Filmmaker Vikram Bhatt is gearing up for a new phase in his life. He has directed a lot of successful movies over the years, like Ghulam, which have gone on to become cult classics. But he is best known for breathing life into the genre of horror with films like Raaz and 1920. The filmmaker’s daughter, Krishna Bhatt, is going to start her directorial debut work with a web series and papa Bhatt has attempted to give her a truly unique advice. Vikram has written a heartfelt letter to his daughter on Facebook, telling her that the journey she is about to embark on won’t be without hiccups and that she should be careful with how she treads ahead.
In the letter, Vikram said that he had experienced the industry enough to let Krishna know about its dynamics. For him, helping Krishna foresee the highs and lows in the profession she has decided to take up was the best thing he could gift to her. So, in the long Facebook post, the filmmaker has adviced on many things — from nepotism, audience reactions, criticism, peer support, the glamour of the industry, how to handle failure and more.
In a week you are going to be directing your first ever story in the form of a web original. A story is a story regardless of what platform you choose. I imagine very often that in centuries to come people will watch our content material, like we watch the cave paintings, and figure how are world used to be. And yet don’t let that word “posterity” bother you too much for after all we are entertainers and not historians.
I remember I was fourteen when my Father gave in to my desire of wanting to be filmmaker and ferried me along to meet Mahesh Bhatt. I can never forget the question Mahesh Bhatt asked me that day. “Why would you want this thankless misery Vikram?” he posed. I had no idea why he called filmmaking a thankless misery but as the years went by, and I have been here for thirty-five years now, I realised what he meant. It is not misery, as one understands misery but the misery of continuously grappling with changing circumstances and attitudes around you. However, it is what I call job profile and every job has a unique one.
I was wondering what gift I might give you from one filmmaker to another, on the eve of your big step and I recognize that I only have my limited insights of this business to share with you. I would very much like to bundle them and give them to you.
These may not be your truths and I urge you to not be coloured by mine but should my truths be of any use to you I would consider my journey to be of some use after all.
Firstly, remember, filmmaking is the business of entertainment. People come to us to be entertained. People don’t come to us for education, moral science classes or civic lessons. Don’t talk down to people or claim to know more than them. We really don’t know more than them. We just have a skill that is all.
So, don’t listen to people who say you have a responsibility to do this or that. You are only responsible for good fun entertainment. You may regale some and offend others at times. That is the business. You will never be able to please everyone is any case. Don’t even try. There will be some people who will never like your work. Don’t work hard to win them over for you will find that a pointless exercise. Work hard on the ones who already like your work or show the willingness to like it.
There will be some who will call you a product of nepotism and run you down. Don’t try to pretend that you are not. You are the product of nepotism and that is fine. I have worked hard all my life so that you have it easier than me. If someone rues that, too bad! Screw this game of fairness. Nothing is fair. But nepotism will only give an opportunity and not success. Success depends on talent and not opportunity. There are scores of examples of nepotism in this place that have failed, some even after more than one chance at it so remember its only your talent that will get you by in the final analysis.
The toughest thing you will face is criticism. Everyone knows what you should do and what is right for your story and that is the quirky thing about entertainment so don’t take it seriously.
On professional critics, know that like you and me they get paid to do a job, their job is to more often than not dislike stuff more than like it. If they like everything it makes for boring reading. The fun in any reading is disagreements, and that is what critics are paid to do, to disagree. But remember if you take them seriously when they praise you then you will have to take them seriously when they bash you. They will control you by applauding you and control you by denying you applause. Don’t fall for that trap!
On that note, know that there will be other elite clubs and lists as well, that will do quite the same thing. There will be awards and power lists and elite societies; they will make you yearn to be a part of that elite club. These are just clubs of the successful. Know that in the entertainment business success in nothing but delayed failure. Fail you will. And when you fail these clubs will oust you. Join these clubs at your own risk and if you do become a part of them please know that you are in transit. Don’t move in bag and baggage, just take your over-nighter!
There will be times when you will want to prove yourself to the trade or your peers. When you would want to prove to them how good you are. Don’t! They really don’t care about you. Here is the golden rule for any filmmaker, make films for the people who pay to watch your films. Don’t listen to anyone who does not pay for he has no investment in you or your work. Take it with a pinch of salt.
Stories, stories and only stories work and nothing else works in the business. No stardom, no marketing, no praying and no gimmicks. Like Elia Kazan said, “The audiences are like blood hounds. They smell a good story miles away. You cannot fool them.”
Try new stories. You may fail and that is okay. Don’t be scared to fail. With time this place will make you fear failure but don’t fear it. Dare! Its better to fail at trying something new than succeeding at the same thing, for one day suddenly the cheese will move and you will find your self out-dated and irrelevant, if you dish out the same stuff. This has happened to many unfortunate filmmakers. Stay current. Stay innovative.
Most importantly have fun.
You will make friends on a film or a project and more often than not these friends will drift away when the project is over. Don’t misunderstand them. This is the nature of the business. They are just busy doing some other things, that is all. They are not selfish.
Remember that people don’t want to be mean to you, be nasty or ignore you for that matter. People are not against you. People are just for themselves. In an industry where success is rare people are just trying to pick the winning side for their own survival. Don’t fault them for it. You will find actors, moneybags and some techies doing this all the time. Learn to respect them for their choice of not wanting to work with you.
Try to answer calls and return calls when you can. Don’t humiliate people by not answering their calls. There will surely be a person who will not answer your calls and when that happens save that feeling in your memory and never dish it out to someone else. Unless of course you have a stalker!
Love your crew. They will love you back. Try not to hurt anyone, especially the one who needs a job bad and has to take your insults quietly. That would be a bigger failure than the failing of your film.
I have seen some great filmmakers who are terrible human beings. Please don’t be that filmmaker my darling. I would you be a mediocre filmmaker and a great human being than the other way around.
Lastly my love, don’t get caught up in this hall of fame business. Everything fades with time. However successful you are today, there will be a time when you will be forgotten. So live life to the fullest. Don’t go through life struggling and dealing with heartache just to be remembered forever. Forever is today. Prepare to wrap your fame and fortune with you when you leave this place.
Immortality through your work will happen if it has to. Don’t try to seduce immortality, she is a tricky customer.
I love you…
Krishna had previously assisted her father in films like Mr X, Haunted and Dangerous Ishhq. Vikram Bhatt’s next directorial venture is 1921 which stars Zareen Khan and Karan Kundra.