In conversation with Mumbai-based writer and filmmaker, Aditya Kripalani who talks about the inspiration behind his stories and characters while giving us a glimpse about his process behind making movies.
Team Kitaab had the opportunity of interacting with Mumbai-based writer and film-maker Aditya Kripalani recently.
Growing up in Mumbai, Aditya Kripalani displayed a keen interest in the creative fields, especially with regards to writing and film-making from his early teens. Over the years, his passion for his art transformed into a lasting love affair that has since launched him into several new and exciting avenues.
Between 2003 and 2004, he pursued a Film Appreciation course and Film Screenplay Writing course from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). During this period, Aditya explored film for the very first time as an Assistant Director for the mainstream feature film ‘Gumnaam’, and then again for a commemorative documentary ‘Prabhat Classics’ which went on to win the National Award for Best Marathi Film in 2003.
After completing his education at FTII in 2005, Aditya started off his professional career as a writer working with renowned film directors such as Sudhir Mishra, Abhishek Kapoor, and Prakash Jha.
From 2008 to 2009 Aditya played a vital role as Creative Head and Script Consultant on several I Dream Production mainstream feature films such as ‘Straight’ starring Vinay Pathak and Gul Panag, directed by Parvati Balgopalan; ‘Tahaan’ starring Anupam Kher and Rahul Bose, directed by Santosh Sivan; and ‘Kusar Prasad Ka Bhoot’ starring Paresh Rawal, Randeep Hooda, and Neetu Chandra. Once again in 2009, Aditya took on a role as Faculty In Charge of Creative Writing at Kishanchand Chellaram College.
In 2016, Aditya Kripalani started his own production house, ‘Mumba Devi Motion Pictures’ and his third novel, ‘Tikli and Laxmi Bomb’ became his first feature film, which he wrote, directed and produced. Along with being screened at various national and international film festivals, the film has won many awards like Best Film award at the ‘9th Berlin Independent Film Festival, 2018’; Best Film – Gender Equality award at the 20th UK Asian Film Festival, 2018 and Best feature at the New Jersey Indian & International Film festival, 2018. Tikli and Laxmi Bomb also had its Premiere in Singapore in May 2018 and received an overwhelming response from the audience.
In 2018, Aditya wrote his second film, ‘Tottaa Pataaka Item Maal’ which he also directed and produced. The film is about these four women from various parts of Delhi, who meet by chance on a ‘ladies only’ taxi ride and get into an altercation with a man who’s teasing them. They end up choosing to make an example of him by teaching him what the fear of rape is. This film was also screened at various national and international film festivals like the Kala Ghoda Art Festival in Mumbai, the 21st UK Asian Film Festival in London, UK, and 17th Garden State Film Festival, New Jersey, 2019.
In 2019, Aditya wrote his third film, ‘Devi Aur Hero’ which is about a therapist who is himself seeking help for his sex addiction, fights hard to try to help his newest client, a sex slave who’s escaped her captor but is plagued by multiple selves in her mind that emanate from years of abuse. The film won the NETPAC award for Best Film at the 25th Kolkata International Film Festival, 2019.
Aditya is recently finished shooting his forth feature film, ‘Not Today’ which deals with the subject of mental health.
Team Kitaab: Congratulations on the release of your third feature film, Devi aur Hero! How do you see your journey as a filmmaker so far? Has it drastically changed your life?
Aditya Kripalani: Thank you. I don’t know really. In terms of it being crushing to release a film and even write and make it in the first place, it seems as Herculean as it did before my first film. It keeps forcing you to detach and also stay attached in a way. It’s changed my life for the good in many ways but also the stress sometimes can really affect you. So one introspects and learns to step away from time to time.
Team Kitaab: Your last three films celebrate the power of womanhood. What is the inspiration behind this trilogy?
I feel that they’re exploring feminism in various ways. And I think exploring these things in my own mind and journey has been the reason for making them. With devi aur hero one dared to step into the man’s mind.
Aditya Kripalani: I think they definitely choose me.
Team Kitaab: If one were to look at your first film, Tikli & Laxmi Bomb, as a reference point, you show a strong sense of space, the life in Mumbai’s bastis, the night sky, and the skyline, the nightlife of hookers and pimps plying their trade: a very different setting than what we usually see in most Mumbai films set around the red light district (the kothas and kothewalis). How do you bring this setting to life?
Aditya Kripalani: I’d give all credit to Aditi Sharma here. And people who worked in the art department on each film. Reshma Malayath and Vishāl on Tikli. And Aditi again for directing and helping the art department. For me, it’s just very important that the city remains a person in the film. Not a backdrop. It’s as if the city also talks. So I see the films like that. As I see my own existence in every city I’ve lived in.
Team Kitaab: You seem to be making one film a year. That’s an amazing turnaround time for an indie filmmaker. After making 3 award-winning films, has financing and releasing of films become easier for you?
Aditya Kripalani: The financing is the same. I find the releasing of a film is mind-numbingly difficult. Even more so now that all ott platforms are as star driven as the theatres.
Team Kitaab: How do you decide on the length of your film? For example, the story of Devi aur Hero could have ended where the doctor decides to become friends with the prostitute, his client. But then it goes on until it reaches a violent climax. Do you find it realistic, as the tone of your films are very realistic, or is it because you want to bring in the question of justice or moral balance of that world. A wrong has been done and it must be undone in some way?
Aditya Kripalani: Yes. Justice in my head is important. But also, a certain seemingly right closure for the people involved. They need some form of temporary closure at least. To their own issues. But we never pat it a pat and dry closure. So it’s like life. It’s a non mukammal jahaan. Always.
Team Kitaab: How do you write your scenes? There are some scenes that are very long conversations and sometimes meditative and there are others where there is silence. How do you visualize your scenes?
Aditya Kripalani: For me, scenes are the last thing to add to a story. So a scene remains inherently part of the core premise of the film. And justifying that premise step by step. Also, we improvise a lot. The structure of a scene remains. Then we improvise. With actors. I change stimuli, to make actors do different things, to keep a scene fresh in the performance.
Team Kitaab: How do you choose your leads? I found the characterization of your psychotherapist character (played by Vinay Sharma), very interesting. He’s chubby, hairy, and has a patch on his head full of wavy hair. How do you work on building your characters?
Aditya Kripalani: Auditions auditions auditions. Golden words of casting. If you audition hard and wide enough you will find stellar actors in India. It’s a treasure trove of actors. I wanted the therapist to be very very human and not larger than life at all. So I got him to put on weight. And walk a certain way. Just be an everyday man. And in the first scene, we see him completely break down.
Team Kitaab: The use of music is another of your trademarks. It is very Western. What kind of music did you grow up on?
Aditya Kripalani: I grew up going for Sawai Gandharva every year and concerts by Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasiya, Bhimsen Joshi Sahab, at Baan Ganga in Mumbai, Ustaad Zaakir Hussain, Ustaad Allah Rakha, and Tracy Chapman, British pop music thanks to my cousins from England, and Hindi film music. And then some jazz.
Team Kitaab: Tell us a little bit about your upcoming projects. Do you plan to shoot them in Singapore? Are you going to depart from your usual theme?
Aditya Kripalani: There’s one in Singapore. The rest are in Mumbai. And the next film to come out is Not Today which is a suicide prevention story.