Vinod Kapri’s Pihu is set to release in theatres across India on November 16, 2018. Here, the National Award-winning filmmaker talks to Murtaza Ali Khan about his new film and the vision behind making a film with a two-year-old protagonist
What are you trying to depict through Pihu? Tell us about your vision behind the film.
Well, all I would like to say at this point is that we often take our relationships for granted. Because of our egos, we tend to ignore our families and relationships. We take them to a point where the damage cannot be undone. While the story of Pihu is told through a child, it is actually about adults. I had two ways of telling this story. I could have told this through adults but I chose to tell it through a child. A child is a powerful symbol of life and its beauty. It’s also a reminder that we must take good care of this life. So, Pihu is not just a character, but it is also a metaphor for life and family.
Pihu has been described as a social thriller. What do you mean by that?
The film has a very strong social message.You see, whether it’s our relatives or friends, we often tend to hurt them, intentionally or unintentionally. Now, the film tries to explore the underlying reasons that hamper us socially and, since the film has a thrill element in it,we like to describe it as a social thriller.
Pihu’s trailer has been receiving great response, with the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Majoj Bajpayee and Anubhav Sinha praising it wholeheartedly. Tell us about your thoughts.
I am absolutely overwhelmed by the response. All these people are veterans of the industry and I am really thankful to them for extending their love and support to a smallfilm like Pihu. However, to tell you the truth, somewhere I always knew that the story would garner such praise. As a writer, when you are conceiving a story, you have a certain conviction. But the bigger challenge for me was to actually make it. You see, for a new filmmaker, it is always a major challenge to convince people to back your film in a place like Mumbai. First, it is noteasy to reach those people who are sitting in the decision-making positions and then it is a major challenge to convey the exact vision to them. It is perhaps even more difficult than making the film.
You have made both documentaries as well as feature films. How differently do you approach them? Are you affected by commercial demands?
I don’t really differentiate things that way. Ultimately, as a storyteller, you have to tell a compelling story. Also, I must tell you that before I choose a subject, I don’t let myself be governed by commercial compulsions. The first thing that I consider is whether a story needs to be told or not. If a story is worth telling, then it must be told. After I had conceived the idea of Pihu, a lot of my friends and well-wishers advised me not to proceed with it, thinking that it might not work commercially. So, I kept on contemplating for a few months, but then I realised that if I have the conviction and self-belief, then I must go ahead with it. Also, the thought that the audience has matured a lot over the recent years, and can easily discern whether a story is good or not, gave me a lot of courage to go ahead and make Pihu.
Pihu is said to be a film with a single protagonist, a two-year-old girl. What inspired you to make it?
As the saying goes, need is the mother of invention. Now, I like to make films on stories written by myself rather than directing films based on stories written by others. As a relatively new filmmaker, there was a thought at the back of my mind whether any producer would like to spend Rs 5 to 10 crore on my story. With that thought in my mind, I was thinking of ways to come up with a story that can be made in about one-tenth of that budget. That made me look for reasons as to what is it that makes a film expensive. So, I realised that often it’s the star cast that increases the cost of production. I have a duplex flat in Noida and I have a pet dog who lives with me. Sometimes I used to leave the dog alone in the house. I would wonder what it would be doing when it was all alone in the house. So, while I was thinking of making a cost-effective film, an idea struck me what if a child has been left alone in the house. I must say that it was really a scary thought. So, I finally had an idea but I didn’t have a story. I must have struggled with the idea for 5-6 months but nothing clicked then suddenly I came across an article in the newspaper. It proved to be a eureka moment for me and that’s how the entire story took form.
Pihu premiered in the IFFI’s Panorama section last. What took you so long to bring it to the theatres?
Pihu was actually shot back in 2015. But then, Kishen Kumar, the main producer of the film, passed away. It was Kishen who had initially supported the film and his sudden death jolted us badly. Finally, after a long delay, I was able to complete the film, thanks to voluntary contributions from many people. After the screening at IFFI, the film started creating a lot of buzz. Few months later, Ronnie Screwvala and Siddharth Roy Malhotra came onboard and that’s how the release date and other things got finalised. I am really thankful to the both of them for backing Pihu.