Not many know how the uber-cool, talented, and one of our favourite filmmakers, Homi Adajania inherited his love for storytelling. Actually, his father was an extremely colourful storyteller. “When I used to hear him telling stories, sometimes, even if I was hearing it for the third or fourth time, it sounded like a completely different story. I was quite young, and I said, why do you lie? And he got quite offended. And he said, I don't lie. " I just put colour into my memories and tell the story again, because all you have is the present and your memories, so make sure your memories are colourful.” And Homi picked this up. His most recent adventure with it is called Saas, Bahu aur Flamingo — a web series of women who are resilient, empowered and not afraid to own their choices. A clan of women who are running an underground drug cartel by making boisterous choices. We got in touch with him to know more.
How has you filmmaking evolved over decades?
What I am today is different from how I was yesterday, because the only constant thing in me, and everyone's lives, is change. And I love to embrace change rather than fight it. So I think the person who made Being Cyrus is different to the person who made Cocktail to Finding Fanny, and to the person you're talking to right now. In every phase of my life, I’ve depended on what I'm going through the way, I'm thinking and what I am at that point, and that has reflected in the stories i've told. I’m more emotional as a filmmaker than I was when I was younger. And when I'm talking about emotional, I'm talking about, even the way I would like to play with my visuals or sort of put an emotional cushion towards the way the camera would move or an actor would perform. So I think I've become a little more sensitive in my approach to the storytelling.
Is working with the web medium more challenging than making films for the big screen?
Not at all. In fact, working for the OTT medium is extremely liberating because you can tell your stories with more purity that you can't enjoy or which gets restricted when you are doing a big film, purely because the stakes are higher on a big film, and therefore you have to take into consideration a Friday, Saturday, Sunday collection. Therefore, you have to take into consideration the table value of the cast and not only rely on their craft and their talent, but they need to have a certain amount of commerce, you have to put in certain types of music which you may not want to, which would popularise the film and make it spread across a bigger range of audience. So, I mean, those are the restrictions that you don't feel in OTT or you don't have to experience, and therefore you can tell your story in a more pure way.
Of course there's a great joy and a very different experience when you are making films for the big screen, and also a great joy and experience watching it on a big screen with collective emotions. When you have three other people laughing in unison, crying and hooting and shouting, and seeing everything larger than life at that size — it is also an unparalleled experience as well. So they're very different. I don't think you can even compare the formats apart from them being audio visual formats. I think they're very, very different. But as a filmmaker, I find it a liberating process to work for OTT.
How did it all begin for you with Saas, Bahu aur Flamingo?
Every little seed of the idea began in 2015 or 16. I thought of the idea while I was traveling through the solid flats, then some deserts, and I remember thinking, what if I made a story about these people who live in the middle of absolutely nowhere, and they are running a small industry, but really, in actuality, they're running the biggest drug cartel on this side of the globe. And even the men in the family are unaware of it because they work abroad and actually look at their women with a very different lens. They think they're bored and have monotonous lives and a mundane existence, not even knowing half of what is going on behind those closed doors. So that was the seed of it, which I wrote about, and then I left it but I had discussed the story with Dinesh Vijan who I think pitched the story to the head of Disney+ Hotstar at that time, or maybe it was just Hotstar, I can't remember but he pitched it. They loved the idea. We got into an agreement to do this, and then Covid happened. But then finally, after two years, I was told to get my head out from under a rock where I was living, and let's move now.
And how important was this setting of the film?
It was quite a challenging world, because the fact is that as rustic as it is, these women are sitting on a five-hundred-crore business. They're interested in power, they're interested in survival. They're not interested in material things. So they don't want the private jet or the yacht, or they don't want to travel to all these fancy places, but they'll have a stake in a hotel in Vegas. But they'll never go there. They'll have a sort of sophisticated business of how they changed their money from black to white using gaming powers. And so they're all technologically very savvy, but they're very basic in what their material needs are. And the challenge in creating this world was that it's a fictitious world.
It’s a fictitious place called Ranpradesh, in which there's this little township called Hastipur, which doesn't exist. So to create something like this out of nothing, we took a lot of influences and inspiration from all these areas in the whole northwest of the subcontinent. And then we also created a dialect, which is a fictitious dialect, which was a hybrid of six, seven dialects that exist in those areas. And we got this dialect coach who actually created the language and coached each character to speak a certain degree of the dialect. Sori, who's from the core of that area, has a thick accent. Whereas her daughter, who studied in France, she has a less of a degree of an accent. So that was a challenge, creating something that doesn't exist using influences from things that exist.
Even the costumes are not of any community as such. We again took inspiration from various different styles and costumes of different people from those regions. So all that was quite a challenge because it's not that you can go take a direct reference since you're trying to create a fictitious space. It was the first time I feel that I'd never fully visualised the story before I started making it, because I really didn't know where we were gonna go with this. And in fact, my production designers Vindya and Arvind had this incredible vision for the Haveli.
We found the Haveli which was completely abandoned. It was just a shell. And I said, let's make this into the family home. And not knowing really what to expect, because the fact is that even Dimple's character was extremely fond of goats cuz she was a goat herder when she had nothing. So she still has that, she still loves her goats and she milks them and she plays with them. But you see her milking a goat while she's wearing an Apple watch and she's got a smartphone and she's got a Dyson fan in the middle of the stable. And then there are all these wild goats running around and there's nothing sophisticated about it. So creating that sort of blend was a challenge because I don't think you’ve ever seen this world before.
You have rarely revealed your creative process. What inspires you to keep making films?
I love telling stories and I realised that the visual medium is a very interesting way of putting your point across. I used to love writing, but I feel when you write, the visual medium is left with the reader. With films, you have a little more control over your narrative by showing them what visual to consume. And then they can go on the emotional journey as per their emotions, depending on what you're dishing out. So for me, I find that quite an empowering tool of storytelling and that's what keeps pulling me back to telling more stories.
And what has been your most significant learning from the industry in all these years?
I've not learned anything as such. What I have learned is being surrounded by like-minded people whom you wanna work with, like-minded people you wanna create, create with, that’s the most important thing. But not anything much more than that, because I'm really someone who steps in and out of the space quite often. I'm not around all the time and not around much, but it’s great. I mean I love everyone who I know from the industry. I find them all very interesting in different ways. But not nothing learned as such.
Words Hansika Lohani