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It's nothing if not a team effort

Parag Desai

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Mahima ChaodharyA Sahara Manoranjan Creation. Produced by Vishesh Entertainnzent Pvt. Ltd. Written and Directed by Tanuja Clzandra. Starring Mahima Chaodhary, Priyanshu Chatterjee, Vasundhara Das, Aryan Vaid. Music Jatin Lalit.

It may have a small budget, but the idea is big. Just like the coming together of two diverse companies: Sahara Manoranjan and Vishesh Entertainment. One, a conglomerate and the other, a leading maker of small-budget, high-octane ventures! FILMSTAR is the interesting and experimental result of this merger.

From the day, Sahara head, Shri. Subrata Roy Sahara gave the green signal to Mr. Mahesh Bhatt to go ahead and produce this film; the writer/director Tanuja Chandra embraced it with the greed of a newcomer. Having just completed her film, SUR, she grabbed the opportunity to make this film. After all, how often would she get to make a film with a plot as unusual as this? How often would she have zero interference from the producers? How often would she have the chance to do such a typical casting! This film was going to be fun!

Of course, it wasn't just fun, it was a whole lot of backbreaking hard work! Not that most films aren't, but this one was especially so because one had to make a quality product in fewer days, without the advantages that a big star cast, big-budget film offers! There were minimal luxuries and a distant finishing line to reach at the end of each day. Well, when you get less, you work harder to make the 'less' look like 'more'. And that's exactly what the team of FILMSTAR did. It came up with creative ways to enhance available resources. It borrowed Roopa Vohra's custom-made jewellery, which included 2-inch sapphires and emeralds on rings for Mahima, and intricately made gold 'Thewa' sets for Vasundhara Das. Mitsubishi sponsored a car while YAMINI, the stylish store, sold upholstery at half price in exchange for an acknowledgement in the credits. Not only that - one place in the film, for example, Mahima's house, was actually shot in three different locations for a better look. So her character was shot entering a certain bungalow in Madh island, walking past a swimming pool of another house in Juhu, and going into the bedroom of a third location in Yari road! All this, because any one location didn't have all three that were good enough! What a job it must have been to manage continuity (which accounts for the constantly harrowed and war-weary appearance of Tanuja's assistants on the sets!) More tension? Yes! But at the end of it all there was also a feeling of deep fulfillment and achievement.

Priyanshu ChatterjeeIn this 'battlefield' the actors did more then their share to contribute to the film, led by Mahima. As the self-obsessed, arrogant actress who's hit a bad patch, she has not only outdone herself in all areas of performance but also of commitment. "Not once, not in the sweltering heat of May or during the long hours of shooting, did Mahima complain", says Tanuja, "She matched my mad energy throughout". Once they wanted to shoot a song in a nightclub but the one they liked was charging a hefty fee per day, a fee this film couldn't afford. So the solution they came up with? They shot on a Monday, which was the club's holiday, from seven in the morning to five the next morning - that's three shifts, continuously! And during those 24 hours, two things were mandatory - Becosul vitamin pills, (which every person, including light men and spot boys were forced to have) and laughter! The song was complete, the fee affordable, and the director - happy! This of course, was not possible without the deep commitment of all - the actors, technicians and producer - all. "I was so frightened of Tanuja that I always did as she asked!" is how Mahima jokingly justifies her hard work. But we all know integrity comes from one's heart and when everyone puts up one's best face forward, it can truly be called a Team Effort.

"Of course, having the bloody good-looking and supremely polite Leander Paes visit our sets every now and then was a very welcome feature too!" adds Tanuja, followed by lots of wicked laughter! Though some members of the unit found other 'attractions.' Apparently both Priyanshu and Aryan Vaid found the lovely Vasundhara irresistible, and would just love gazing at her gorgeous, large eyes! That, this gazing didn't materialize into anything 'substantial,' is one of those mean twists of life!

Priyanshu Chatterjee And Mahima ChaodharyCompliment the reticent Priyanshu Chatterjee on his performance, and you immediately get a, "It's all her..." talking about Tanuja's direction. He reminisces, "Feel, Feel, Feel... was her constant shout throughout! And I would think, 'I'm feeling, I'm feeling' but till I got it right she would keep after me!" Madness.... But then making movies is all about that, isn't it? "No sane person would want to do this for a living!" says Tanuja, "Especially if you're like me - stubborn as hell, about sticking to my creed! I will only make films in which I find there to be substance, a distinct voice, and a relevance to today's world and society. I find it pointless making movies that take place in a world that simply doesn't exist."

The media tends to be contradictory at times when it comes to an opinion on filmmakers. When directors come up with routine stuff that says nothing, critics come down strongly on them, panning them for producing vapid, inane cinema. And when a director remains, time after time, offbeat, making films that aim for a depth, with a tilt towards unusual plots, often there is no appreciation till there is a certain amount of box-office success. Yes, success is very important not only in films but in all fields, but the lack of it need not, and should not necessarily reduce a films' intrinsic worth. As the media expects a filmmaker to remain true to his craft, honest towards a vision despite market demands and constraints, so also, the media should retain an honest sense of appraisal of a film, despite its market value or performance. There needs to be a culture of appreciation and encouragement around us. It's that which will yield a rich crop of arts and entertainment, and enable us to take leaps towards new thought, new ideas, towards a brave new world of cinema.

Mahima ChaodharyIt's in this very attempt to tread new ground that FILMSTAR has been made. While stories about the film industry have been done before, this particular concept of an ambitious actress who wants to achieve great fame at any cost, and the dramatic journey her life takes when she decides to make a film on a woman who has killed her well-known and influential husband, is one that has never been made before. It is an original and unique story which stems very much from the society we live in today, where we all struggle with the push and pull between the traditional, conservative forces around us, and the modern, 'global' influences, especially on the entertainment world today. And yet, it is not so much about the film industry, as much as it's about the clash of 'real life' with 'reel life' It's all about finding out that life, its urgency, its spontaneity, its real kindness and its real ugliness - all this is much more then what the width and breath of a theatre screen can ever portray. After all, life has given birth to films, and not the other way around. So finally, FILMSTAR is a story that concludes that Life... is much bigger then movies can ever be!

The film is a Sahara Manoranjan Creation and is expected to release through the Sahara/ Rajshri Zee network. "Women will love this sincere effort by Tanuja," says Akashdeep, creative director of Sahara.

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