Children-specific workshops to cinema, acting to writing, Amole Gupte does it all and tells Sangeetha Devi Dundoo it doesn’t feel like work

When Partho Gupte was four, his father-filmmaker Amol Gupte was happy being a ‘skating dad’ accompanying him to classes. “There’s a business district in Mumbai where roads are taken over by skaters once the shops are shut. I enrolled Partho to this skating school, went with him and saw children learning to skate,” recalls the filmmaker. Amole saw a story emerge and thought it would make for a film. “Skating is like Formula One for children, giving them more adrenaline rush than running or jumping. It’s like being a Ferrari instead of sitting in a Ferrari. Can you imagine them skating at 70km/hr?”

Amole Gupte’s forthcoming film, Hawaa Hawaai, is a sports-centric film starring his son Partho and his friends. “Some of them are state and national-level skaters,” informs the director. Amole wrote the story soon after Taare Zameen Par. “The project didn’t take off. Perhaps there is a time for everything,” he says. In the mean time, he made the endearing Stanley ka Dabba.

No frills please

Amole and his wife and film editor Deepa Bhatia have a way with children. The couple, along with Partho, has been involved in theatre workshops for underprivileged children. “These workshops have been life-changing for some children,” says Amole. Taare Zameen Par (TZP), Stanley ka Dabba and Hawaa Hawaai are extensions of these workshops. Unit members are in tune with the director’s methods. “Children don’t come with requests for privileges like vanity vans. On our sets, no adult is treated above the children. I don’t choose actors who expect typical Bollywood perks,” says Amole. For Hawaa Hawaai, he roped in Saqib Saleem as a skating coach. “I saw this boy in Karan Johar’s portion of Bombay Talkies, which my wife edited. He is a no-fuss actor and connects well with children,” says Amole.

TZP released in 2007, Stanley… in 2011 and this May will see Hawaa Hawaai. The time gap is not a result of him looking for funds. “As and when we feel there’s a story to tell, we make a film,” says Amole. And he acts occasionally for ‘the joy of acting’ than to earn. “After Kaminey, I was flooded with offers. You name a film and I can say it was offered to me. I don’t want an acting career. Luckily, I don’t think I have ‘worked’ a single day in my life. I’ve been having fun,” he smiles. Next, he will be seen in Rohit Shetty’s Singham 2 as the main villain. If the sensibilities of his own films are so different from these acting assignments, Amole reasons, “Partho and I crack up watching Golmaal 3. I like Rohit Shetty’s films because they are simple.”

Let’s talk money

Amole understands he has to survive in an industry filled with Rs.100 crore and 200 crore clubs. “There would have been money spinners during the time of Pyaasa, Do Bigha Zameen and Mother India, but we don’t remember those films. But yes, when I release my films, I’d develop wooden legs if there’s a Ragini MMS releasing,” he admits. Amole is now travelling to different cities, screening his film to school principals, who, he hopes, will take the word to children. “It’s too late in my life to rethink my idea of cinema. I’ll probably go away if I can’t make the films I believe in,” he signs off.

‘Work around children’

Amole Gupte tailors his schedules around children to ensure no child misses school. “We shoot for two to three hours a day, so kids feel they are attending a workshop. Why make labourers out of them? I see television units doing that, making them shoot for 10-12 hours. An owner of a matchbox factory can be arrested for employing children, but child artistes are treated like workers,” he rues. He also doesn’t believe in auditioning children. “I cannot audition 10 kids and choose one. There cannot be a ‘healthy’ competition between children,” he asserts.