Exclusive Interview With Shailja Gupta on Walkaway & Digital Art

MissMalini , 19 Jun 2013

Shailja Gupta

Shailja Gupta is a dynamo who dons many hats. Digital Evangelist, Filmmaker and a Visual Artist. (She also heads Red Chillies Digital and Red Chillies USA.) I caught up with her for a chat and she offered to give YOU one of her gorgeous artworks! Read on. xoxo

GLIMPSES – 100 YEARS OF INDIAN CINEMA

To win one of her beautiful digital artworks just take a look at the gallery below, and tell me which one you like best (and why) in the comments, one lucky winner will take home digital art worth 4,950rs!

Check out the entire collection on http://www.theshailja.com (if you like a specific one from the site let me know, you could win one of those too!)

Interview

MissMalini: Hi Shailja! So great talking to you! Tell me about your new film Walkaway

Shailja Gupta: It was great talking to you too. It’s a comedy drama. This movie traces intersecting stories exploring different aspects of love and companionship, as four friends in New York struggle to find their way through the meanders of Indian matrimony. And the importance of unshakeable tradition while trying to fit into a contemporary society.

Exploring the subtleties of the Indian mega-institution of marriage, from the now-veiled urban dowry system to the overwhelming compromises demanded of a cross-cultural couple, the film weaves through the lives of four friends… who struggle to balance engrained values with modern environs in the fast-paced melting-pot that is New York.
I guess it’s probably the South-Asian male version of Sex and the City. Darius, Vinay, Shridhar and Soham – single, dating, engaged and married, strive to maintain some semblance of sanity while questioning themselves, their desires and choices, and the importance of unshakeable traditions.

Cast of Walkaway
Cast of Walkaway

MM: You mentioned it was inspired by real friends, can you tell us who they are and have the seen the film? What did they think?!

SG: Unfortunately can’t share the pictures of my friends. They will kill me! Quite a few instances are a mix of experiences. On a lighter note, quite a few times I would just sit and observe them while they all chat and reminisce and a few would tell me jokingly they would sue me if I use these, I did the smart thing, got them to invest in my film! Most of these friends were based in New York during that time, but now are quite widespread, London, Hongkong, Japan, Brussels, India and of course New York. They were also very sweet to have offered to let me shoot in their homes since i couldn’t afford to rent studio spaces to make a set etc. All of them have seen the film and it was very heartwarming coz they could relate to the characters.

MM: Why is it called Walkaway?

SG: I have always felt that in more or less every relationship a time comes when one has to make choices. These choices could always entail tough decisions one of which could be walking away from the current situation. In my film too, each couple comes face to face with difficult choice. Their decision to Walkaway from it or stay and fight for what they believe in is what I have tried to portray, hence the name “Walkaway”.

MM: How was the response to it in the US?

SG: I was faced with a very unique and unfortunate choice. Just a few days before the release, I was told to push my dates as 2 big Bollywood films decided to change their dates and I was left with no theatres. I either had a choice to wait for 6 months or was given a pre-Diwali/Halloween weekend when NO ONE goes to watch it. Unfortunately I couldn’t afford to wait, and knowing that it would be a bad business decision I went ahead because I needed the reviews to move forward and that is exactly what I did :)

MM: What is the hardest part of making a movie? And what is the most rewarding?

SG: Hardest part is the journey, some days fulfilling and some days I felt like breaking everything and anything that came my way. For me being a producer and director, managing funds and creativity, compromising one for the other at times, though if I was given a choice, I would do the whole journey all over again in a second!

Shailaja Gupta
Shailaja Gupta

No doubt appreciation and watching an idea take shape in form of scenes right in front of the eyes. I can never find the perfect words to describe when I saw the scenes come alive after all the post production finished. It was truly incredible.

MM: Is there some advice you’d like to give young filmmakers trying to break ground?

SG: Get the best producer and first AD. Don’t compromise on the cost for that. That is the key to running the whole film set. If you don’t have money, wait till you have enough to get the best of these two heads.

MM: You’ve worked up close and personal with the likes of Shah Rukh Khan via Red Chillies Entertainment, what has your biggest learning been? Also please tell us something you’ve observed about him!

SG: Work! Work! and Work hard! and then work some more… and that too with lot of passion and the results will follow. This is my biggest learning which I follow daily. More than observing its a lot of learning. It’s amazing to sit beside someone and actually get to observe the amount of knowledge one person can have. I have travelled a lot and met a lot of people nationally and internationally and rarely have I seen someone with such vast knowledge of so many subjects.

MM: We LOVE your digital art inspired by Bollywood and want to buy them ALL up for the MissMalini office, how did you decide to make them?

SG: Thank you! Just give me your office address :) One of the Sunday wintery mornings in New York, I was snuggled up at home and just surfing and reading news when I realised that people from all walks are celebrating the 100 years of Indian cinema. So I started doodling too on photoshop (yes, I don’t use paper! Instead my mecca, pretty much all Adobe products) and created my first piece of Mr. Bachchan.

Amitabh Bachchan
Amitabh Bachchan

I was planning to just put them up on my social media pages but my friends thought I could do more. Then I decided to convert this whole idea into a mammoth project and spent 8 months making 161 paintings.

I started with Hindi films because I grew up on them, but am now working on 60 more paintings encompassing Tamil, Telugu, Malyalam, Kannada.

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