Interview : Sartaj Singh Pannu




Bollywood has long been dominated by big budget films and superstars. There are few who dare to stand up against this ritual. Those who do, are the rebels who have decided to let their talent do the talking caring little about what the cynics have to say.

Toeing the same line is actor-director Sartaj Singh Pannu, whose upcoming film SOCH LO is creating waves for daring to be different.

We spoke to the filmmaker about his upcoming film and more. Excerpts:

In a time when the market is flooded with big budget films and superstar acts, you decided to make a movie without anything on those lines. Isn’t that a risky affair?
I have never been impressed by the market forces alone. For me filmmaking is a passion and I believe that this medium is driven by narratives and not big budgets alone. I have never fallen prey to the system of superstars and big bucks. In fact SOCH LO will be a hope for all those who can’t see beyond big budgets and big stars.

Many feel that your film SOCH LO belongs to the category of the new avant-garde filmmaking trend in bollywood. Would you agree?
Well, it might look like one, but I would be interested in knowing the audiences reaction and then arrive at any conclusions. Through this film we are trying to infuse a different thinking approach to making films and hopefully we will be appreciated for taking this bold step. The fact is that I did not make the film keeping any revolutionary thought process in mind; I made it the way I perceived it.

What is your film about?

‘SOCH LO is a hope for all those who can’t see beyond big budgets & big stars…’

The film is about the disparity between Urban India and Rural India, how we think we have grown whereas in fact we have not, so it deals with what happens when you juxtapose the urban mindset in a rural setting. There are three spectrums, one about a brother sister relationship which deals with the past, then there is a husband and a wife who have had an arranged marriage and finally this commingling of the rural/urban process. While the film is targeting the youth of today, it is also a compelling watch for all ages, ethnicities and actually even a global mindset. It is for all the people who have fallen in love, gotten married and who also have to deal with the past baggage of the partners in a relationship.

You have played many roles in the film. You are the producer, director, actor and writer of SOCH LO. How was the experience of donning so many caps at once?

Overwhelming is an understatement. It was like climbing Mount Everest!! When I look back I have no idea how this film got done. The odds that were overcome were nothing short of miraculous. It started with me wanting to test myself as to whether I am capable enough to be a filmmaker. The chances of me getting a break were not that much, because I don’t gel with the existing system of the Indian film industry, was a man of limited means and actually had a strong sense of conviction….ironically an overdose of conviction is not always appreciated here. That being said, I tried to get talent from NSD, FTII, etc since these were the people who have studied filmmaking, are passionate to start with and they have that fire in their belly.

I was never in the running for the role of the protagonist, however, the person short listed walked out on me and that is when I decided to cast myself, since I did not want to risk my limited resources on people who were not able to keep their commitments.

The look of the film has become one of its highlights. Where all did you shoot the film?
The theme of my film required a special look and I went scouting for locations extensively. Finally, I settled for a few unexplored places in Rajasthan and Maharashtra. The look of the film has been painstakingly planned and I ‘m happy that it is being appreciated.

What would you say to the upcoming filmmakers who cannot think beyond big budgets and big stars?
I would suggest that they should believe in their talent rather than the formulas of making films in Bollywood. At the end of the day a good film is all about the story not the stars or big budgets. There are many examples to prove this. If you have the talent and you know it, you should not hesitate.