Director-Producer Vidhi Kasliwal from Jaipur began her career as an Assistant Producer in Woh Rehne Wali Mehlon Ki and went on to assist Sooraj Barjatya (who happens to be her maternal uncle) as an Assistant Director in Vivah followed by turning Chief Assistant Director in Ek Vivaah Aisa Bhi.
Vidhi is best known as the Writer and Director of Isi Life Mein. She is the founder of Landmarc Films and the producer of documentaries Block By Block and Saathi Haath Badhana, Building For The Future and Marathi film Sanngto Aika has set her feet firm in Bollywood and is now growing from strength to strength.
She also has many Marathi films in the pipeline. Her next film is Vazandar, directed by National Award winning filmmaker Sachin Kundalkar, featuring Sai Tamhankar and Priya Bapat is scheduled to release on 11th November 2016.
A tete-tete with the lady herself…
- How was it working with Sooraj Barjatya? Was he very strict as a director or was he lenient?
Working with Sooraj ji was an experience of a lifetime, I feel privileged for having gotten that opportunity. He teaches you so much about film-making, team-work and life in general, sometimes by just being himself. He is a strict and lenient director. He is very strict about certain things that need to be done in a particular way, and at the same time he is lenient about things that aren’t that important. I think that is his biggest strength to know what to let go of and what to not. Each day of shoot, he would patiently take out time to teach us all assistants, the nuances of his style of cinema and the detailing that needs to go behind the craft of making a memorable film that matters.
- In your first instance itself, you got a big break, do you find yourself lucky?
I find myself very fortunate and blessed to have gotten this chance that few are lucky enough to get, so early on in my career. Which only strengthened my resolve to not let this rare opportunity go to waste and work as hard as I can to prove that I am worthy of being here. And I have been doing just that for the past few years and I will hopefully continue to do so. I love what I do and I hope to make my mentor, my teacher, Sooraj ji proud of me.
- Where everyone is trying their hands at Bollywood movies, you are looking at the Marathi film industry… being a non-Maharashtrian that too… any specific reason?
Over the years, with more exposure to world and regional cinema, I realized cinema and creativity are not bound by language. I was drawn to Marathi films, firstly cause I’m familiar with the language, being born and brought up in Mumbai, secondly cause I love the respect all technicians and actors give to the script, which is the true star of every film. And here I am, at the brink of releasing my second film ‘Vazandar’ and a couple more in the pipeline. Besides Marathi, I am also exploring other regional, national and international projects.
- Your TV series Woh Rehnewali Mehlon Ki was a big hit… why didn’t you continue with TV?
All through college, I had directed and produced several plays. So it was only natural for me to work under Kavita (masi) Barjatya when Rajshri was setting up their TV production wing. It was a great exposure for me and I learnt a lot about dealing with different kinds of professionals from varied fields. But I was too young and confused with what I wanted to do with my life at that point of time. So I took off to go and do a diploma at UCLA.
- Is TV different from films?
Yes, TV is quite different from films. In films we know where we are heading, we know what the beginning and end are going to be. That requires a slightly different skill set in terms of writing. Also in films you have the luxury to treat every scene a particular way. Whereas in TV, you only know what you are starting with – the characters and the premise. But you have to be prepared to keep evolving story lines and characters. That requires a different kind of open-mindedness, malleability and creativity. Plus since most of the TV shows in India are dailies, you are always under the pump to deliver as fast as you can, sometimes compromising on your creative vision. Both films and TV need a certain mindset and both have their own challenges.
- You have a wide array of genres from directing to producing… from TV to films to documentaries… are you an experimental person?
It’s funny, as I was growing up, I was a more structured person, more conventional, more of a conformist. But over the last few years, I’ve realized that I enjoy not getting stuck to doing just one thing in one particular way. So I am very thankful to what I do that allowed me to explore that side of my personality.
- When are we getting to hear about your Bollywood film? Would you like to act in a lead role if given a chance? If yes, would it be in TV or films?
Hopefully, I should start my next Hindi directorial soon… I’m itching to go back on set…. I love working with actors. I miss the adrenaline and pressure. About acting, why not… I’m quite spontaneous as a person… if I connect with some role offered to me, then sure I’d be open to doing it, be it for TV or films.
- Do you miss your hometown or does Mumbai keep you happy always?
I am a Mumbaikar and love the pace and madness of this city. My parents are from Indore and Ajmer… I spent all my summer vacations in Indore. But haven’t been there in a long time. Hopefully post the release of Vazandar, I will get to take a break. Last I went to Ajmer was 5 years ago, when I was shooting for Isi Life Mein. In fact I shot in my family haveli, where my mother grew up. I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to go there again.
- You belong to the Barjatya legacy… did that help you make a place for yourself in the industry?
Of course it did, Rajshri Productions was founded by my great grandfather (Tarachand ji Barjatya) and it is one of the oldest surviving production houses of India. The minute anyone hears of that connection, I am given a more receptive hearing. Then of course my idea/ subject stands for itself. So having the Barjatya background does give me an easier entry, but then it’s up to me and my script what I do from there on.
- Who would you like to cast as your lead actor if you were an actress?
There are so many talented actors, but if there is one thing that I’ve learnt is that the script and character should dictate who is cast in it. So it would really depend on the script.
- In the furure, would you also go for theatres or stick to what you have been doing so far?
Theatre, the stage is my first love and I would love to do that again… I wish I don’t have to choose between films or theatre and hopefully, I can manage to take out time to do both.
- Which would be your favourite genre… off-beat or glamorous?
I love films and all kinds of genres… the best part of being a film-lover is you don’t have to choose… you can love and consume Khosla Ka Ghosla or The Lunchbox as well as Bajirao Mastani or Bajrangi Bhaijaan.