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Shakun Batra: The evolution

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As Kapoor & Sons is hailed as the most significant Indian film in recent times to break the stereotype associated with Indian families, we speak to filmmaker Shakun Batra about coming of age in the art of storytelling.  

How have you evolved as a filmmaker?
I think it’s for people to judge if you’ve evolved or not. That said, if you evolve as a person, it’s only obvious that it’s going to start showing in your work. I was 25 when I started co-writing Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu with a friend, now I am in my thirties and over the years we have learnt a lot of things. That being my first film, I really wanted to showcase my craft back then. It was obviously putting a certain kind of composition, a certain kind of colour palette. This time around I was more focused on the story. On the characters and the dynamics around them, the performances. I did not want to go all out to showcase my filmmaking skill. The craft was more hidden. 

Are there any filmmakers that you idolise or derive inspiration from? 
I think Woody Allen is right on top of my list. Then there’s Wes Anderson, Vincente Minnelli, Preston Sturges, Jason Reitman, Alexander Payne…I’ve always liked directors who have a very strong voice. You see their material and you know it’s them. Some of these filmmakers have worked with big actors and made commercially successful films and still managed to hold on to a voice. That’s all that matters; because in the system it’s so easy to get dissuaded by what the studio or the actors want. There’s a beautiful interview with Spielberg where he talks about this voice. He says, ‘generally it’s not a voice; it’s a whisper. Be careful to hear it.’ 

What do you think about the portrayal of the Indian family in films these days—have we finally deviated from the stereotype? 
I’ve never enjoyed the portrayal of Indian families in films more recently. We’re trying to make it look so overtly sweet. It’s almost schmaltzy and so not real. People are individuals and when you talk of a family, you have to talk of characters as individuals. You’ve to see their journeys individually, and then as a family. People grow in different directions. For me, it was important to define every character differently. 

What is next?
I have no clue. What’s next is a blank sheet of paper and a cowriter and I, thinking what we can do next. It’s always a scary thought.

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