The nocturnal director

From directing plays to a film, director Saad Khan switches on the rewind mode to talk about his first film — Station

Saad Khan needs no introduction. Today, his name is synonymous as the director of the soon-to-be-released film – Humble Politician Nograj —featuring Danish Sait in the lead. While the cine world waits with baited breath for this political satire to hit the screens, Khan goes back in time to tell us about his very first film, Station, a Hindi thriller made in Bengaluru, by Bengalureans.

Khan, a mechanical engineer from MS Ramaiah College and with no “family lineage” in films, took to filmmaking out of sheer “passion”. He studied filmmaking in the US and also worked as an associate director with the Bollywood director, Ashutosh Gowariker on Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se. After this film was complete Khan returned to Bengaluru and set up his company CenterStage in 2011, that conducted acting workshops.

The young director is also the winner of the Young Achiever in Media by Whistling Woods International, Award in Recognition for Excellence in Media by Symbiosis International University and the Karnataka Award by the Department of youth empowerment and sports. Station revolves around three psychotic assassins, who are put together in a dingy railway station waiting room. The film features actors like Siddhanth K Sundar, model Sameer Kevin Roy, Hardik Sha and was produced by Sumit Ghosh. The film, claims the director, was shot only during the nights.

Over to Saad khan, who narrates the journey of his Station in his signature style.

When I was 16, I got into theatre and started with acting, but the director told me I was mouthing other people’s dialogues. So he suggested I try directing a play instead. And, I directed my first play when I was 17.

Direction came naturally to me. I had not studied theatre, but with time, my passion seemed to increase. I also became aware of what I needed to learn. So I attended theatre workshops to learn all about theatre. Over the course of four years of engineering, I had directed 15 plays – most of which were college productions staged at Chowdiah or Alliance Francaise.

Once the direction bug hit me, I started applying to universities abroad for my Masters in filmmaking and studied at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. I was selected for the scholarship because of my body of work in theatre. I did not have the resources to pay the huge amount of money as I come from a middle class family. The trip abroad for my study also had its own hindrances as my passport was taken and not returned to me for eight months! May be they felt I resembled someone from Lebanon or something. So during that waiting period, I directed a few short films. By then the university decided to give me 100% scholarship.

I was also awarded a study scholarship and assistantship, where I taught theatre to the undergraduates and learnt filmmaking in the evening. I studied the whole gamut of filmmaking – but my core focus was direction. The moment I graduated, recession hit and I was getting unpaid internships in the US. I did one or two and realised I could not go ahead in such financial conditions.

So I came back to Bengaluru, stayed for a week then shifted to Mumbai and worked with Ashutosh Gowariker. Normally people work for four to five years as an assistant director before branching out as directors. But, I was in such a hurry to direct that as soon as that project was done, I knew I could make a film and returned to Bengaluru.

It was 2010 and there was a lot of talent here. And most of them could not go to Mumbai to fulfil their acting dreams due to various reasons. That is what led to the making of Station. I was lucky enough to get a producer who was willing to back this project — my friend Sumith.

Station is an independent film. There are no stars, but a bunch of Bengalureans getting together to make a Hindi film. The film is about putting three people, who don’t get along, together in a room. I decided on a thriller as the idea of three strangers in waiting room in a deserted railway station excited me.

From the back end, the challenges too were plenty because – you are making a thriller and setting it up in Bengaluru. Next, it is a Hindi film, so we had to find local talent that could speak fluent Hindi.

All actors are based from here. Even the dubbing was done by them. But, it was strenuous as we had to get the accent right, so the dubbing took us about five to six months to complete.

Challenges were also to look for locations for free. I discovered that Bengaluru is a giving place – be it a bar, a club or a restaurant – everyone was willing to help us out. It was unheard of in 2012 that an independent Hindi film could be made in Bengaluru by Bengalureans.

The film was edited by Kenneth Sebastian. He was just 20 then, now he a famous as a stand up comedian. My music director — Jeet Singh — is also from Bengaluru. My assistant directors were from Christ College or Mount Carmel College. They did not have the experience but I was looking for people with a passion for filmmaking.

I also wanted to shoot at live locations as the film had to have a grimy look. I shot the film in a railway station 70 kms from Bengaluru. It was a real location. There would be a time, when the engine would detach and reattach itself at a particular time. So we used that as part of the film. But, when we took a two-day break and returned the train car was missing and that impacted the continuity.

The whole film was shot at night — from 6 pm to 6 am. The patrol police would come and the moment they would see us shooting, they would sit next to me and ask questions. There was one traffic cop who came almost every night to watch the shooting.

Sitting in a director’s chair is fascinating. I live that role so much that I find myself directing my niece and even parents at home. It seems like second nature to me. Directing your first film will always be special. I will always remember it for I was also dealing with minimal resources and a bunch of youngsters. What we lacked in resources, we made up with our passion and energy.

I wanted to make it in Kannada, but found making it in Hindi from here more challenging. It was Bengaluru’s first Hindi film and I like it when I say or hear the word ‘first”.

As told to Shilpa Sebastian R

This column chronicles a filmmaker’s first efforts

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 9:22:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/the-nocturnal-director/article22395751.ece

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