The filmmaker talks about the making of Vadh, which is currently trending on Netflix, and his experience of working with Sanjay Mishra and Neena Gupta
Last Updated: 04.17 AM, Feb 13, 2023
A recognised name in the Punjabi film industry, writer-director Jaspal Singh Sandhu has been associated with a slew of interesting projects including Lahoriye, Love Punjab, Angrej, Vekh Baraatan Challiyan and Afsar. However, it was a big leap of faith for him when he decided to helm a Bollywood film, starring veteran actors Sanjay Mishra and Neena Gupta, no less.
Currently trending on Netflix, Vadh marks Jaspal’s Hindi directorial debut, which he has co-written with Rajiv Barnwal. Set in Gwalior (which is also Jaspal’s hometown), the murder mystery, presented by Luv Films, revolves around pensioner Shambhunath Mishra (Sanjay), who and his wife Manju Mishra (Neena) are struggling to make ends meets, after their US-settled son refused help to them.
In an exclusive conversation with OTTplay, the filmmaker talks about his experience of working with the industry veterans, his love for slow burn narrative style and more. Excerpts:
1. Vadh is currently trending on Netflix, and the film has also got some good reviews. How does it feel to have your debut Hindi film being appreciated widely?
I’m actually overwhelmed by the positive response that the film has received so far. I was a little sceptical while shooting, because it’s a dark thriller and I didn’t know how the audience was going to take it. But now I’m really happy and satisfied that people are appreciating the story. We made this film with an honest heart, and I am glad that it has come out well.
2. The film has a commendable cast. It’s a treat for cinephiles to watch Sanjay Mishra and Neena Gupta together on screen. Tell us about your experience of working with them and the making of the film…
From the time we started working on the script and the characters took shape, we had Sanjay and Neena in our minds as the protagonists. I said we have to take them, come what may. Even if that would require pushing the dates of the film according to their schedule.
In fact, working with the veteran actors has been a wonderful learning experience for me. They are simply brilliant on and off screen. They were very natural on camera and amazing on the set. When you explain a character portrayal to them, they would pick it up in like half a second and after that, they’ll do wonders on screen. Woh ek misaal hai apne aap mein ke actors kaise hone chahiye.
Another thing that makes the film special for me is the fact it’s mostly shot in Gwalior. In fact, I had handpicked the live locations for filming. We tried to keep the texture of the old city, which I think is very beautiful, intact in the film. To me, the lanes and views from the fort felt very cinematic. So, Gwalior being my hometown, I was very comfortable shooting the film there. I really enjoyed the whole process.
3. Vadh is a riveting slow-burn thriller. Of late, the Indian audience is warming up to this narrative technique. What’s your take on that?
Personally, I am a big fan of the slow-burn style of filmmaking. My mind works like that. There are people who would prefer seeing some action in every shot of the film, while the others may like it when the story develops gradually. It depends on the viewers, I would say. Yes, there are still fewer fans of slow burn in the country now. But again, I think a lot depends on a person’s basic brain wiring, and how it works. I love slow burn. Whenever I write something, there would always be an element of slow burn in it. I mean, it will automatically get infused in the story. I think if more content is made available, the audience will have a better idea of what slow burn is as a genre.
OTT is making movies of different genres and narrative techniques from across the globe available at people’s homes, which until now was accessible only through satellite channels, cinema halls and film festivals. In just a click, viewers can now enjoy world cinema - be it Spanish, French, Iranian or Korean. OTT has widened the spectrum of films for India’s mass audience. For viewers, cinema is more about entertainment than anything else. And thanks to the digital space, they have now started to realise that achha aise films bhi bante hain.
4. Any series or films that you enjoyed watching on OTT recently?
I’m a big fan of the Coen Brothers [American filmmakers Joel Daniel Coen and Ethan Jesse Coen] and David Fincher [American film director, mostly known for his psychological thrillers]. In recent times, the series that I loved watching were Fargo [Noah Hawley’s black comedy crime drama] and Better Call Saul [a crime and legal drama created by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould]. It’s a wonderfully created slow burn television series.
5. So, is it safe to say that your next directorial venture will again be a slow-burn thriller?
I would love to, but I also want to keep my spectrum of work more diverse at this point. I also enjoy writing comedy, and would like to explore different genres and styles of filmmaking. That said, slow burn remains inherent to the way I think and pen a script. So yes, in the near future, I would try and make a beautiful film in this genre again.
6. SS Rajamouli’s Telugu film RRR has created history by winning a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination. In what way do you think this recognition influences India’s regional cinema?
Everything comes back to one point that all kinds of films are now available on digital platforms. For instance, earlier when a Punjabi film would release, it would mostly be limited to different parts of the state as well as in neighbouring Haryana, and of course, the Punjabi diaspora living abroad. But now, Amazon Prime Video and other OTT platforms are keen on streaming Punjabi films, and that has tremendously increased the reach of this regional industry. Even the films that I had made five-six years ago are now being watched by the audience. As the reach increases, the demand for regional cinema will also grow, which, in turn, will make a positive impact on the industry.
OTT has been a huge boost for actors, filmmakers and technicians alike. Earlier, most people would go to the theatres only to watch films that are either all about heroism or comedy. But in the digital space, content is diversified, meaning people can watch anything they like in the comfort of their homes. There’s a slot for all kinds of talents and genres, be it in terms of movies or series. On OTT, things are not about the A-listers alone.
7. Tell us about your future projects…
There are a couple projects on the table. There is a crime comedy and a grief horror. The latter is kind of set in a fantasy land in the 1950s. We are yet to begin work on these films.