The superhero genre of filmmaking is one of the least explored genres in India and only a few brave hearts dare to venture into this style of filmmaking. From budget to VFX, from storyline to performance- a lot of things add to the success of the films in this particular genre. So, when I stumbled upon the trailer of Advitya- the first Assamese superhero film I was utterly dumbfounded. Being the inquisitive soul that I am, I knew I had to know more about this film and its story and who else can be better than the director himself?
So, here is my complete interview with Arindam Sharma, the director of Advitya...
How did you get inclined to the superhero genre- a genre that is least and worst explored in Indian cinema?
First of all, calling it worst would be wrong. In India, filmmakers have produced many superhero films. But like other genre films, some of them were accepted by audiences and some of them were not accepted. But the genre superhero needs to be explored more and more.
Initially, I thought of making just a film. Just a film, the genre cum story - nothing was in my mind. I knew I wanted to make an Assamese film. Then I studied Assamese films and the list and genres of the films that were produced. I found that there were films made on family dramas, love stories, some action movies, many award-winning films etc. etc. But, I did not see any sci-fi or superhero film ever made and released in the Assamese film industry. It was the moment when I first thought “Why not a superhero film?”.
The title of the film is intriguing. Could tell us more about the story behind this title?
The title of the film is Advitya, and as per my research, it originates from the Sanskrit word Advitiya= which means the sun or which has no end. Therefore I decided to name the film Advitya as it sounds unique and has a strength in its pronunciation too.
Most of the superhero films that we have grown up watching are based on some source material. What's yours?
Advitya is pure fiction.
A Superhero or a science fiction film is heavily loaded with VFX and if the VFX is poor, the audience feels a disconnect. I was impressed with the VFX witnessed in the trailer. Please tell me something more about the VFX process and the team behind it.
Thank you and I’m glad that you liked the trailer. Audiences are liking the trailer and the VFX. It needs to look real as much as possible.
In Bollywood or Hollywood, we see that the films do have hundreds of Crores of rupees as budget. But in Assam, right now it is impossible to invest such a huge amount. They have hundreds of VFX artists who design every single thing. But, in Assam - my company can not hire such a huge number of people who would work like that.
We had a small VFX team I discussed with them almost every day explaining what I want. They have also worked hard.
Would you please tell me about team Advitya and their contribution to making the film?
The team is a big one. Although I have written the story-screenplay and the dialogues and directed the film, my father, Brojendra Nath Sarma is the real person for whom Advitya could be made - yes, he is the producer of the film.
Actor Arnab Ayan played the superhero and the villain Ray is played by Pranjal Saikia. Niha Rani Das makes her acting debut as the leading lady of the film.
Moreover, Atonu Kashyap, filmmaker/producer Bolin Sarmah (known for the Assamese film Chandrawali), Manabendra Sarmah, Surajit Sarmah, Alok Baruah, Diganta Baruah, Geetika Nanda, Kuntal Kaushik, Bikash Borah and Bishnupriya Kakoty have portrayed the other important characters.
Geetika Nanda portrayed the character of a superwoman in the film. She can fly, to disappear.
The film is shot by Kailash Duara, apart from me and Nasirul Hussain chipping in as well.
Singers Dikshu Sarma, Sanchita Sharma and Ankur Sharma gave their voice to the three songs of the film.
The music is brilliantly designed by Dipu Sharma. Singer Ankur Sharma has also written and tuned the lyrics of the songs and he also sang the title song of the film.
Team SKAS official has worked on the visual effects of the film.
Like VFX, a compelling story and a supportive budget are also equally important. Would you enlighten me a bit on these two aspects as well?
Yes, of course. A budget is of course required to make a film look good on screen. If you have no budget, then it becomes difficult to get the lights, build the sets, payment of the artists and technicians. But, more than a budget - the story and the presentation of the film are the most important aspects.
It is not true that a film which has a huge budget would be a hit and a film which is made on a low budget will flop. Ultimately, the content is the king.
While watching a film, the audiences need to feel connected or focused… they need to be willing to know what's going to happen next!
If a film has this thing, nothing can stop it from being liked by the audience.
So what are Advitya's strengths and weaknesses and against whom is he going to battle out?
Advitya has only one big strength against Ray, the supervillain, and it is that he has a good heart.
The villain Ray is way more stronger and powerful than Advitya. He has more powers.
I would like to keep it hidden till the audiences find it while watching the film - if Advitya would be able to defeat Ray. If yes, how and if he would not be able to defeat Ray, then why? It should remain a mystery.
In one of your earlier interviews, I read that the entire film was reshot. Would you please tell me something about that story?
Yes yes. We had lost the footage of the film. It all happened because of an accident. After trying to recover the files, when I was told that it could not be restored… we were in shock. I informed the old members of the film, especially the actors! And they left the project except for two- Niha Rani Das and Bikash Borah.
We took a break for a few weeks. Then we again decided to make the film once again from the beginning.
I contacted the new actors and after reading the script of the film, they agreed to sign the film. I also made changes to the story of the film and added more action sequences than the previous script had. For the audience it is Advitya, but for us - the makers, it was like shooting for Advitya 2.0.
What were the first reactions from your friends and colleagues when you shared your idea of making Advitya?
My best friends wished me good luck when I shared with them the idea of making the first Assamese superhero film.
At the same time, there were some people who tried to demotivate me by saying that "a film of this type would be impossible for you to make". Some of them said "we do not have such technologies, we don't have such studios in Assam" etc.
But, I had a clear vision of what I wanted. I did not say anything to them. Instead, I started working on the film step by step. Willpower is the most important. And see, it is now ready to release in cinemas on November 18, 2022. I am sure that the audience will have an amazing experience.
With Advitya, you are taking a mammoth step in the world of Assamese filmmaking and comparisons with the existing superhero films are bound to happen. Are you nervous?
No, I am not nervous at all as I have literally given everything that I could give to make Advitya so that it is loved and enjoyed by the audience.
It is indeed the truth that a film of this magnitude has never been attempted and produced earlier in the history of the Assamese Film Industry. Our company Krrishna Kraft Productions (India) Private Limited is the first film production company in Assam that made this possible. We’re sure Assamese people are going to really enjoy the film.
Irrespective of the success or failure of the film at the box office, would you continue making superhero films in future?
As of now, I do not have immediate plans to make another superhero film. I explored the sci-fi genre, and I realised that it requires extreme patience for making such films- especially while composing the VFX.
Of course, I would love to take the franchise ahead with Advitya 2 or another superhero film may be in the future. However, it will take time. I would like to produce some non-sci-fi movies under our banner if I get a good script from somebody.
On a personal level, when did the filmmaking bug bite you?
I am an IT Engineer turned filmmaker. Actually, it has been a secret, that initially I wanted to become an actor. But due to some personal reasons, I could not focus on acting and this universe took me towards film direction.
Everything started in 2017. At the time of the production of Advitya, my father even asked me to play the lead role in the film if I wanted to, I had a chance - which many people dream to have! But I said no to him, and explained that I studied filmmaking, so it is my dream film and my dream place to be behind the camera as a director.
I don’t know if I would act in a film or not, but directing is absolutely sure. I am now happy as a filmmaker and thankful to God and this Universe for making me able to make a debut in the film industry with such a high-scale film.
Please tell me something about your earlier projects.
I worked on one short film on my own and there were some other short film projects that I worked on in my film school.
Tell me something about your filmmaking process.
Technically speaking, the process of filmmaking is the same for all. We need to have all the people right from the producers, directors, actors, dops, assistants, light men, editors, musicians, singers etc. We build sets, we shoot the film as per its demand. It is nearly the same for all.
But where I am all concerned is, if I make a film - it must be liked by the common audience. They need to feel connected with the film… they need to enjoy the film. There has to be an emotional connection. The film should not be boring. It must be made interestingly, in a nicer way. That is it basically.
When working on a script, what are the few things that you prioritise?
For me, while working on a script, what is most important is the characters and their behaviour. The relationships among the characters, how they are related… what the situations are in the script, the beginning of the story and how the conflicts would occur and what the solutions will be.
Apart from the superhero or science fiction genre, what are the other genres you love?
Apart from sci-fi or superhero, I like to watch action films and suspense thriller films.
Who is/are the filmmaker(s) you draw inspiration from?
I am a big fan of SS Rajamouli and S Shankar. Moreover, Rohit Shetty is there. James Cameron... And in Assam, I liked films of our respected Jahnu Barua and late Munin Barua sir.
If I ask you to choose five Indian and five non-Indian actors to act in a film directed by you, who would they be and why?
Five Indian actors that I would love to work with someday would be Anupam Kher, Ashish Vidyarthi, Rajkumar Rao, Ayushmann Khurrana, and Adil Hussain too. The reason is that I am a big big fan of theirs and they are really great actors.
Non-Indian actors would be Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Cruise, Tobey Maguire, Chris Pratt and Kate Winslet - someday if destiny favours... I don’t know!
Which is/are your favourite film(s)?
There are many, from Spiderman, Babies Day Out, Jumanji, Jurassic Park, Titanic, 2.0, Calender (Assamese) and the list goes on...
Any message you would like to give to the readers or budding filmmakers who are willing to take a plunge into the science fiction genre of filmmaking?
The journey of making Advitya was extremely tough. I can't explain what situations we faced. Many bad days, many good days, and many hard times… but we kept on working. And we made it possible.
I just want to add “If you think you can, then you can” - irrespective of all the challenges. We need to have trust in ourselves, we need to have a clear vision. And just start working on that with whatever budget, and equipment you have… just give your 110%.
Everything is possible!
Arindam Sharma has taken a bold and courageous attempt by venturing into this world of superhero. If you have not watched the trailer yet, then click here.
Partha Prawal (Goswami) is a Guwahati-based journalist who loves to write about entertainment, sports, and social and civic issues among others. He is also a published author.