Amit Chheda has produced animated films like Krishna, Panch Tantra, Ghatotchak etc. Film Road to Sangam, starring Paresh Rawal, Om Puri and Pavan Malhotrs is his first Hindi feature film. Not a classic entertainer with song and dance routine, Road to Sangam is a simple story of a mechanic Hashmat Ullah. The film deals with a very simple story dealt very simply and that is one of the hallmarks of the film. Also the premise of the film to a very large extent is affected by a historical event of great proportion, an event of national and international importance. It deals with a powerful message, a message that keeps becoming more and more pertinent with each passing day. Naturally the film was a risk for a first timer, but Amit Chheda is well vindicating. Road to Sangam has been collecting awards at various important national and international film festival. Viewers have sought second screening even at CANNES.
In conversation with the man himself, Amit Chheda:
How did you get into Audio Video business? What brought you into film production?
This is our family business. My father and uncles has started Shethia Audio Video Pvt. Ltd. Being Guajarati, it was obvious that I will also join them. But I also chose to train myself to understand the business better. After office I used to attend an editing course but all the hard work has paid. Today, I know the heart of this business and do not make mistakes.
Initially we were in trading of audio and video and also in film distributions, but later I decided to expand the business and started by producing Animated films like Krishna, Ghatotchak, Panch Tantra Stories and Yoga video series. They gave the confidence to move ahead with bigger projects.
Why did you get subject like Road to Sangam to be your first Hindi feature film?
We had decided to produce a feature film and were going through the scripts. One day, Amit Rai came to me and I liked his script. But he is a first timer and I was not very confident that he will be able to handle direction too. Since he does plays, I went to see one of his plays. After that I was confident.
However, once we started designing the technical team, I opted for the experienced people for their ideas and vision. Once everything was in place I gave my full support to them.
And as producer, I try to get the best product from fresh and experienced people from my team. My camera person, Dharam Gulati, has done camera work for films like Rudali, and my spot team and senior assistant directors have also assisted Subhash Ghai and other legendary directors of the industry. I wanted to do the project as it was on paper and in script when I listened to it for the first time. I have a seasoned star cast of people like Paresh Rawal, Om Puri, Pawan Malhotra, Swati Chitnis etc.
What was the reaction you received from you star cast, since this is your first feature film as producer?
They all had fallen in love with the script, so there was no problem. As a first time producer, I was with my team all the time to learn the process of film making. Once during dinner Paresh ji and Om Puri ji told me “aap ki himmmat ko daad deni padegi ke aapne iss tarah ke fantastic subject ko leke film bana rahe ho.” And they were so supportive; whatever we needed they were ready to give as an actor – their time, dedication and total efforts.
While shooting did you face any difficulties?
Not from my team or director but while shooting for the climax of film, local people watching the shoot were a great nuisance. That is when Om ji asked them to cooperate. It was their city and their story, so eventually they understood and we could wrap up in time. It was all because Om ji had intervened.
How confident are you about Road to Sangam at the box office?
So far each and every film festival we have gone to, whether national or international, public response has been mind boggling. We have walked away with awards and appreciation. In South Africa, one Algerian woman come to me with her daughter who said she liked the movie a lot. Since that lady didn’t know English, her daughter was translating it for her. Few of the scenes touched her so much she had started crying. As a producer, that is the best award. MAMI gave us Viewer’s Choice Award. So did festivals at Africa, Los Angles, Germany, etc. Naturally, I am quite confident about the movie.
If we think about the commercial part, we have a commercial angle also. Today, success of the film is not connected with a song and dance routine only. Because the film is good, PVR has agreed to release it.
How much this film cost to you and as first time producer how did you manage?
I am a first time producer but I have decided from the beginning that I won’t spend more then needed. We had stuck to our schedule and managed to complete the film within the designated budget. As a director, Amir Rai’s sensibilities were in the right place and he did not waste footage or time.
It did not mean that we sacrificed with the quality of film to save money. To accommodate the best of the performers and technicians, we did increase our budget.
I have two more scripts ready. Once Road to Sangam is through, we will be starting on those ASAP.