Interview By: Sagar Desai

A chemical engineer, who is passionate about using films as a tool of mass communication to enlighten and educate people has just released his debut directorial venture ‘Union Leader’. He catches up with us for a candid chat…

“One of the messages I want to deliver is that things do change, you need to step up and do something about it”

The movie has received a lot of praise in many film festivals internationally, so how excited or nervous are you?
I am definitely excited about the film’s release on 19th, this is my first film and naturally any filmmaker would be excited, looking at the film and the response we have received not only from festivals but people who have seen the film so far the response has been fantastic, so I am looking forward for good reviews and the feedback from everyone.

How important is it for the director to come up with such social-issue based film, which is not only for a particular audience but for a wider audience?
Absolutely, this is what we can do as filmmakers, the story is very important to tap, I myself am a chemical engineer and I worked in chemical plants here in Gujarat before moving to Canada, 17 years ago, so I am familiar with some struggles which workers are facing in chemical plants, so the story was inside me for quite some time and what has happened is, India is a developing country and we are trying to attract foreign investors, trying to do economically well which is good but we want to make sure that we are not compromising on conditions and affecting workers’ lives, so I am not against economic growth, I am not against basically creating more jobs and things like that but we have to balance everything, we don’t do anything at the cost of poor workers.

How important is the economics of the movie for a filmmaker who makes films based on social subjects?
It is very important, this is an independent project, so you are absolutely right that is a risk filmmaker always take so and particularly in Bollywood since we know that only masala films do very well, so it is a gamble and I have taken it because one of the reason is that I am passionate about this particular topic, so that’s the reason I have made this film and let’s see how well it does at the box-office.

How much has this movie inspired you?
As I said, this story was inside me for long time and when I look at this struggling world, I told myself that I have to make a movie on this topic, not everyone is familiar with all this struggles and that’s where filmmaker and this type of film comes in the picture, through films we can see other people’s lives and their struggles and stories. A film can take you to a very different world, it can show you issues which you may never face in your lives, so it was very important for me to tell this story through ‘Union Leader’.

Is it important to have a proper star cast? So how did you zero down on the star cast for this film?
There are not too many good actors with good looks in our industry, so naturally I was very much interested in casting Rahul in this role and luckily I got him and he did exceptionally well, his performance is very good in this film. I was in Canada and I got his manager’s number, I called him up and that’s how the conversation started and he liked the script and we signed him.

You said you watch more Hollywood movies and less Bollywood movies, even in India Hollywood films are watched more by the youngsters, so why is that?
The reason is you see India is evolving as well, this is a perfect story for Hollywood, In Hollywood movies you rarely see dances and song and things like that and as I said before I got inspiration for this movie from Michael Keaton, ‘Silk Wood’, ‘Norma Rey’ and ‘On the Water Front’ these movies they talk about either corporate greed or workers struggles and things like that, so these movie I have watched so many times and then I decided to make this movie but you are right the young generation are more kind of attracted towards Hollywood, Hollywood have completely different standards, In Bollywood there is more focus on entertainment, there may not be much products in value but there is more of an entertainment value, in Hollywood there is an educated class, they watch films from different angles, they like to see real stuff, good acting and a lot of worth things but I am glad that India is now evolving and moving in that direction as well they are making more and more Hollywood style films and that was one of the reasons why I took gamble with ‘Union Leader’ as well.

What is the USP of the movie?
It is a story of the lead actor Rahul, his name is Jay in the film, so basically Jay is maintaining very low profile in the beginning, his objective is to escape the life of poverty, wants to make his son a doctor although he is fully aware of the poor working conditions at the plant and he also knows that workers are dying because of that but still he is maintaining a very low profile, he is not doing anything in the beginning but later on when he realizes that one of his close friend gets murdered and another senior colleagues in the factory dies of cancer, he makes up his mind and he thinks that now he has to do something in the name of good and he has to do something about this problem and he forms new ethical Union, so there is a nice positive ending as well, so basically it is a story of the lead actor and this could be a story of so many poor workers. One of the message I want to deliver is, hey things do change and you need to do something about that, you don’t need to face all these difficulties in your life, you need to step up and do something about the problem you are facing in your life and there will be solution so it is a nice positive story.

You were a chemical engineer and now a filmmaker, so what inspired you to become a director?
I always growing up in India it was not that easy for me and my parents wanted me to become either engineer or doctor, typical parents in India but I always wanted to get associated with filmmaking when I was young but I never had that courage and we never had that resources as well, I grew up in a very small town actually but I have been in Canada for the last 17 years, I have a very stable job and I did  everything in my life and I thought that this is the time to pursue my childhood dream and that’s how the journey started about 7-8 years ago and I made a short film in 2014, that was screened at least 40 different festivals and also won some 20 awards so that film was very important for me that film gave me enough courage and more importantly necessary experience to execute ‘Union Leader’.

What is next after ‘Union Leader’?
I have few story ideas, just need to do little bit of thinking and decide which projects I want to execute, ‘Union Leader’ was first co-production between India and Canada, so naturally, I definitely want to tie up with some producers in India and will see. I have not made up my mind about any film, I have couple of good ideas and will see.

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