We met Pratik Kothari who assisted Shyam Benegal for his series – Samvidhan. He makes short films, music videos and does theater as well. Read on to know more about this young and talented filmmaker:
Tell us about your life journey?
Well, life has been quite a journey. will try to be brief. As any other child in Mumbai would be I was more into academics than any other thing (though this norm is changing for the good where children are exposed beyond academics). But being on a film set always excited me a lot (My father was a DoP- Rajen Kothari so I would have the luxury to tag along at times). I remember playing with the abandoned negatives and acting a projectionist! But then I was told that unless you excelled in 10th, 12th, Engineering and then MBA you have no hope. To everyone’s surprise I did excel in my 10th and 12th grade academics! By my 12th grade I was sure that I had to be in the Film Industry. My father sent me as an observer to his Editor (Asim Sinha) and Sound Designer (Rakesh Ranjan, Ashok Shukla) colleagues. I had my bit left with the academics. Somehow I under performed in the Engineering CET and had to opt for a first of its kind MBA – Tech.
I thought I had made a smart move and and avoided the dreaded CAT. Like any average middle class parents would tell their child, I was told to have a degree and then pursue the industry. Though I was consistently good in the academics at this place what it gave me is the first opportunity to be on stage as an actor. And I loved the time I spent on stage. Thats when I knew I wanted to act! I casually attended a 2 day workshop which was listed in the newspapers then and during the vacations enrolled for a 3 month course. I had never imagined so much goes into acting. The course at Kreating Charakters (Vidur Sir, Roopesh Sir, Samar Sir) turned me around. Then again I went back to academics and started to feel I had forgotten all what I was told. At that point my dad was directing a film and I could rarely be on set. There came a point where I couldn’t take academics any more and while my dad was shooting in Hyderabad I went there and told him that I can’t continue a bit longer.
Cut to ‘The Barry John Acting Studio’. I wanted to get in touch with the actor in me again! And also with a different perspective. Next 3 months were rigorous, challenging and demanding. They were exhausting at times but one had to go on. The combination of two acting courses worked for me! But I wanted to explore the medium. I felt it would help me as an actor. I wanted to be on sets, learn on field. The first opportunity came my way when Dipti Naval was directing a feature film – Do Paise Ki Dhoop,Chaar Aane ki Baarish. Whatever free time I had I would spend on sets trying to help the direction team. I had one basic question which I could never dare to ask my dad. The question was that if you were eventually going to mount 4 cutter stands in front of the light and cut it from every possible angle then what was the whole point of putting up that light! Kiran Sir (the DoP of Do paise,) would use me as a dummy to light up actors. That’s when I understood the reason for such detailing and cutting.
From here on I moved to acting again and was lucky to work with Mr Salim Arif. Working here was an eye opener. Actors like Yashpal Sharma, Lubna Salim and all the actors in the group. Apart from the positive atmosphere it was a great opportunity to work on the text written by Gulzar Saab! I also did a lot of backstage work in this group and learnt a lot by just observing and listening. My journey on stage continued with Gujarati theatre and with Mr Manoj Shah. Some plays I did here are very significant for me.
A little later on my father was directing a film and I wanted to assist him. The person who was supposed to be the first ad could not quite make it. By then I had been so much involved with the script that I was told to be the first AD. Experience that I had was nothing to ride home about. But what was comforting is that two veterans Rajen Kothari and Dayal Nihalani were directing. This particular film ‘Das Capital – Gulamon Ki Rajdhani’ has taught me heck of a lot. Right from the pre production to completion I was involved in every thing. I also played a pivotal part in front of camera.But Alas! I soon lost my Guru, my father. He just went away one day un announced. I had a lot of responsibilities now. The least I could do is earn that much that I could fend for myself. I took the first job that I could get. I joined a young director Karan Butani in his direction team. We had a long laborious 35 days outdoor. It was energy sapping to say the least. Then on I assisted the likes of Kiran Deohans and Aban Deohans (on their Ad films) and Pavan Kaul and then Mr Shyam Benegal.
What prompted you to become a filmmaker?
Many a things. Firstly cinema had a very bearing effect on me in my formative years. Cinema was also therapeutic for me. As a child I suffered from Asthma, when I would have an attack, my parents would play me a VCR tape. I would watch a film and the Asthma was gone. I already wrote about playing a projectionist. Another thing was if I liked the film I could watch them over and over again. And every time I would discover how powerful a medium it is. If you have an idea or a thought to communicate you must go and communicate with the audience.
How your parents reacted when you opted for this career?
For me it was not as tough as I know it was for some of my peers as my father was already in the film industry. My mother was little concerned as it has very hectic schedule. When you are away, you are away for ages sometimes. It was fortunately for me that it was not a big battle. Only request from their side was that I should complete my education. On the other hand, my thinking was that completing the education is sort of trap. May be after that, it would be like work somewhere for sometime and it could go on.
Tell us about your team, if you have?
Well yes! My Team makes me. We are a bunch of people who want to tell our stories in our way.Most of the work we are doing these days has a ‘low budget syndrome’. But I am blessed to have a multitasking individuals. We have actors who can sing and actors who can write, writers who can direct DoP’s who can edit and do the production design as well. As they say birds of same feather flock together I am lucky to have people who are mostly on the same page and understand and accommodate the scope and limits of the other departments!
How many/ What kind of movies you have made?
Well as an Independent maker I am starting out. The work generally has been in the zone of short films and music videos. I shot some music videos, after Kolaveri D, everyone wants their stuff to go viral. I made a short film – Pyar Kab karoge which was picked up by Humaramovie.com. and it was also in Navi Mumbai film festival. Currently I am line producing a documentary on Shyam Benegal and also ready with the first draft of my hindi feature film.
When you make a movie/ video, do you think more about audience or content?
Well, whenever I make something, I make because I want to make a particular thing but obviously and eventually you have to find the audience. Currently, with internet everybody is my audience be it international audience, youth, elderly mature people (yes not everyone is on internet but slowly they are also moving towards it)
What is your dream/ vision?
To tell stories that leave a positive impact on the audience apart from entertaining them. Vision remains to positively contribute to the society through cinema!
What all things related to films influenced you?
A lot of it. When I told my father, I want to be in filmmaking, first thing he made me do was to watch Iranian cinema so that influenced me. My father influenced me. I would also say Shyam Benegal (having worked with him) influenced me a lot, the way he treats the scripts and people around him. It is so easy and comfortable to work with him. For Ex- I don’t remember shooting beyond 6.30 any day and we had a 55 days schedule.
What difficulties you face as an independent filmmaker?
Well the challenge is you are independent, you are alone. Not literally but the resources in terms of both money and manpower are limited!
Any fun/ memorable incident?
Well yes, with the advent of digital things have become very funny. They give you stressful times. I had a submission to make. Everything was properly done and the DVD was mastered! We did a quick check and realised that the sound in first reel was out of sync! while rest reels were playing perfectly fine. After a lot of trial and errors we could not figure what was happening. My editor and me had a sleepless night but had come in the next morning determined to set it right. What we realised is that video was playing at 24 fps and somehow the sound slapped on first reel was from 25fps!
What advice you’d like to give to someone who is interested/newbie in filmmaking?
I’d try though I am myself a newbie in many ways. What I have learnt is to keep at it. There should be an intent and conviction which should keep you going. It is easy to say that I want to make a film but I don’t have necessary resources! You have to go out there and find those resources.
Some of Pratik’s work:
We at community.stagephod.com wish him all the luck for his future endeavors. Please let us know your comments about Pratik’s work and thoughts.