“AGPS has changed a lot of our perception about the industry” – Ajay Singh

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With a new director comes a new hope. Hope to see a different kind of cinema. With a new name calling the shots behind the camera, we hope to see a new vision on screen. Director Ajay Singh’s debut with his upcoming short film “Avant Garde Pyathagoras Sharma” (AGPS) carries similar expectations. With his extensive knowledge of cinema that can put the pros to shame one truly sees him standing out of the crowd in years to come. Before he gets too lost in the crowd of adoration and acclaim BollySpice catches the upcoming director for an exclusive chit chat about this bizarrely titled short film. You’ve heard the name, you’ve seen the trailer but what is AGPS all about will now be revealed exclusively here at BollySpice! Read on to get all the details.

We’ll cut the chase to million dollar question, what is Avant Garde Pythagoras Sharma all about?
Avant Garde Pythagoras Sharma is about a boy named Pythagoras who is struggling to come to terms with his Mathematician Father’s ambitions and his own fascination for Cinema. If that itself is not enough of a conflict, he is yet to come to terms with the name given by his Math obsessed father. What follows is a series of events – real, surreal, ironic and cinematic in nature. That’s essentially what the film is all about.

Would you say that this could be the story of many cinema enthusiasts who face family pressures to follow in their parents’ footsteps?
Why just Cinema, I think any artiste, be it a painter or a poet or a musician can relate to the questions that are haunting Pythagoras. We have used a concept from astrology that says Neptune the planet of Creativity is also the planet of chaos, confusion, escapism and hallucination. Any creative artiste can relate to those experiences. We have used Cinema as a backdrop because it is supposed to be the most delusional of all art forms. In fact the birth of Cinema occurred in the era of Neptune. We also wanted to pay tribute to its evolution as an integral part of people’s lives. Besides, in India, despite producing the maximum number of them every year, FILM as a career still remains the F word. So we wanted to include that angle as well.

Short films are seldom noticed in Indian cinema, perhaps because we’re all about 3hr long sagas, or if they are, we the general audience, rarely witness them, yet yourself and Savio took this risk, what convinced you to take the plunge?
Pythagoras was always intended as a half an hour film, which is actually a “long” short film by European Standards. A lot of people who came to know about our film suggested that we should do it as a feature film, considering how quickly we shot the 30 minutes, but “follow the script” was our mantra and I am happy we stayed committed to that till the end. Stretching it further would have been a compromise.
As for the 3 hour films, I absolute love them! Andrei Rublev by Tarkovsky is my most favorite film and it’s almost 4 hours long. I am also a huge fan of our own Lagaan and Mughal e Aazham. So essentially it’s not about the length but the content. If the film is not good, even ten minutes will be difficult to sit through.

Inspirations behind the script?
I’d say Cinema, its great history and its fascinating evolution from nascent to avant garde to contemporary. The film also specifically pays tribute to the great European Cinema of the 50’s and 60’s, which was both original and path breaking in its nature and vision. We have tried to emulate those ethos in what is otherwise essentially an Indian story of self discovery.

I’ve read time and time again that Nakuul was not how you envisioned your Pythagoras Sharma, so how what type of actor did you envision in the role?
Pythagoras was not written with any specific actor in mind. It’s also a myth that we were looking for a “Geeky” or so called “arty” looking actor to play the part. The only things we looked for in the actor were passion and a bit of intelligence. Nakuul Mehta absolutely fitted the bill on both counts. That he has a very cinematic face was simply a bonus.

Do you think the fact that you hadn’t predicted an actor of Nakuul’s type to come forward for such role has changed your perception for your next film?
AGPS has changed a lot of our perception about the industry. Be it Nakuul Mehta for the main lead or people like Benjamin Gilani sir, Toto Nandy, Ashmith Kunder – a lot of these mainstream actors and technicians were willing to support an Indie short film. It was not only pleasantly surprising but also reaffirming that if you are willing to work hard and believe in your conviction, then the industry is willing to give you a hand.

Would you say Nakuul’s another actor on his way to squash the clearly discriminatory saying that ‘models can’t act’, an opinion still surprisingly held by many?
The question is not whether models can act or not. It is whether they are committed or not. It was indeed a big surprise to find Nakuul’s email in our box. Someone who’s played a lead in a Bollywood film wanted to work in a short film! We were very curious. So instead of the normal procedure of mailing people about the status, I called him. And I found him not only to be extremely passionate about Cinema, but also very articulate and intelligent – facts which have not often been highlighted by mainstream Bollywood.

You’ve said that you were surprised how many people from the industry supported you, so do you think that perhaps the divide between houses of cinema in Indian cinema is a superficial one, perhaps created by audience and critics rather than the industry itself?
I think in the 80’s the Indian New Wave got classified as art cinema, which didn’t really help their cause. Thankfully for this generation the classification seems to be good cinema or bad cinema. Most people from the industry are passionate individuals who recognize this fact.

Every director has expectations from their first film so what are some of yours?
I sincerely hope and wish the audience can relate to the honesty and passion with which our team has made this film. The technicians on our crew like Baadal Nanjudswamy (Art Direction) and Khaliq Moti (Production Design) are young talents to watch out for. I hope people notice their efforts and research in incorporating the history of cinema from Lumiere to Bunuel in our Production Design. Uday Mohite’s “express” Cinematography is also hugely responsible for us finishing this film within budget and time.

Tell us a bit about how the release will happen as in recent times we’ve never witnessed a solo short film release as they’ve always been combined in a series? i.e. RGV’s Darna series, Dus Kahaniyaan, Aids Jaago series (never released in the way it was envisioned by the makers) and upcoming I Am series by Onir Nair.
Maybe we’ll make 5 more short films and combine them as a series! Kidding! Short and Independent films have their own markets and avenues. It’s true, in India it’s still a relatively new concept compared to Europe or North America. However things are rapidly improving thanks largely to Production houses like UTV who have been instrumental in creating awareness about World Cinema and general Indie ventures. In the first phase, we are going to enter the film to European Film Festivals and competitions. We also intend to go to North America and then in India major festivals like IFFI/MIFF/MAMI etc.

So where will the average cine-goer i.e. our reader be able to catch AGPS?
We are planning to hold a limited number of screenings in Mumbai once we are back from our Europe tour. Also, if invited, people can catch us at the important film festivals in the Indian circuit. A probable DVD and Internet release is also part of the plans. People can check all the information on our official Facebook page.

You’ve endorsed the title of an ‘indie film snob’ as well as have openly declared that the film is an Indie film, now since BollySpice caters to the mainstream Hindi cinema audience predominantly, would you care to explain in your own words a bit about ‘indie cinema’?
Ah, that was in jest! In west, normally the term “Indie” is associated with low budget films that are created out of the studio system. An Indie is all about the spirit to create. It also allows a great amount of creative control to the makers. People like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez are the foremost examples that come to mind. In India we don’t have the studios, but it’s still difficult to make small films outside of big production houses. The ones that get made are the closest to being called an Indie. Thanks to people like Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Bannerjee, atleast a platform has been laid for new age Indian film makers. Udaan getting selected for Un Certain Regarde at Cannes was a big step up of Indian Independent Cinema.

Why do you think you’ve taken up a passion for Indie cinema over mainstream Indian cinema?
Nothing like that. With the acceptance of films like DEV D and LSD, the Indie has already begun to merge with mainstream. Slowly but surely. Our team would just like to create good cinema, be it Independent or for the Mainstream.

Your opinion of Indian cinema in the 21st century?
I am absolutely hopeful. I can see some very exciting film makers around. Frankly, these are very exciting times to be in Indian Cinema and our team would love to be one of the contributors to its growth.

Some mainstream Indian titles you’ve enjoyed?
So many of them! I must have seen Don and Agneepath almost a hundred times each. Same goes for DDLJ, Lagaan, Dil Chahta Hai etc. Are you asking about the recent films? 3 Idiots was extremely entertaining.

A full feature film is without a doubt an aspiration you have from what I read, however, what about the possibility of dabbling in mainstream Indian cinema?
Absolutely! The next film (a feature film) that we are working on should take us further towards that goal. Our team is trying to come up with a lot of new age material. Hopefully you all will keep hearing from us in next few years.

Any curiosity to be involved in the ‘real’ Bollywood type of a project, a 21st century DDLJ perhaps?!
Hey, that’s a brilliant idea, but after what happened to Sholay, who would want to touch a classic! Haha. Now seriously, why not? Please do not label us art house or anything. We ARE mainstream, just a bit radical maybe. If by doing a real Bollywood project you mean making a few crores, then absolutely!

Stay tuned to BollySpice and we’ll be sure to bring you all the details you need to catch this intriguing piece of art that is ready to be unveiled anytime now!

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