Zubaan is a commercial film with a heart – Shaan Vyas
Indian cinema has definitely come of age with the lines between independent and commercial projects beginning to blur. Indie producers are going all out to back great stories and give it the platform they deserve. Sikhya Entertainment is one of the front-runners in the industry who have steadily identified and promoted strong content-based films. And now producers Shaan Vyaas and Guneet Monga of Sikhya are ready with yet another passion project called Zubaan. As the film is set to release in theatres after a successful journey at various film festivals, we get chatting with Shaan who explains the true role of a producer in the filmmaking process and how Zubaan is a new age mainstream film ready to break conventional moulds.
Zubaan has been described as a musical and also a coming of age story, but how would you describe the film?
Well, I would describe it as a coming of age story of a guy, but through music. It is a story of a young man, like any young man of today, full of dreams and ambitions, in the pursuit of which people sometimes lose their way and follow the wrong things. Fame, power, money are the distractions that come along the way and this guy wades through all of this to achieve his own dreams.
As a producer what excited you most about Zubaan? And what were the challenges you encountered?
First of all it is a great story. So the first thing that excited me about the film was its story and how it incorporated music beautifully in the narrative. A problem we have with Bollywood films sometimes is that music is often not woven into the main story. Lots of good movies today do not have lip sync songs and instead have music in the background. Then we have films where song and dance routines just pop up without any consideration for narrative. So this is a film where music is completely in sync with the narrative and every song has a definitive purpose and solely exists to serve the movie. So when we looked at the entire package, we had a film which is commercial in the way the story has been told but also has a personal story of a spiritual journey where we are allowed to have music as an integral part of the narrative.
Was the process & experience of producing a musical different as compared to your earlier films?
Yes, this is actually my first film that has lip sync songs. It was also very different in the way we were shooting the songs. We shot songs at very unique times and places. We have songs on rooftops, in a village in Punjab, a scorching salt desert with temperatures beating down at over 50 degrees, underground parking basements and other incredibly interesting locations. Also our production designer has created some beautiful sets for these songs. One of the songs also has some unique motion graphic sequences plus the choreographers have done incredible work on all the songs. So overall the process and experience was very different but exciting.
We know that this was a long gestating project, so how did you find your lead cast of Vicky Kaushal and Sarah Jane Dias?
This is Vicky’s first film and he shot for it before Masaan. I met him for the first time when I was the executive producer of a short called Geek Out. He had done a lot of action scenes for the film and I was blown away with his intensity on that shoot. As action scenes are always very intense and actors have to really give it their everything, his dedication to the whole process floored us. But we still auditioned over 300 guys but did not see anyone who was so much the character like Vicky was. For Sarah, it was as if the role was almost written for her. She is exactly like her character. She imbues that free spiritedness of her character Meera as she too is a wild child but also has an emotional sensibility that was perfect for the role. All the other actors in the film too are cast perfectly.
You started your journey with Kshay and have gone on to back unconventional indie films. What does it take to pursue your belief in these films?
It takes a lot of telling and convincing myself that this is the last time I am going to do this. But I don’t know if I can be part of films that I am not deeply connected to as a producer, which typically has not been the case till now. But I probably have to break out of that mould because at the end of the day films are a combination of science, art and commerce and this right blend is what we are always looking for in a project. And I think that we found that in Zubaan. Because here we literally have a commercial film with a heart. So I would say that Zubaan is a new age mainstream film. But today’s age is a really content-driven age where a movie with good content and really limited marketing can do well and audiences are getting super smart, so it is a good time to be a content creator. Also, it is getting less and less difficult to work on the kind of work that we would like to do, so that helps a lot.
A producer is normally believed to be associated only with the finance, which isn’t the truth. What is your involvement in the films you back?
If you look at a film as a company, a producer is the CEO; it is as simple as that. It involves putting it all together rather than just financing a project because money doesn’t always buy the best quality for your film. Money can buy you the time of the best quality of technicians but if the director and technicians are not in sync then the work is going to suffer. So, it is like they say that great organizations are made of great people; that is the biggest business mantra of all time. So putting together the right team and right structure and ensuring that your film has an artistic and commercial balance is the real job of a producer.
What should the audience expect from Zubaan as they walk into theatres?
They should expect to be blown away. It is a really beautiful film and people will leave theatres inspired by what they have seen and will also be touched by the film. The film has a flurry of visuals which have never been seen on the screen before. And at the end of the film the universal connect with the spiritual self is something that people will feel, despite the language and cultural barriers.