Interview By: Team Supercinema

Radhika Apte who’s known for unconventional roles and who’s bold and free minded with her thoughts, shared with us her experience and excitement for her upcoming movie ‘Phobia’ accompanying with her were producer of ‘Table No. 21’ Viki Rajani and director of ‘Ragini MMS’  who’s  known for thriller and horror films, Pavan Kripalani . The trio had a great chat with us in our office. Read on…

“I just want to make a movie that’s just true to itself”

“When you are trying to study your character, trying to build the whole back story, you need to have clarity about everything”

“‘Phobia’ is a good combination of a nice young talented director and fresh script”

What was the ideation point for the film ?

Pavan- The ideation actually was about a year ago, it was about making a movie which talks about growing violence in the cities. I wanted to explore that idea. Then while research I discovered the Agoraphobia which primarily deals with someone who is too fear of stepping out, was interesting space for me to run into because some of kind of issue I was interested in making a film about. So, I think germ of the idea came from there, the growing sense of fear and violence that we read every morning that you get of what is happening outside. So, the fact that you think you are much safer at home is actually a lot more unsafe and insecure than outside. So, that kind of contrast is what I think I started off with. Then I wrote ‘Phobia’ which was an extreme form of that and that’s how the germ started and once I had the germ. I had no idea of Agoraphobia. It came from kind of exploring this case. Then I once did research and saw there was an elder had dealt with feeling unsafe outside and feeling safe inside that for me was an interesting idea because I had kind of lot of questions as not confronting your fears but hiding from your fears and all that is great drama for a movie. So, I think from there onwards, the story kind of found itself and once I had the ending, I knew that this could be a movie.

Viki and Radhika, how you came onboard for this?

Viki- Pawan and myself were discussing couple of scripts and couple of developments also happened. He pitched this idea to me which I liked because I like to do different genres. I really liked the script. Me and Radhika was interested in the script. I thought its a good combination of a nice young talented director and fresh script.

Radhika- He pitched it to me before a year it actually materialised. It was an idea at that time. He briefly narrated me the plot in 5 minutes and I loved the plot and I loved the twist of it. It was something very new and unexplored here. Actually coincidentally, at the same time I was working with a friend, co-writing something based on panic disorders. I was actually doing lots of research on panic disorders. I told him that this is serendipity that you come with something like this. That girl also has panic disorders as phobia. I said this is really amazing and I would love to work on it. A year later, he called me back and said we got producers on board and here is the script. And then we took it from there.

How difficult it was to portray such unique kind of a character?

Radhika- First of all I would like to say that this film is important in a way because in general in the world phobias are not recognised much. People are not aware of it and in our country, definitely not. People don’t know what a phobia is, they don’t know that it’s actually a disorder, it’s a medico condition. Depression was also now known by people and they started understanding that people actually get depressed. They need treatment for that. Similarly what is Agoraphobia is that one can’t go outside home. To make people aware as it’s a serious disorder. It was difficult in the sense to strike a balance that it shouldn’t look just dramatised or staged but it needs to look real and it needs to be convincing, so, we did do a lot of research on that. I was anyway researching on that and writing something, so, I had basic idea and i have friends who have panic disorders. I myself had panic attacks and i am sure everybody had in their life at some point or the other. I have grown up with couple of them who have panic disorders. I was very aware of it. That was one that helped. I come from a doctor’s family and very friend of mine is psychologist. He helped me a lot and I took all my questions to him and he was always on call with me whenever I needed help. Because when you are trying to study your character, trying to build the whole back story, you need to have clarity about everything. So, I used to call him and ask that do you think that she will do that or not, or how or why. And he would really promptly help me and I also met him twice when I was in Pune. My dad is Neuro surgeon, so, he helped me to understand alot of neurological aspect of it which is fascinating. I have read quite a lot about panic disorders and because of this film i read a lot about Agoraphobia. And also the whole panic attacks, the description is all written but to see actually what happens is quite interesting. There are lot of video clips available online that you can study, so, I did that quite a lot. We have some amazing fruitful discussions between Pavan, me and Pooja, who is the editor and co-writer of the script. We were shooting at one location for 28 days, it was quite focused. It really felt like I was there, stuck there for 28 days, 14 hours a day, it was actually really helpful. Being a focal point of the film, I loved and enjoyed it. I hope I get more such films.


How was it mentally and emotionally to go through that everyday like you said that you stuck there for 28 days?

Radhika- The reason why I said stuck is because when you are doing such an intense shoot, you basically wake up, have a shower, go on the set, you come home, you crash and then again you wake up and have a shower and go on set. You do this for 28 days. You don’t have personal time off, to go meet a friend for diner or watch a film. That’s what I meant by stuck. Physically, it was bit exhausting because you are working a lot with your breath constantly when you are performing. If you have three major scenes to do on one day, you really get exhausted. But I loved working like that.

As a film marker what was your thought process while making the film in terms of what to avoid and that one message that you would like the audience to take back from the film, was it a conscious decision

Pavan– Yeah, I think both of us were actually the idea was that we don’t want to dramatize this, we also really wanted to portray phobia’s for what it is and try and be as real to do it and not try to dramatize it and manipulate the audience, you naturally approach the movie as very reframed, very held back. Keep it as real and onto a level ambiguous because we want the audience to engage with the film, engage with the character and engage with what’s she is going through and how she has come up with her own solutions and yes what she thinks  is right and wrong. For us that was the opportunity, which was not spoon-feed for a change. We aren’t making a movie that’s spoon-feeding and constantly playing with the gallery. We’re making a movie which requires a little bit of Intelligence and concentration.

As a producer, how difficult it is and how easy it is for you to go with that kind of a vision for not really spoon-feeding?

Viki – I have done different kind of movies, I have done ‘Table no 21’ which was a clutter breaker at that time and ‘3G’ which didn’t work very well but we attempted something different in horror genre and when I heard this story I really liked it, I thought such kind of movies have to be made, it’s not being done probably in Bollywood yet. So that’s why I told him I would like to do such movie and that’s why we came together.

Like you said that you would like to come on board for different kind of films but do you also think it’s the change in the taste of the audience?

Viki – Yes I think the target audience today, of all the movies are between 16 to 35 year of age so you know this kind of movie is perfect for them and something new; and it’s done for the first time in Bollywood. It shows that people have liked the trailer so I think people should go for the movie and also like it.

Is horror your favorite genre as you’ve been picking on it?

Pavan – It’s something that comes to me and it’s something organic for me, it’s not that I can’t do comedy and all if Viki gives me one (smiles) it’s just that I don’t know how to say it but I just love the genre more and I enjoy doing it and I’ve always liked watching those movies so it just goes into me.

But there must be a certain sensibility that probably reflects in your films or the thought process what you have as a person that reflects in the work that you do?

Pavan –   Hopefully in this movie it will, this is the one film which I got to explore what I really wanted to make and got to work with people who can go and say and hopefully it’s rarely I would say the one film I’m really proud of.


Now, the appreciation is coming your way and people are looking forward to your work because of what they have seen previously, what is the feeling like does it further give the faith to go by your own believe and stick by the kind of cinema you want to be a part of in this film as well?

Radhika– In my life I’ve always done what I wanted to do, be it work or may it be anything in life which is why I never have regrets and I find it very hard to do something if somebody has asked me to do it but I don’t want to do it, so yes if there is a little bit appreciation right now it’s quite encouraging but I think this is how I am made good or bad. But very honestly people actually have been asking me, you do such varied roles and I keep thinking isn’t that my job? An actor’s job is to do varied roles, an actor’s job is to experiment to do different kinds of characters, I’d like to get more; in fact that  challenges me, the parts that challenges me and take me to the different directions. Playing it safe is just not exciting enough and it’s not growth in any way but most of the time success or failure it’s just your own growth, you learn you fail you learn, you succeed you go wrong in life you do pathetic jobs sometimes that’s the part of your process and I think nothing should stop you in taking risk because that’s the only way forward that’s how I look it and that’s extremely subjective.

 As professionals when you’re doing different roles in the film what has been your learning so far, what do you take back?

 Viki– Yeah you learn from your mistakes and you always want to improvise on it so I hope we have ‘3G’ improvised on ‘Phobia’.

You know every film brings in a set of strategy or set of budget when it comes to making a film..

Viki– yeah you always do have a budgeting while making a movie and you expect from the box office to do so obviously keeping all this in mind the cost of the movie and the marketing is done. Then the experiments of the creativity, it has to be in boundaries like ‘Table No. 21’ and ‘3G’ both were profitable ventures even ‘3G’ did great and this movie is made with the right budget and right talent and gave the performance which the director and script needed.

As a director, how was it shooting such kind of a film…

Pavan– Those 28 days were the best part, it was good to be out of the writing desk it was good to be on sets it was a lot of fun I really enjoyed myself.

Radhika – Yeah we had a lot of fun (smiles)

Which process is the best you feel? You must have also done the post of the film and say that this promotion Is also a part of it..

Pavan– According to me the best process while making a movie is editing, because you get to remake the entire movie and you get to look at what finally we have been thinking about and what you actually got and then putting it together which excites you to watch your content again the first time, and try to figure it out and making it work. So the entire phase is most stressful but also the most exciting part.

The film making is sometime  which is a never ending process, how do you get the patience every day and is  okay to let go the film from your head space….

Radhika- It’s very hard to analyse what you take away from a project because there is so much to learn as filmmaking is a process and it’s much more than you learn. I was really sick for two days during the shoot and I was popping combiflames all the time. We had some really difficult scenes to shoot on those two days. It reminds you that film is such a medium that it’s always about that single moment where you have to give your 100%. I remember when I watched that scene it struck me again that one cannot think what’s going right now, the situation in my head or in my body one has to give it all. Of course it’s something that one learns from the first film till the last film.

 What are your expectations from yourself in terms of your work or films that you do?

Radhika- First of all I don’t watch my films very often. This is the first film that I have already seen twice as of now and I have seen not to see my own performance. Thanks to Pavan because he gave me a new experience. He got me involved so much. You don’t get such opportunities a lot like these because even if you are the female lead it’s sort of secondary when there is a male protagonist. Pooja, Pavan and me got close during the film. I am grateful to them for getting me involved in discussions and thoughts even though I was not at the edit table and irrespective of whether my suggestions were incorporated or not is irrelevant. The reason why I don’t watch my films because you hit critically in a very different way and that’s not a right way going about it is what I believe. It doesn’t work for me. I genuinely expect that I have the same amount of sincerity and hard work in every project that I do. If I lose that then I’m in trouble. I just hope that I sustain my sincerity and passion for every project which is why I choose projects carefully because if you are not inspired to do a project then it’s very difficult. There are different ways of doing things and there is a different functioning of every director, set etc. And I realise that it’s very easy to get in a trap like that. So it’s very harmful for an actor I feel. Therefore it’s very necessary to feel at least something inspired about every project or I shouldn’t do the film at all. I keep telling this thing to myself.

As you said it’s very easy to get into the trap and get your thoughts contaminated or beliefs diluted. How have you managed to not?

Radhika- No because I have some really incredible people that I work with especially the theatre people that I have grown up with like my husband Benedict or a lot of other people are so grounded, focused and passionate about their work and compromise so little, that is so inspiring and keeps you going. Other things don’t give me pleasure anyway.  It has worked fine so far.

As a producer what is your expectation from this film?

Viki- We have made something different. The content is good. The trailer is looking good to everyone. It should work.

As a director what is your expectation from this film?

Pavan- People should come and watch the film. We make movies for that purpose only.

We keep saying that Hindi cinema is evolving and content is the king but do you think that there is still a certain perception that needs to be changed about the new age contemporary cinema?

Radhika- It’s been happening over decades and its happening big time now. I think last year was a good time for our industry and everybody – for women centric movies, new age filmmakers, insiders and outsiders (and I don’t like to use these terms) have come to spotlight. The change is there because it’s difficult to change it overnight in a country like ours. Bollywood is a tool to escape from our daily lives and we are a country of many problems. So it’s like pro-entertainment. Getting people out of their problems and making them watch our films is a slow process. As a kid I was completely enchanted by Bollywood. I only wanted to do films like ‘Dil Toh Pagal Hai’ and all such films. And I haven’t been able to do that yet (laughs). It was only when I went to college I got exposed to world cinema and it took me time to actually understand why I like cinema and to develop patience to allow myself to understand the beauty of art.

As a producer what do feel about the scenario?

Viki- Things are changing. Good content works. If you make a movie with no star-cast it will do some business compared to a movie with mammoth star-cast with no good content.

As an outsider how difficult it is to find a voice amongst so many new people who want to have an individual voice as well?

Pavan- I don’t know really but I think it’s what you write eventually. With me, it’s just what I want to tell. Everything else becomes so easy. So it’s very necessary to be clear and sure what you really want to tell. I don’t look at it as trying to break any kind of clutter. I just want to make a movie that’s just true to itself. I want to keep it simple and don’t want to think about other stuffs because there is no point thinking about other things.

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