Bhubaneswar, October 11: Back in Sattwik Mohanty’s school years when sketching and storytelling were what he loved doing the most, he never thought he would end up making a film. For someone who has been irreverently frank about his dislike for school and books all through, Mohanty was extremely disappointed when he could not get admitted into National Institute of Design (NID). He then took to Animation and VFX, working in the field for a few years. Not surprisingly for a man of many talents, he wasn’t satisfied with his job.
Finally, Mohanty took the leap of faith and decided to pursue his multiple interests. He quit his job to start writing for films and assist directors like Anurag Kashyap, Nagesh Kukunoor, Anand Gandhi and even worked with Bhansali Productions. Since then, it’s been a long journey towards his debut directorial ‘Ranchi Diaries’, which will release on October 13th.
In an exclusive chat with My City Links, Mohanty shares all about his life, aspirations and the making of his film.
Were films always your first love?
Indeed, no. I loved sketching and cars since my school days.I wanted to become an automobile designer. Not just that, I loved comic books. I wouldn’t just read them, I would draw and create handwritten comic books of my own and share them with my classmates to read. When I couldn’t get admitted to NID, I decided to learn animation and VFX designing and that is where my love for sketching and storytelling skills found the best expression. While working with Tata Elxsi, I came in touch with many Hollywood and Bollywood movies, including Yashraj Film’s animated movie Roadside Romeo, for which I worked too! Though I was never the one to love reading or studying, I had always had this story telling quality from childhood, which I must have inherited from my maternal grandfather. He was a civil engineer and had to keep travelling around a lot and encountered many adventures on the way. His stories were no less than Indiana Jones movies for me.
While working at Tata Elxsi, I realised that no matter how great the animation or the film looks, if the story and the direction aren’t good, the film cannot connect with the audience. So, I decided to quit my job and get into film making.
What kind of movies did you want to make?
I always wanted to make super hero movies since I am huge fan of the Marvel series. But to make movies with that kind of a budget, I have to first make a few other good movies to generate the fund. Besides, I would love to make biopics and TV or web series. I definitely don’t want to stick to making just one kind of film. Moreover, making Odia movies is certainly on my list.
Did you always want to be a director or does acting also interest you?
My problem was that I wanted to do a lot of things together. But thankfully, with time, my focus became steady and I realised that being a director, I can do everything and delve into every aspect of film making. From writing screenplays and dialogues till post production, the director is a part of every single bit of the film.
What kind of movies inspired you?
I have grown up watching Guy Ritchie movies. A stylish film maker, his films are stylish with a wicked sense of humour and packed with action. His style is infectious and you can see that reflects in Ranchi Diaries too, except that the movie is set in Ranchi.
Where did you get the idea of the story of Ranchi Diaries?
This story is based on instances that I came across in my day to day life. It built organically from very relatable characters based in relatable contexts, although the movie is fictitious. First, my characters have been drawn from real life and they are naïve people with bigger than life ambitions. Second, things like bank robbery or lottery are two elements that have intrigued me in a screenplay. Thus, the film is about a bunch of idiots who decide to rob a bank and the consequences they face thereafter.
Based in Ranchi, the film showcases the aspirations of small town denizens who dream of making it big someday. Do you also relate to it at a personal level?
I do. Coming from Bhubaneswar, I had always felt that we had lesser opportunities at our disposal than those who lived in the metros and other big cities. The thing with larger cities is that they give you tremendous scope to explore your dreams. You can go as far as your imagination can take you.
With Ranchi Diaries, it is not only about Ranchi as a place in particular. One can relate it to characters living in any other similar cities. I can also make a Bhubaneswar Diaries or a Cuttack Diaries, or even an Ahmedabad Diaries.
As a first time director, what practical challenges did you face?
The major challenge was the unwillingness of the industry people to finance the project of a newcomer. But then Anupam Kher Sir came by and showed that trust in me, and the rest has been a thrilling journey.
How was it working with Anupam Kher and Jimmy Shergill?
Even though they are all seasoned actors, they have always been humble and would mingle seamlessly with the young actors. Kher Sir, specially, never interfered with my film making process and gave me all the freedom I needed. I have also learnt a lot from them through the entire journey of making this film.
How do you feel your film is being received so far, even before its release?
The response from the audience to the promos has been overwhelming till now, mostly on social media. I hope it translates into success when the movie releases. It is already being appreciated well by the film fraternity.
Any plans to make a movie in or about Odisha?
I, most certainly, have plans to make Odia movies and also movies on Odisha. But before that, it is either Bhubaneswar (Odisha) or me who needs to create a name for self on Bollywood’s map to be able to create a successful venture. As of now, I am trying to create a name for myself so that I can project Odisha in a similar light. Odisha government also has to be more proactive in supportive towards the film industry in the state and to artists from the state, just like other state governments. Adding to it, the number of theatres and multiplexes must increase in Odisha, so that the standard of cinema made is also raised.
What are your future plans?
My next movie is a romantic flick, which is going to be quite different from ‘Ranchi Diaries’.