From editing ‘Satya’ when he was 19 to giving final shape to ‘Shahid’, editor Apurva Asrani’s journey is chequered and eventful
Apurva Asrani’s work cannot be categorised easily. “I am a creative person. I believe the world is my oyster and I’ve tried different things,” says the man who edited Hansal Mehta’s Shahid and is also credited as co-writer of the screenplay. “Hansal Mehta has an organic way of working. He looked at all of us in his team as collaborators than technicians,” says Apurva, as he begins to discuss the making of the film that brought him out of hibernation. We’ll focus on the hibernation phase later, but first we get talking about Shahid.
“I had moved to Bangalore and was writing reviews for a website when I got a call from Hansal out of the blue. He asked me if I wanted to work with him again. We had worked together on Chhal (1992). He narrated a story that was quite different from the present form of Shahid. We weren’t entirely convinced about the story and I didn’t hear about the project after a while. Then suddenly Hansal sent me a poster — of Shahid, mentioning Anurag Kashyap as one of the producers and my name as the editor,” says Apurva.
Anurag and Apurva hadn’t worked together after Satya. Shahid was a story that Apurva believed in and moved back to Mumbai. “It was a tough film to make. The whole process took a while since it broke new ground. I had liked Rajkumar Yadav’s acting in Ragini MMS and was happy he was doing the role of Shahid,” says Apurva.
The industry knows Apurva as a no-nonsense editor. With Hansal Mehta, he had the freedom to edit the film the way he wanted to. “We were alternating between spells of shooting the film and steering the film in a certain direction on the editing table. Perhaps Hansal felt that the editing gave a new direction to the film and credited me as a co-screenplay writer,” says Apurva.
Having moved back to Mumbai, Apurva also edited Nila Madhab Panda’s Jalpari. In 14 years, Apurva hasn’t worked on more than a dozen films. For those not attuned to Apurva’s work, he began working with the television industry when he was 16, debuted as an editor for Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya when he was 19. A few significant and otherwise films followed. He then happened to co-direct Out of Control after which he took a break. The mention of Out of Control makes him laugh. “I tried to see if I could fit into the mainstream mould and discovered I wasn’t cut out for it. I took a break and moved to Bangalore,” says Apurva.
Apurva calls the MTV show BPL Oye his learning ground. “I started work as a teen. I directed a show for Shobha Doctor before I edited Satya. Later I went to England, learnt acting and worked on short films. I did a lot of things. I was young and trying to find my voice,” he recalls.
Back then, he had even planned to direct a film called Godavari, based on a story of a young girl from AP who eloped only to be left at the mercy of Mumbai’s flesh trade. Talking about the film that was eventually shelved, he says, “I took on something big when I was inexperienced. I wasn’t ready for it.”
In his second innings in Mumbai, he is sure of the kind of work he wants to do. “I did the promo of I Am Kalam before Jalpari. Directors like Nila Madhab Panda and Hansal Mehta are honest filmmakers who don’t mind taking chances,” he says.
Besides films, Apurva is also working on television commercials for the Government of India’s Bharat Nirman campaign.