How did Hide & Seek materialise?
Apoorva Lakhia narrated to me the subject of Hide & Seek. I told him that I liked it and asked him when he was going to direct the film. He surprised as well as shocked me by telling me that he wanted me to make my debut as a director with the film, after having assisted him in the making of his films like Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost, Ek Ajnabi, Shootout At Lokhandwala and Mission Istanbul.
How would you describe your film Hide & Seek?
Hide & Seek is a suspense thriller. The film is the story of six best friends -Om, Abhi, Jaideep, Imran, Gunita and Jyotika and one night when something so terrible happens to them that its impact resonates through their beings for the next twelve years. Now, twelve years later, having lost all contact with each other, they find themselves face to face once more. Haunted by the past, trapped in a shopping mall, the six best friends turn into worst enemies as they play a game of Hide & Seek for their survival, with their past coming back to haunt them.
What have you set out to show through Hide & Seek?
I show how friendship can go wrong and a little anger can trigger off a bigger event. What I liked about the subject of Hide & Seek is that each and every character in the film is well defined. It is not the story of the heroes but the actors who have equal space.
Is it a conscious effort not to cast stars in Hide & Seek?
Yes. It was a very conscious effort on the part of Appu and me not to cast well known faces with set images in Hide & Seek. I wanted people to come and watch my film as such and not the stars. It is a suspense thriller and it is also a fact that with the kind of budget at our disposal we just could not have cast stars. I wanted to cast six faces, with one hit each. Amruta Patki is Miss India. Arjan Bajwa has a hit in Fashion. Sameer Kochchar is known for his performance in Jannat while Ayaz Khan is known after Jaane Tu Ya Na Jaane Na. Purab Kohli is a known face after My Brother Nikhil, while Mrinalini Sharma is known for her films like Aawarapan and Apaharan
In what way is your style different from that of Apurva Lakhia?
I know I will be compared to Appu. I do not mind, because after all, he is my guru. I like directors like Anurag Kashyap, Karan Johar, Rakesh Roshan, Aamkir Khan, Farhan Akhtar etc. I learnt from Appu how to make films in a very organized way. Appu likes to show all his heroes as larger than life characters, on a wider canvass. I held a workshop for all my actors with proper script readings to make each of them familiar with the other so that they can shed their inhibitions and work together as a team. I wanted all my actors to look tired in a mall. I put in more khichdi, twisting the plot more because I like thrillers. I have used a lot of lensing and lighting to make it claustrophobic. My intention is to make people too play a game while watching my film.
How has the experience of directing Hide & Seek?
They say being a director is a privilege and if such is the case then I am indeed privileged. In retrospect, right from the time that I embarked on my journey as an assistant with Kaizad Gustad with his film Boom, it has been an amazing journey for me. When Appu had taken a break, I had also worked with Bharat Bala in Hari Om, Reema Kagti in Honey Moon Travels and Farhan Akhtar in Lakshya. I am glad that Appu, Laxmi and Moserbaer had enough belief and conviction in me to give me my first film, Hide & Seek. I must mention in particular my wonderful cast who made life for me on the sets as uncomplicated as they did. Most debutant directors crave stars but I chose to tread the other way and cast an ensemble of 6 very talented actors.
What do you have to say now that Hide & Seek is ready for release?
Hide & Seek started off as a small thought which over time grew into a serious idea and before I knew it, this small thought had become my reality. Time for me seems to have passed in a flurry of activity since then. It feels like yesterday when we finished scripting, casting, started shooting, got into post production. And here I stand today at the threshold of judgment.
Is it true that you had shot your film in a mall in Ahmedabad?
Yes. We shot the film over a span of twenty seven days in Ahmedabad. Twenty one of those shooting dates were used in a mall by night. It was just us and a dark eerie mall that actually added to the mood. I must applaud my cast and crew for never once complaining about the odd hours. We would be on location by 7pm and would shoot straight till 10 am. It would not have been possible to finish this film in this short time span had I not had full co operation from every department involved.
What have you taken away from Hide & Seek?
have learnt to say less, think more and remain grateful for each moment that I"m allowed to spend making movies that I believe in. I have tried to add my own stamp to it by bringing into play certain unique techniques that I hope shall have the audience sitting at the edge of their seat, wondering what comes next. What does the future hold for me? I don"t know but the possibilities seem infinite. It is my hope that you, the audience like my first film and give me the opportunity to entertain you time and again with different films of different genres, bringing something new to the silver screen each time.
What next, after Hide & Seek?
I am reading scripts and trying to shift genres. From thrillers to romantic comedies, I want to be known as a versatile director. As a director, I can only give an idea. Not every director can write a story. I feel that it is the writer alone who can take a story to another level in a film format. I want to be like Michael Bay. Right now, my biggest award will be if I am accepted as a good director.