Apurva Asrani, editor of ‘Children of War’ and ‘Citylights’, holds forth on the challenges of dealing with human interest stories
Editor and screenwriter Apurva Asrani finds himself enjoying the busy phase of work. A few years ago, he had gone into hibernation after having edited films like Satya, Chhal and Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar only to be pulled back to Mumbai by Hansal Mehta for Shahid. This month will see the release of two films edited by Apurva — Mrityunjay Devvrat’s Children of War and Hansal Mehta’s Citylights. In the meantime, he has also edited a short film on urban loneliness featuring Konkona Sen and is writing the screenplay for Hansal Mehta’s next project based on Section 377.
“In the beginning of my career, I was eager to edit every film. Now I filter the offers I get and realised I like human interest stories. People tell me I should take up masala films and make money, but I think there’s more to filmmaking,” he says.
Editing a film like Children of War that draws attention to Bangladesh liberation war and the plight of immigrants comes with a huge set of challenges. “Children of War is a fiercely independent film, but not a small budget one that we associate with in the indie space. Mriyunjay had heard harrowing stories of immigrants during his childhood and felt these issues are relevant today,” explains Apurva.
If Mrityunjay went all out to make a hard-hitting feature film that takes viewers into uncomfortable settings of camps where rape was used as a weapon of war, it was Apurva’s task to interpret the significant yet brutal part of history on the editing table.
A film is made thrice, says Apurva — first at the scripting stage, then interpreted by the director while shooting and later re-interpreted by the editor. “We’ve had a lot of creative arguments over what to retain and what not to,” says Apurva. He was the last among the principal crew to join the project. Mrityunjay wanted Apurva to come to the sets and witness the filmmaking, which Apurva turned down. “I felt it would hamper my objectivity when I edit the film,” he reasons.
Mrityunjay shot three schedules and sent the footage to Apurva, while he continued shooting the remaining portions.
“When you tell a story, it is easier to fall into a slot and bore people. If you begin the story by giving a background of Bangladesh war and present facts, the audience will tune out. I would certainly do. I approached this film from the point of view of human stories and emotions. The audience should be able to relate to what people went through than seeing a document of events,” he explains.
Apurva is happy with his filmography that includes Jalpari that discusses female infanticide and the forthcoming Citylights that highlights issues faced by migrants. “I don’t expect an audience that watches Aashiqui 2 to flock to these movies. But I am aware these films will serve as reference points for human interest stories. Shahid, for example, is more alive today than at its time of release. We continue to get feedback from people on social networks,” he points out. Apurva considers cinema his tool to articulate human rights issues. “Activists have other tools and we, in cinema, speak through our medium,” he says.
Apurva also edited one schedule of Titli (produced by Dibakar Banerjee and directed by Kanu Behl, the film will be screened in the Uncertain Regard category at Cannes International Film Festival) and has taken up a comedy starring Paresh Rawal, Naseeruddin Shah and Annu Kapoor, which is a remake of the 2010 British film The Infidel.
Besides editing, Apurva hopes to get his writing discipline back.
“Writing a story on Section 377 is a huge responsibility and I want to do it well,” he signs off.