Nagesh Kukunoor Masterclass

Digital Academy – The Film School recently organized an interactive Masterclass Session with one of India’s most talented Filmmaker NageshKukunoor.

Nagesh Kukunoor shot to fame with his first full length feature Film called Hyderabad Blues in 1998 which went on to become one of the most successful Independent Films in India. He backed it up with Rockford in 1999, and proved it to everyone that his first Film was not just a flash-in-a-pan.

Before turning Filmmaker, Nagesh was an Engineer in USA. He was born in a middle class family in Hyderabad and after completing his Bachelor’s Degree he moved to the US in 1988 to pursue his Masters in Chemical Engineering. He started living the American Dream, but somewhere down the line, he was never satisfied. Finally in 1998, he returned to Hyderabad to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a Film maker. And rest, as they say, is history.

Nagesh shared some interesting anecdotes about his journey to becoming one of the most successful Independent Filmmakers the country has ever seen. Despite studying Acting and Direction at the Warehouse Actor’s Theater in Atlanta, USA; Nagesh didn’t have much practical experience of Filmmaking. In fact, he attributes this naiveté because of which he left a well settled life and came back to India to do what he always wanted to do, i.e. to make movies.

Upon returning to India, Nagesh got a job as a translator for a Television serial known as ‘Veer Hanuman’.  He has depicted this ‘first day at the job’ in the movie ‘Bollywood Calling’ where the dedicated Actor reaches the shoot at 9am, while everyone else turns up few hours later. His horrendous experience at the unprofessionalism prevalent in the industry left him devastated. The very next day he left the job, locked himself in a room and wrote the first draft of Hyderabad Blues over the next 6 days.

“Do not go upto any Filmmaker and just criticize. If you like it, please make it a point to tell it to the Filmmaker. Earlier, you had to make your way and earn the title of being called a Critic.  These days everyone is a Film Critic,” opined Nagesh. Nagesh does not believe that negative criticism is a healthy thing. “If you come up to me and tell me, I didn’t like your story, what do you expect me to say? Good or bad, a story is a story. At the most, I’ll say, I’m sorry you didn’t like it. I don’t gain anything with your negative criticism,” added Nagesh.

Nagesh also shared his experience of working with Naseeruddin Shah for ‘Teen Deewarein’ where the veteran Actor was persistent with a certain gesture and stuck to it despite Nagesh’s insistence of not doing it. The end result stunned even Nagesh, as to how brilliant the shot looked in the movie. This is a valuable lesson for new Directors, where, an experienced Actor can truly surpass expectations with slight additional nuances.

According to Nagesh, Scriptwriters are making a comeback after falling from their peak of popularity, when people would choose to watch a Film simply based on the Scriptwriters’ name. Nagesh is as much known for his Scripts as he is for his Filmmaking talents. He wrote the first draft of Iqbal in 8 days, which was originally written with the theme of Mallakhamb (Malkhamb is a traditional Indian sport in which a gymnast performs feats and poses in concert with a vertical wooden pole or rope)  instead of Cricket.  The first draft his movie Dor was written in 9 days while the Ye Honsla which didn’t release, was written in 5 days.

Speaking about Scriptwriting, Nagesh says, “Some stories just write themselves. I give myself 30days when I start writing a story. If in those 30 days I can’t finish it, I leave it and come back to it months or maybe years later. I’m talking about the first draft. By the time I finish it, I probably write 7-8 drafts.”

Speaking of Iqbal, he first set out make a short story based on Mallakhamb, but the story became too long to be called a short Film. When he pitched it to Producers, most didn’t really knew what Mallakhamb was. So he had to later change it from Mallakhamb to Cricket, as a result of which the Producers started lining up to sign him.

Nagesh strongly believes in injecting new blood in the industry and signing new Actors like Shreyas for Iqbal. At the same time, some movies do require the presence of a star Actor to justify the story. For the same reason, he chose to have John Abraham for Aashayein.

Nagesh Kukunoor is truly an icon for young Filmmakers who aspire to make commercial as well crictically acclaimed movies. His brilliance lies in his ability to stick to his roots and not lose his focus in making movies that tell epic stories, at the same time, maintaining a balance in making it commercially viable.

Digital Academy – The Film School is indebted to Nagesh for gracing its campus with his presence and sharing his inspiring story with our students.

Role of a Director in Film Making

Often called the captain of the ship, the Director is the primary creative force behind a Film. He or she is the person who translates the screenplay onto the screen through a definite vision. In doing so, he is aided in equal measure by a host of creative & talented technicians, such as the Director of Photography, the Editor, the Actors. But the entire visual language and the final say rests with the Director. It’s the Director’s unique interpretation of the story and of the characters told through an individual cinematic aesthetics that makes the Director the torch-bearer of a Film.

Hence, the responsibilities that a Director has are many. Guiding and soliciting strong & believable performances from the Actors, communicating a defined visual treatment to the Director of Photography, so that he or she can translate the Director’s vision onto the screen, guiding the Editor through the editing process, so that emphasis and accent is put on pivotal plot points in the story. All this & much more is the prerogative of the Director. It’s a complex job that calls for a combination of the left brain & right brain functions – of organization & creativity, of order & exploration.

To truly understand these duties, every aspiring Director must train for years. Watch many Films, read relevant books and ideally work under a good Director to learn the ropes. But even if one is able to do all this, there’s never a guarantee that your education will be complete and you will have a chance of directing your own Film someday. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the Film-making business. The stakes are high and very few are capable of shouldering the immense responsibilities of being a Director.

There is however one route that can at least assure that you will have it all in terms of knowledge, learning, education and experience. And that is by studying Film-making at a world class center of education, like Digital Academy – The Film School. The Film-making program here gives hungry students an in depth understanding of everything related to Film-making & Direction, not just in theory but also via numerous practical Film-making exercises, instructed by the best Directors from the Film industry. Following your superb education, you also get the chance to be placed under a Director in Bollywood to truly hone your craft and seal your chances of becoming a Director.

There’s really nothing quite like the euphoric feeling of Directing a Film. And in order to do that you must direct your attention & energies towards a great education and see how far it takes you.

Career in Film Making

It is now common knowledge that the audio-visual medium is the fastest growing medium of communication in the world. Films are made not only in the fiction format but also as documentaries, training films, corporate films, advertisements and video art. The world of films is like a mushroom cloud that keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Every Film must have a Director with a complete knowledge of Film Making. It stands to reason therefore that higher the number of films, higher will be the demand for directors. A Film Maker is an artist-technician who is also an expert manager, logistics person, coordinator and chief executive officer- all rolled into one. A Film Maker is like a master puppeteer who holds all the strings and makes illusions look like reality. It is a difficult job that requires tremendous creative energy, enthusiasm along with loads of patience and humility. A career in Film Direction is one of extreme creative satisfaction, apart from side benefits of fame and money. But only those who are ready to go through the grind and put in hard labour as well as application can succeed.

Most students of Digital Academy join the industry initially as Assistant Directors and work their way up towards the Directors post. But there is no hard and fast rule about this and if you have the capability you might well straightaway become a Director as soon as you pass out from Digital Academy-The Film School.

While careers of Film Makers are the same as Film Directors it is our analysis that Film Makers who have a complete knowledge of Film Making are generally more in-demand and sought after.

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