We’ve read that the idea for Mukti Bhawan, the film, came to you while you were backpacking through Varanasi and came across this place. But what is it that made you go, this is it I’m making a movie?
For me it was two things, one was the fact that it made me laugh thinking about this place where you have 15 days to die, otherwise you have to checkout. When something makes you laugh, I think that’s a good starting point. And two, at the same time there was a depth to the place and what it means to the people. I thought of it as a place where people get mukti, literally become free not just in the sense of death but also of responsibility from the family’s perspective. I’ve seen my parents and the people around me take care of their parents. They find it difficult to manage their own life but they still feel they have to take care of their parents, you know the kind of little roles we play in our lives. I find that interesting. I can articulate it this way now that it’s done, but at that time I didn’t really know why. For me when an idea gets fully formed it’s almost like different elements coming together and you go, ‘wow’. There are 2-3 things that somehow fit like a puzzle. So it was somewhere along those lines.
Now that you are a part of the Indian film industry, where do you think it’s at right now, with the big commercial releases on one end and the so-called indie releases at the other?
It’s where you are saying it’s at. I’ll always want to support the idea of diversity. When I go to a theater I don’t want to see one kind of film as my option. I want to see 5 different awesome movies and I want to go everyday of the week and watch those.
I love a Jurassic Park as much as I love a film from Iran like A Separation or The Salesman. I can love Mad Max and also love a Shahrukh Khan film because that’s what I grew up on.
I think each must support the other in some way. I like good stories. I always use Jurassic Park as an example because I think it’s great story telling. It’s a film that’s never left me ever and the kind of emotion it gave me was the first time I realized what cinema felt like. Sometimes I go to movies for the big emotions like wonder and sometimes I go to hear a great story from a certain part of the world. Because movies have this beautiful ability that make you feel like you have travelled. When I saw Motorcycle Diaries, I remember I felt like I was on this road trip with these two boys, experiencing those things. I think for me where the Indian industry is that we can definitely do more to support one another. I don’t believe in the whole big film/small film labels we use these days. Some big films are very small films. I just look at them and I’m like they don’t work for me. And I think some really tiny films are huge. You feel so much for them. It can just be two people walking like Linklater’s movies, for me that’s huge, but it’s just two people walking and a camera and no crew and whatever. So I think the big and small thing is how it makes the individual feel.
You’ve had a lot of early success, is there a pressure to perform? How do you deal with that?
It’s not like I have had stupendous success, I’ve not made a Sholay yet.
If I let the outcome be the way I hold my life, I’m going to be very very unhappy, which is necessarily not the case now. It’s not about the Oscar, that’s a thing that is not in my control so I really have to put an effort in not even thinking about it. But its more about, can I make the next thing. Can someone see this film and trust me to handle the next one. Whether it’s to give money, whether it’s an actor or cinematographer I really want to work with or something like that. I have just done early work. I have worked early. Lets just say that. I am happy about that.
Watch Shubhashish talk about the ten minute standing ovation received by Mukti Bhawan at Venice International Film Festival and the Bollywood Club
Meryl Streep or SRK – who would you like in your next film?
I’d pair them off. No but I have a sweet spot for Meryl Streep, crush level, age is just a number.
Do you mention your Oscar short-list in your Tinder Bio? Tell us your Tinder Bio.
I don’t have tinder. No really, I’m so scared of my mom, all these issues are coming out. “Scared of mom” on my bio, I’m going to get so many matches then. Oh mumma’s boy!
New York or Mumbai – if one city had to be plunged under water which one would you choose and why?
Aye yaar, I have friends in both and family in one. Ummmmm… you said no personal questions. Of course, I’m sorry New York City, but every superhero movie destroys you so it’s not that big of a deal. I wanna see you go. You should blame Hollywood.
If you were going to die – what would your last meal be?
I love food. I have a crazy obsession with momos, ‘cause we had lots of that when we were in school. It’s like my childhood. Butter chicken or momos. You know I used to make like a butter chicken and fried rice combo.
Strangest reaction you got for making a movie about death?
Everybody thinks that the son is going to die in the film, like he takes his father but the son is going to die. Like how. But I think it’s amazing that people think that. I don’t know whether they think he is going to murder him or what is going on, but maybe that’s the giant twist they are expecting.
Your favourite app?
I like Instagram. Visual ones are nice. And I miss Spotify.
One film in the last 1 year you wish you had made?
I liked Whiplash a lot. I thought that was a great film.
What’s more difficult, writing or the process of making the film?
Writing. Both actually. But writing, it’s like the foundation of the movie, without it everyone’s just a headless chicken. I think writing is like, you’re going inside yourself and searching. Writing.
Who is that one person who always checks your ego?
Oh everybody man.
My mother, I’ll show you her messages like bill nahi bhara, ye nahi kiya, woh nahi kiya.
I love being with her ‘cause it’s always like a blast. But no all my friends also, because of my love for detective novels, my friends always introduce me to others as this Noir filmmaker. I have never made a noir film. I don’t know if it’s because of that or because they think it sounds fancy.