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.

Careers in Screenplay Writing

A career in scriptwriting is not a sedentary desk job, as most would imagine. Although the seed of the film is planted in the script, the Scriptwriter, like a gardener, tends to the germination and eventually the full flowering of the plant. She becomes a dynamic member of the filmmaking team and is often required for consultation in preproduction, production and postproduction.

Scriptwriters nowadays need to be savvy about the latest digital developments, be they in the area of compositing, keying or frame blending. They also need to know new transition techniques like motion interval shooting, morphing and ramping.

This along with the good old principles of correct screenplay writing makes a heady brew of a career, which gives you a chance to fully exercise your imagination, express your socio-political concerns, create riveting drama and tell immortal tales.

The money is good too. While internationally Scriptwriters have been demanding and receiving handsome remuneration, the scene looks quite bright in India as well. In short, a career in Film and Television Scriptwriting is a thrilling career that could make you rich and famous.

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