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From ad agency to ad films to feature films, Vikas Bahl talks about being honest to the craft


“Do not to lie to the audience,” said the director of the blockbuster, Queen, Vikas Bahl. “When making the promo for the movie and positioning it, keep it true to the film so that when the audience comes to watch it they don’t feel cheated.” Bahl was speaking at the Film Bazaar’s Knowledge Series on the topic ‘Choosing the Film and positioning it Right’.
To explain his point he gave example of the movie Dev D, which he had produced under the banner of UTV Spotboy. “The promo had a shot of Abhay Deol coming out from the red coloured background and getting high. Many thought it would push people away. But we thought it stayed true to the whole film. If you like it, come and watch it,” he said, adding that many films nowadays are going wrong in the way they are marketed.
The session was moderated by film critic Rajeev Masand, who seemed to be impressed by the way Bahl has made his mark in the industry. Masand praised his work and asked how Bahl chooses the films he wants to make. “When a person comes with a thought, it should be interesting. It can be just four lines but seems to have a heart. It should be something that can be told in two hours and you should be willing to spend a year and half on it,” said Bahl.
From ad agency to ad films to now feature films, Bahl had found it difficult, initially, but was always motivated to make better films. “I worked in television earlier, and television is a ‘dhanda’; everyone is out to get more out of it. But when you start making creative content, you want to do something larger than life, that is what keeps me doing movies,” he said adding that initially he was lost and didn’t know whom to turn to, to make a movie. “But then I met Raj Kumar Gupta. He narrated Aamir to me and I loved the story. Although when I narrated the movie to the rest of my team they fell asleep half way through the story. But then I decided I wanted to make the film. If you want to do anything you have to like it enough to spend time on it,” said Bahl.
Speaking about star appeal and a film’s success, Bahl was of the opinion that when you find a script with a heart you cast an appropriate actor, although he admits he resorted to using the star power of Salman Khan when promoting ‘Chillar Party’. “Initially people didn’t like the film, but then I showed it to Sohail Khan and he then asked Salman Khan. That is when we shot the promo song. In a way Salman with his aura somehow represented the spirit of the film.”
Vikas Bahl has set up Phantom Films with friends and co-filmmakers Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane and Madhu Mantena, four years ago. On why he started the production house he says: “It was a question of survival. The thought was to put films out there without someone else deciding for us. The movies are a collective idea and we want to help others make better films.” About the clash of creative minds the director-producer says that all members of the production company are friends and that all criticism is taken constructively.
“We all know our integrity and intentions, and are very honest with each other,” said Bahl adding that there has been a time when not being frank has cost a film its success. “When ‘Shandaar’ released, and it didn’t do well, I was told by my people that there were certain things about the movie that would not work. So now we are more frank and honest about our opinions on each other’s films,” said Bahl.
Speaking about the tremendous success of Queen, Bahl said that although the movie has done well, the producers were apprehensive over the first weekend of release. “It took a long time to come to where it is now. In fact the first weekend it didn’t do well, but then it caught up. What worked about the movie was the fact that a disruption in life could be the best thing that happened to you,” said Bahl.
When questioned about censorship, Bahl replied candidly: “While the censor board is relentless, so are we. The country is changing every year. To find good directors you have to let them do work.”

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