“It’s not easy for a new director to come into Bollywood with a totally new star cast, new story” – Shawn Arranha

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You may not know Shawn Arranha now, but we can almost guarantee you will want to know more of him once his debut film Hide & Seek hits cinemas. The first time director has been a part of a number of films especially those closely associated as an assistant director with friend and producer to his first film, Apoorva Lakhia. In the past he has assisted Lakhia on Shootout At Lokhandwala, Ek Ajnabee and the romantic hit Saathiya. But the director has since left his assistant days only to take on a more demanding and commanding job. He is now the director of his first film. And no it isn’t a love story but a suspense-thriller that Arranha will be throwing our way in a few days time. The likes of Purab Kohli, Arjan Bajwa and Mrinalini Sharma amongst others, all come together in this thriller which Arrahna promises to keep you guessing. Check out our candid interview with the director who gives us the low down on Hide & Seek.

What was your initial reaction when Apoorva Lakhia gave you the idea of Hide & Seek?

I was shocked because I never thought that he would be the guy who would push me to direct. He always wanted me to be a director but I never thought he would be the one to launch me. So when he came up with the story, he gave me the script and said, “What do you think about the film?” And I told him it’s a fantastic story. He just said, “Well you’re directing the film.” So for me it was a shock at that moment.

Were you at all hesitant to pursue such a different genre for your directorial debut?

No, I wasn’t at all hesitant because the story was superb. It’s a fantastic thriller-suspense which I really loved. And I love thriller-suspense films. So when I read it, I told him it’s a fantastic idea. And when he told me to direct it, I was very very happy because it is something I would love to experiment with. It’s not easy getting a good story for a first time director. So I was really thrilled.

How did you manage to complete shooting the film in only 21 days?

We actually shot the film in 27 days; 21 nights and 6 days. Well basically we were very well prepared. For three months we had a prep. We went for location scouting, shot breakdowns; so we did a lot of homework. So when we came to shoot the film, we were really prepared. We knew exactly which shot was going to be shot where, what the actors would be doing, where they would be sitting, walking, looking. So because we were so prepared, we were able to shoot the film in 27 days.

Why did you choose to not include actual song sequences in the film?

The film is expected to be told a certain way, a certain style. And by putting a song in the film, it would break the flow of the suspense that we are trying to portray to the audience. Each and every shot or frame is giving out a message to the audience. So if we break into a song, you lose that concentration; you lose that feel of the film. So we didn’t have any need to put songs in the film. There are songs though but as background music, whenever it needs to come in to give a little breather. But as a full-fledged film, suddenly breaking into a song breaks the concentration of the film. That’s a choice I took, talked to Apu and said this is how I felt. And he said, why not? Go ahead.

You’ve worked with a lot of experienced actors as an assistant director. How was it different working with such a younger cast this time around?

There is only one debutante in the film, Amruta Patki. All the rest of the actors have all done two or three films and they have done really good quality work. They are all very talented actors. It’s sad to see such good talented actors going to waste. But I guess when people come and see my film, they will realize that there are really talented actors out there in Bollywood, if people actually got up to accept new films, new styles, new stories coming into Bollywood. And I’m sure when people see the film, they will realize that. These guys are so talented that for a first time director, it really made my life very comfortable and easy because I didn’t have to do much. I would just tell them this is what my scene is and they would get into the character which they worked on, and that’s how they got into it.

Everyone is experienced in the film. Basically what happened is that I wanted the star cast to be a little different because I want people to come and watch a story, a film. I don’t want people to come and get starry-eyed with such big actors. I want people to come and see how a story is being told; how its being unfolded. So my six actors who are in the film had basically gelled so well with the characters that you don’t leave feeling like you’re seeing a person; you feel like you’ve seen a character. So when you see the film, you see a story. You see characters being made in front of you and you start getting into the film. By the time you understood the film and the thriller, you come out saying, “What a great film!” And I’ve noticed people who have seen the film have come out and started discussing the film. It’s a great story and I’m very happy with the outcome of it.

And I was just about to ask if you would change anything, but I’m guessing you wouldn’t change anything about the film!

No I wouldn’t because right now, the way its looking and the feedback. People have been telling me they’ve loved it. So I have my fingers crossed, hoping that even now as it releases on the 12th of March, people who go and see the film love the film and appreciate it. And accept me as a director coming into the industry.

Was the chemistry between all of the actors as you expected?

Yes, great chemistry because they all knew each other. That’s the good part. They all knew each other from previous films, shows, something or the other. So there were never any bad vibes, no hatred, no envy, nothing. Everyone worked like a team. We were all on the same wavelength. Everyone was focused on the film. Everyone knew exactly what they had to do and I knew exactly what we had to shoot so everyone was very focused. And we had 27 days; we didn’t have time to think! (Laughs)

What can we expect from you next?

Firstly, I’m expecting people to accept me! (Laughs) That’s the biggest thing. It’s not easy for a new director to come into Bollywood with a totally new star cast, new story and so on. So it’s a big challenge for me; hoping people appreciate and accept my film. And I’m also hoping tomorrow to do various types of genres and unique styles of film making. Hoping that people get to see something new every day and expect good films from Shawn Arranha.

And lastly, how is Hide & Seek different from previous suspenseful thrillers seen in Bollywood and why should people watch this film?

I would say people should expect a new fresh film; something new. People usually think it’s a horror film but it’s not. It’s a good thriller-suspense film. It has a bit of eeriness in it. People should be ready and prepared to see the film from start to finish because it’s a game. While they are seeing the film they will think they are playing a game itself because they are going to catch who the killer is. By the end of the film, they too will be shocked as to why they didn’t get it. I’m just happy that someone like Mr. Apoorva Lakhia and Laxmi Singh have given me a chance to make a film like this. It’s not easy for a first time director but these guys have done it. And I’m hoping I live up to everyone’s expectations. I hope everyone loves the film!

Hide & Seek releases March 12th. Be sure to catch it and enjoy this thriller-suspense!

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