Suparn Verma tells sudhish kamath what his next venture Aatma is about
It hasn’t been a smooth ride for journalist/critic-turned-filmmaker Suparn Verma who made his debut with the con caper Ek Khiladi Ek Hasina (2005) and followed it up with Acid Factory (2009). Both the films were criticised for being heavily influenced, with allegations of plagiarism, not to forget that they were ridden mostly with stars who weren’t the best of actors.
Though he has been making films for a decade, Suparn is as excited as a young filmmaker making his debut. His third film Aatma starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Bipasha Basu is gearing up for release.
Looking back on his career, Suparn reminisces, “It has been a big adventure. I had never assisted anyone. So I had to prove that I know to direct, that I was technically accomplished. Nobody taught me. I had written eight films but the most successful one was Qayamat that was based on The Rock. I needed to make my film. I was a restless soul. At 31, I made Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena and when we started out, Acid Factory had a bigger cast and it would have been a different film. I know the plot was plagiarised but I had fun doing the scale of action, production design and bringing technical finesse to it. After that, I looked back at a bunch of my own scripts since I had already done a bit of what I had to do.” With the first two films, he had won the confidence of producers as a filmmaker. He could make them on time and within the budgets allotted. He then got down to polishing his scripts until he found a producer who believed in his conviction. “I wanted to make it my way. That was my basic diktat to my producer and he backed me to the hilt for Aatma. It is not a regular horror film. I lost my father when I was four and a half. The idea of a parent trying to be there for the child even after death fascinated me. Nawaz is a father too, he agreed immediately.”
The horror genre in India popularised by the Ramsay Brothers hasn’t been well produced. “Nobody here makes horror films that are about atmospherics. You don’t have to always make a horror film without polish, with a lot of screaming, low angles, jump scenes that are deliberately trying to scare you with a score or a visual of an owl in the night... It’s all been done to death. I am a big fan of horror.”
“What scares you most in life is losing someone you love. My biggest fear was losing my mother. Aatma is the story of a child caught in a family drama but with a touch of the supernatural. That’s where Aatma came from. It is an emotional film with zero prosthetic scares. The spirit looks like you and me, and there’s a lot of subtlety in certain places.”
Suparn spent a month and a half on the sound design (Aatma is India’s first horror film to be released in Dolby Atmos) and is confident that the visual effects in the film do not look like visual effects.
“Aatma is me coming into my own as a filmmaker. It’s an emotional film primarily as my sound engineers constantly wondered if they should design to scare or make people cry because it is both at the same time. It is probably my most honest film.”