Writer/Director/Producer Shefali Bhushan brings into focus her story that resulted in her soon to be released movie Jugni, her passion project Beat Of India and her overall experience of working in the film industry.
What was your journey into becoming a director?
I did my mass communication from Jamia Miliya Islamiya and that is the logical journey to take in any case and the first assignment I did after finishing the course was as an AD on Jaya Ganga. I’ve been Delhi based and enjoyed it a lot and wanted to move towards direction. But since I was based out of Delhi and there is no real feature film scene there, I got into documentary. I am into music, so I started a website called Beat Of India in 2000. I travelled actively till 2006 to remote areas in search of real folk music and my attempt to popularise it. After that I started feeling like my creative expression was not getting fulfilled because I am more of a curator of talents hidden away in corners of the country. It was very exciting and enriching but I wasn’t deriving my creative satisfaction from there.
I was not sure how to start fresh, kind of shift gears after so many years and go into a different track. I began the journey of making a film and started working on a script with a friend of mine. He was in Mumbai so I travelled back and forth. We signed a contract with Rakeysh Mehra for that script which didn’t start for a very long time; he was then busy with his own production and let me go. It then got picked up by Saregama but their film wing got shut down.
Was it weird that the film just wouldn’t get made? How did you take it?
The industry is such and operates like that. The things it really teaches you are patience, perseverance and not losing hope. There are the few lucky ones who manage to make it with their first but otherwise you have to keep at it.
What was the idea behind the concept of ‘Jugni’ and how did it come about?
Basically like I told you, I had travelled a lot for Beat of India project so I know the world of the artists and I know what it takes to record with them and how to record them. You can’t bring folk artists into a studio and record, the click throws them off, they lose the openness, the environment of a recording studio doesn’t help at all. I had also met a lot of interesting characters so you tend to pick something that you really like. The other script that was signed to Mr. Mehra and Saregama was on a larger canvas and needed a bigger budget. In Jugni’s case the script was not dependent on a big budget; we could make it happen with lower resources and take it to the finish lines. There were less characters,smaller canvas but somehow it did turn into a larger canvas. But then that’s how these journeys are. You need to get it started and then let it go and it takes its own journey.
What is it like being a woman director in this industry where people say it’s difficult to be a woman and taken seriously; what was your experience?
Actually I never got the feeling that I was not being taken seriously. I was not at any disadvantage by being a woman. My co-producers gave me free rein. I haven’t for a day felt either on set or otherwise that there was any disadvantage because I was a woman but having said that, I come from a lawyers family and so I am very used to putting my point across. There are certain problems but I havent suffered them at all. I think it is also perhaps because sometimes women who are in positions of power might possibly tend to become a bad male boss and become extra aggressive because of the general idea that, that’s how you can be taken seriously but I am not like that and it has been absolutely comfortable for me. I also had amazing work partners, my co-producers- Karan Grover and Manas Malhotra who were amazing to work with.
Are there other projects you are working on at the moment?
Jugni releases on January 29, 2016 so we are busy with gearing up for that. There are several ideas. I have two scripts that are ready. I am not actively writing because of lack of time but the ones I have are musicals since music is a personal passion. I understand music; I also sing and play some instruments. I relate to it and connect with it deeply. There is another script which is more of a satire.
What according to you is the single most important thing to shine (which is relative) in what you do; in your case finishing a movie?
I think showing up is important; to decide to do something and decide to complete it no matter what. That is important. Success is completely unimportant but doing what you really want to do and taking it to the finish line is. Here I speak for the whole team in my case. We had a roller coaster ride which has been tremendous fun and people are so surprised that we had so much fun but there have been moments pre and post production when it has been stressful and frustrating but on the whole the journey has really made it worth the while because of how much we all enjoy doing and because it completes us as people and fulfils us.