Ravi Udyawar, whose Bollywood debut Mom is running successfully in theatres, says his movie is an emotional drama about the bond which stays with you throughout your life.
The person behind India’s first underwater video, Ravi shot Silk Route’s Dooba Dooba in 1998 and the video became an iconic indie-pop sensation. After almost two decades, he brings the magic of his directorial aesthetics to the big screen.
Connected to India (CtoI) had an incredible conversation with the director who believes in enjoying every moment and emotion of life.
CtoI: Handling art direction and visualisation at ad agencies, designing graphics for Channel V and MTV, directing ad films, and now finally directing a Bollywood feature film, how do you define yourself?
Ravi Udyawar: I was a visual artist and being an artist from Art school, this is actually progress. I started off as a graphic designer; I used to do paintings, then got into MTV which gave me insight about expressions of different kinds. Because I didn’t go to a film school, I didn’t learn theoretically but learnt from art itself and from great film-makers. That’s how I design my own stuff.
CtoI: How did Mom happen?
Ravi Udyawar: It’s a gradual process. There was a music video which won an award and I have been doing commercials for a long time. There are many ideas you live with and with many themes. So, one fine day Boney (Kapoor) sir saw my commercial for UP tourism and I got a phone call and he said, I love your work you’ve been doing all this while and asked me to meet. We met and discussed many ideas and this was one we thought is interesting to explore. We felt I can do a great story on that. It’s a simple idea but I thought I can really build something amazing.
CtoI: How and why did you choose Sridevi as the protagonist?
Ravi Udyawar: There is nobody else except her. There is nobody who could do justice to Devki’s role. I remember writing it, the mother’s role and there is so much more to her character. I always feel the one bond which stays all your life is that of mother and child. What I love is the intricacies of the relationship; people just don’t talk, the silence between characters also speaks. I knew only ma’am (Sridevi) can play this and she played the character so well. Unspoken words between the characters and the silence are what I thought is important. It was her, I couldn’t think of anybody else for this role.
CtoI: You wrote the story keeping Sridevi in mind?
Ravi Udyawar: When we were discussing the mother’s role, a mother of an 18-year-old, I felt Sridevi has an amazing power to possess the audience through her eyes. I think she has the most expressive eyes you’ll ever see on screen. If you see the film, you’ll see it’s there. I felt she has the ability to connect to the audience. There is an invisible connection between the audience and that’ how she created an emotional attachment which nobody else could have created that emotion.
CtoI: What was it like to work with Sridevi in your directorial debut?
Ravi Udyawar: It was amazing working with her because what she brings to the table is great. Even after 300 films, she would walk onto the sets and say let’s start. From starting, she was patiently listening and working.
CtoI: How different is filmmaking from directing commercials?
Ravi Udyawar: A commercial is about telling a story in 30 seconds and it’s all about being precise and you’ve got just that much, so you have got to keep everything minimal. But, when it comes to movies, they are about the characters and their emotions. It’s what you take home, what you feel about and that’s important.
CtoI: Which one you like more between filmmaking and directing commercials?
Ravi Udyawar: Filmmaking. There is no doubt about it. I have learnt everything from commercials. To me, it’s like a school where I learnt all my crafts and I use that craft to make films. As a director, that’s what you do - recreate the world with all the interesting elements. It’s tough, especially the kind of work I am doing which is an amalgam of emotions and thriller. So balancing that is always tough, to hold the audience. You have to keep a balance between realism and drama. You have to keep it real so that people connect to the emotion and they need drama so that they don’t move. It’s very important to connect with the audience.
CtoI: Which is the best thing you like about direction?
Ravi Udyawar: It’s difficult to answer, but I really enjoy writing because I spend a lot of time with my writer. And what is exciting is when you meet your actors and when they come up with ideas, that moment is priceless. I enjoy that, that’s when a film comes together. From the inception to writing it and the dialogue and designing a shot, it’s all amazing. I use a lot of colours and sub texts in the film which you don’t see but it's’ in the background. And when people react without knowing the other elements, that’s priceless, I am happy.
CtoI: Do you think Mom will be a leading nomination in IIFA next year?
Ravi Udyawar: I can’t decide that (laughs). I think there will be people who will love the film, I am sure. We worked really hard, it’s an honest film. We have put everything into it. Even though we don’t see it, but there is a back story with each character. I hope people appreciate that and it comes in IIFA next year.
CtoI: Please tell us about your future projects and what are you working on next?
Ravi Udyawar: We have worked so hard, I am still enjoying this. I am enjoying people’s reaction. I don’t want to take it away. It’s like a painting and I love it. I want to enjoy that before anything. There are many ideas, let see where this takes me.
Even the music by Rahman sir in the movie, the background plays such an important role in the film and I wanted to rely on the background to feel the emotion, journey of my characters. So, it was important to get that music and it was so flawless.
CtoI: If you could choose, which star would you like to work with the most?
Ravi Udyawar: (Laughs) I will skip this one. I love them all. I have worked with most of them in commercials, so it starts with what you want to know and then it follows.
So, I’ll keep it like that. It is going to be the story first then the rest will follow.