Following your passion and earning a living out of it is tough, demanding, and risky, but at the same time incredibly rewarding. Very few, actually have the courage to follow their hearts and turn that passion into a paycheck. National award-winning director Vikas Bahl, who has given us gems like Chillar Party and Queen is certainly among those few.
Interestingly, the foray of this MBA graduate into film business was serendipitous, but definitely not devoid of passion. And it’s because of his zeal that in a short span of time, Bahl has managed to make a mark for himself and today is considered as a young promising director of Bollywood.
The Shandaar director has confessed, “To be honest, I had not planned to be a director. I had come to Mumbai to pursue my MBA. I didn’t even know how to make movies. But I am also very instinctive, I often do things on the spur of the moment. If I come across something, which I have no clue as to how to do it, I will just jump into it and try it.”
And that’s exactly what Bahl did when it came to the movie business.
Being part of the corporate humdrum was clearly not appealing enough for the creatively inclined Bahl. Bahl started with client servicing at O&M, later joined Sunil Lulla at indiya.com, then moved on to head the programming business at SAB TV and finally played the role of COO at UTV Spotboy, where he actually met his true calling – Direction.
After joining UTV Spotboy, he produced a series of films like Aamir, Dev D, and Welcome To Sajjanpur before he finally co-directed Chillar Party with Nitesh Tiwari. He revealed, “While I was producing films, I was also simultaneously writing Chillar Party along with Nitesh Tiwari. However, there were still no plans of directing it.”
It was only later when no one was ready to direct the film that he finally decided to take the reins in his hand. Of course, a little encouragement from filmmakers like Majid Majidi and Anurag Kashyap (who himself was following his dream against all odds and stereotypical way of filmmaking) helped him believe in himself and take the plunge. “We went to directors with the script, who refused to direct the film. One day, I narrated the story to Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi and he told me that only we could tell this story well. Anurag further put the doubts I had about direction to rest when he said, ‘It’s not tough. Just put up a camera and shoot’.” Thus, a director was born.
Finally, he had found is calling, but Chillar Party didn’t put him in the big league instantly. He explained, “The film did not get released for a year, and that was really a tough time.”
But when one is driven by passion there is no giving up. So instead of getting disheartened, Bahl along with Nitesh kept trying and finally the film that got him his first National Award was released.
However, the battle was not over yet. Being extremely zealous about cinema, Bahl wanted to continue making films that had his signature style, but again it wasn’t possible while he was still with UTV Spotboy. So he decided to form a company, which gave him and other likeminded filmmakers a platform to make their own movies, movies which they wanted to be made, and movies which would define the lay of the land.
“I remember I was working with Anurag Kashyap on Gangs Of Wasseypur for almost 2 years and just a few days before the shoot I got a call saying that the studio doesn’t want to make that film,” Bahl narrated the incident at a youth festival. “By then I had reached a point in my life where I didn’t want anyone to tell me whether this is going to work or not. I would rather first go out there and make it. Whether, it succeeds or fails that is secondary.”
True that, when you want something, success and failure really does not matter. What really counts is the fact that you are brave enough to go ahead with something that you believe in. And the desire to do what he believed in was so strong that Bahl bid adieu to UTV Spotboy to kick-start India’s first director’s company—Phantom.
“Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Madhu Mantena and I, felt that it was time to start a company and we started Phantom; the common factor amongst all of us being that we all wanted to at least once in our life, do things we wanted to,” explained Bahl.
Well, when you set on the path to follow your dreams the journey isn’t always easy. There was a financial crunch, but according to Bahl what really helped him in achieving the position that he is at today, is his faith in his passion and the fact that he is never worried about failures. “I think what has got me so far in life is that I am not afraid to fail. I would rather go ahead and do something that I believe in, instead of not doing it because it might not work. Even during DEV D, everyone told me it was a very bad movie and I shouldn’t go ahead with that project. But I just wanted to figure out myself whether it was right or wrong.”
And that’s what the maverick director continues to do even today. Irrespective of whatever setbacks, like the ones he faced recently with Shandaar, driven by his passion, Bahl want to continue making movies that he believes in. He said, “Direction is addictive. I like my work and I will continue to work with myself. I am okay with people saying things.”
It’s this belief in himself, that has helped Bahl to not just direct but also successfully handle several other aspects of filmmaking like production, writing, and marketing.
“I am quite greedy; I like to do all of it. I love marketing Anurag and Vikram’s films. I love directing my films. I am lucky, I am getting to do everything, and I want to continue doing everything.”
… And he certainly shall, because if passion is your driving force, there is nothing that can hold you back!
Passion to Paycheck : Practical, is too small a word. Go on, make your mark, and who knows, your passion could bring you your next paycheck.