EDITED EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW
Q. What is the philosophy of your ROCKEE funda?
A. ROCKEE is basically the philosophy of life I believe in, in which R stands for Respect, O for openness, C for Courage, K for knowledge, E for empathy and another E stands for Entrepreneurship. ROCKEE is my own innovation as per the humanity principle. I respect everybody, whoever, elder or younger is in front of me or with whom I’m dealing with, Every individual has his own story. Our lives should be an open book. There must be nothing to hide. Most of the time openness and transparency take us far. If you have courage, you can travel further and you can reach new heights. Your courage differentiates you from others. Education se zyada important knowledge hai (Knowledge is more important than education). Life teaches a lot. Therefore, we must learn as much as we can. It is extremely imperative to understand the point of view, from where the other person is coming from so we need to be in their shoes.
I have to respect everybody who meets me. Every person has his own story that needs to be respected. We must add value in whatever we do. That is what the last E of entrepreneur suggests.
Your journey took you from a cold drink seller to the managing director of a big brand in Nigeria. How did cinema attract you?
Of course, I cannot ignore my hard work, but more than that, for me, there is always an energy that takes me forward in my life. My whole life is planned. I did my graduation in accountancy and MBA then with the zeal and energy of moving on and on. My insurance policy was my professional qualification. Whatever our dreams are, professional qualification is extremely important. We always have Plan A, B or C for our lives. It depends upon us, how we choose them. Cinema was something that I always connected with. My next phase of life will be thoroughly for my passion in direction and creativity, for which I have worked hard by becoming a professional. It wasn’t that easy to go for Cinema being my passion or job. Then I realised if I would opt my passion, I had to start from the scratch as a spot boy or something, with so much of struggle. So, it needs a lot of funding which can only come after entering a profession.
What is your take on feature films as a genre?
I love to do films which highlight human relationships that define and describe different situations, just like the ones that I have selected and are about to release — Waiting and Dhanak. My forte is to create realistic stories, like Aankho Dekhi and recent award winning Masaan, low budget films. The focus is more upon significance, connectivity and audience’s relativity.
Do you think Bollywood needs a wider platform for feature films rather than commercial ones?
In India, especially in Hindi cinema, there is shortage of screens in theatres, which create a lot of trouble. What matters is a film with a right budget. But, I strongly believe that digital is the future, with Netflix, Amazon and Hotstar stuff, bigger TV screens at homes, digital is going to be the next market. In some time, we will be planning to have content-driven stories, placed rightly in budget ready to make release online as digital is the next world. It’s easier for people to connect digitally. Masaan is there on Hotstar. In future, Waiting and Dhanak must also be there after their theatre release.
What were your favourite feature films that influenced you?
There are films that make me cry till date, one of which is Dosti. Others that touch my heart were Guide and all Amitabh Bachchan’s movies like Kaalia, Naseeb, Muqaddar Ka siqandar, Kaala Pathar that were released in the 1980s. I am a big Bachchan fan. I still admire, respect and love him. But as of now, I really like some amazing actors I can vouch for including, Irfaan Khan, Sanjay Mishra, Manoj Vajpayee, Raj Kumar Rao.
What are your expectations from Waiting?
Waiting is a lovely film ,according to me. I don’t deal with the business it will make. For me the film should be loved for how it is. We are very sure that Waiting will definitely do good at the box office as the trailer itself has millions of views in just a short time span of first 48 hours. The best catch in Waiting will definitely be Kalki and Naseeruddin Shah’s acting. The transformation of a confused and a weak soul to the strongest one. We have already received so many comments and responses of people thanking us to that we picked up such a different and relatable topic.
Films like Masaan were rare to hit the market. Did you give any prior thought over its success? Do you have any further stories in line?
Rajat is an amazing writer and a story teller. I had a great experience and would love to work with him again. Masaan was a touching script and what caught me was Richa’s character and the lower-class guy from Banaras Ghat. Masaan’s story was an experiment for the society as to how they react in such situations. Sanjay Mishra’s role, as atypical Indian father in the back, who was yet against it, had a remarkable appearance. I have story ideas in mind, which I am planning to delve into movies. But I have a full-time job. Therefore, it is very difficult for me to concentrate on direction. I am working with a female director on films specifically on women empowerment, kids education in the age of 13-14, specifically girls.