the project started, and was much different from the present 'Aladin' , as well as some home-made filmmaking gyaan...Note to readers: please ignore guffaws from Vishal Dadlani during the following narrative - NV)

How do I make a movie that has never been made before?

How do I brave the assessments of others when I make my intentions known? I mean,when Christopher Columbus said the World is ROUND… did everyone around the dinner table look at him and go “…Oh you donkey! What have you been drinking?”

Riteish (Deshmukh, not to be confused with Ritesh – Shah, my co-writer) had a simple solution: JUST WRITE IT.

WOW! What advice! That’s the solution I was lacking. My life wasn’t sad anymore. I didn’t need the last brownie on the dinner table.  Julia Roberts could have it for all I care!  NOT. Easier said than done. 

(Note to self: Never ask Ritiesh for a solution.)

I am not a trained filmmaker. (I can see Vishal Dadlani reading this and guffawing “Ya - we saw that in Home Delivery!” - ignore him.) I taught myself whatever that I know of filmmaking. I had to. I had no choice. 

For more than 2 years I knocked on every possible door - and I mean EVERY - with my script ‘Jhankaar Beats’. And when I finally found a producer I realized there was no one to direct it. I was offered the baton and I grabbed it without blinking an eyelid. At that point my knowledge of directing a film was a little less than that of assembling a nuclear missile. 

Satyajit Ray says our job as a director is to tell a story. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less. By that definition I am a storyteller. I am Mehmood in ‘Pyaar Kiye Jaa’. I am an alternative image of my grandmother who told me the most amazing stories when I was growing up. If I am able to captivate my audience like the way my grandmother held my attention then I am a capable director, else I have no business being in this industry.

So this is what I did:

I read as much as I could.  Novels, short stories, graphic novels, bog standard comics… caste creed religion no bar. I read.

I saw as many movies as possible. Apart from Sajid Khan, I can hold my fort on movies with most people.

I learnt to listen. To my editor, my art director, my cameraman… anybody and everybody who could teach me anything about films. 

And that’s exactly the path I have followed for 'Aladin'.

I saw every movie in the genre. You name it and I have seen it.  Every Ray, Spielberg, Zemekis, Jackson and the Joe Dantes of the world. Even Ridley Scott and Paul Verhoeven. Kissi ko nahi choda..  I devoured  them to learn how they told their story. And more importantly to make sure : whatever the audience has seen in those movies is not repeated in mine. 

I read all my graphic novels all over again. Fables, Sin Cities, Preachers, Runaways, Sandmans etc. etc. etc.  I read all the stories written by Satyajit Ray, Asimov, Bradbury, Philip K. Dick,  Sukumar Ray, Roald Dahl, Lewis Carol.. sab kuch.

And then I started to write ‘Aladin’ with Ritesh (Shah, my co writer, not Deshmukh)

And to charge us up, we made ourselves a poster. A visual really helps when you are staring from a gaping blank wall.

That’s my very first poster. It was done by my friend Sucharita who incidentally put all my concepts on paper.  

We then did one more iteration after the first draft was ready. To include 'Gamal', the main man who was going to wreck havoc on earth on behalf of the forty thieves. 

Incidentally GAMAL was the name of the leader of the thieves in ‘Alibaba and 40 Thieves’ (just in case you wanted to know).

It was going to be a modern Aladin. An Aladin of today.  With the coolest of the cool Genie and a villain bigger than anyone seen on screen before.  A modern Aladin with the most beautiful Jasmine.

One of the biggest hurdles was to find a name for the Genie. Any writer will know the hardest part of writing is to come up with names. Suresh Nair, my friend and co writer, found out that the word ‘GENIUS’ is a derivative of the word ‘GENIE’. Problem solved. Our Genie was named 'Genius'.

The first draft was soon ready. I told the story to Riteish… he was okay but that wasn’t quite the reaction I was expecting. But what does he know?! I was dying to make Mr. Bachchan hear. He instantly agreed. He was scheduled to shoot a Reid and Taylor ad at YRF studios. He asked me come there. Yippe! 

I ran with my script. It was an awesome script according to me. I was fully confident ... he was going to hear and instantly say 'YES!'. 

(Note to self: …Oh you donkey! What have you been drinking?!)

Rest, soon...

          - Sujoy

Friday, May 1, 2009

Wha...?! (Sujoy Ghosh at his expressive best)

There has been some misinterpretation by the media about something I wrote in my blog the last time. Just to clarify…

First and foremost: thank you for reading my blog. I thought only 8 people read it (out of which 3 are family).

Secondly when I wrote that Sir wanted me to cast a fresh face, he was being totally professional and unbiased and that’s all I wanted to convey. Come on, if it was me, the first thing I’d have asked was to cast my son as ‘Aladin’. But not Sir. 

And that’s why I refer to him as Sir.

So hope that is clarified. I shall try and write more clearly in the future else, as Nikhil says, he will joust and oust me from this blog. Gulp!

(As reference, kindly find attached with this post, a pictorial proof of: the location of the last man who did not do as Nikhil said.)

- Sujoy