May 08, 2014

Straight from the Heart of an Incorrigible Film-Buff

"How do you feel after winning the National Award for your very first film?" In the past few days I have been asked this question several times, and I find myself struggling to come up with an answer. As always, I want to answer it honestly, but doing so will sound incredible, and may dampen the spirits of my well-wishers who definitely are several times happier than me or Devanshu. What the award means to me, the film-maker, is something that cannot be answered briefly, as there are several perspectives to be understood before coming to that. But what it meant to me, the film-buff, to be a part of that function last Saturday is something I would love to share here. We can start by sharing a little trivia that it was the 101th anniversary of the birth of Indian Cinema when this evening at Vigyan Bhavan became a joy forever for me. Now, let us start from the very beginning.

It was February, 2010. Devanshu and I had gone to watch the first show of 'LSD: Love Sex aur Dhokha'. The lead of the second story was also there, among the handful of audience, with his friends. It must have been a proud moment for him. We loved his work and greeted him after the show. He acknowledged our compliment with utmost sincerity and humility. Since that day, he appeared in several films, and somehow, Devanshu and I kept bumping into him at different places in this city, without really introducing ourselves to him. In the next four years, he became Rajkummar Rao, earning unending praise for his several performances, and finally a National Award for Best Actor. Last Friday morning when we reached the airport, we saw him boarding the same flight. Of course, he recognized us as the two guys who keep meeting him randomly, and a "hello" was effortless. But then he was glad to know that we too are going to Delhi for the awards. After the flight, we were taken to the hotel in the same car and we saw the trailer of his upcoming film 'City Lights', again by Hansal Mehta, the director who made 'Shahid' that won them both their National Awards. The film buff in me was so happy for them, and for 'Shahid', that they won this honour. And I was happy for Geetanjali, who won Best Actress. The world has hardly seen her yet, and at the very beginning of her career this award will definitely be a tremendous encouragement and boost. Add to this, several well-deserved awards won by some of the films I truly loved. Met Bishwadeep Chatterjee who won the Sound Design award for 'Madras Cafe' and had a wonderful chat with him. 'Fandry' won Best Child Actor and I told Somnath Avghade how much I loved his performance in his film. He was there with his Dad all the way from Sholapur. Also met Nagraj Manjule, the director, and thanked him for his powerful first film. "I am eagerly awaiting your next", I told him. He smiled his gentle, calm smile. I was more demanding with Anand Gandhi, when I congratulated him for winning the biggest award of the year, Best Film for 'Ship of Theseus'. "All of us are going to have extremely high expectations from your next film. We are dying to see what the author in you has to offer now." I was so happy to see him receive the award with his producer Sohum Shah. Rajeev Ravi winning the Cinematography award for 'Liar's Dice' and 'Miss Lovely' winning for Art Direction also made me feel great about the award list. Of course, whatever clips we saw of other regional language films that won awards that evening filled me with sincere respect and admiration for all those film-makers whom I didn't know or whose works I had not seen. But to be in their company was special.

Ever since the short film 'Kush' won the top prize at Venice 2013, I had been wanting to get in touch with Shubhashish, the young director of the film. It was special to meet him and I told him how thrilled I have been for him since Venice. Meeting Ruchir, the director of 'Mandrake, Mandrake' and Kavin, its cinematographer, was like making new friends. These young film-makers will be big names tomorrow and I will proudly cheer for them. Saurabh Shukla won the Best Supporting Actor for 'Jolly LLB' and I made my Dad meet him who has been his fan since he wrote and acted in 'Satya' (1998). I also told him how that film had affected the fourteen-year old me and how it remains a personal milestone in my life. He most gracefully posed for a photo with my family and signed an autograph for my ten-year old cousin.

However, despite all these wonderful moments and interactions, the biggest high came from the Masters being there, and being awarded on the same stage. The almost overpowering humility of Jahnu Barua and Girish Kasaravalli, both winning their tenth and fifteenth National Awards respectively was the single most important learning for me during my stay in Delhi - to understand how important it is to stay grounded despite all achievements. I wish it were easy! As of now, I can only say that sharing the award with Mr. Kasaravalli was a matter of unthinkable pride for me. Also was special to talk briefly with the spirited Kamal Swaroop. I can't wait to show Tamaash to him, especially because he understands the Kashmiri language. And then, the biggest moment of the evening, was to watch Gulzar Sa'ab receive the Dada Saheb Phalke Award. Teary eyed, smiles on my lips, I clapped incessantly, with hundreds others sitting there, and then rose to give him a long standing ovation. During that moment, clearly, he had overshadowed the President of India in receiving appreciation from the audience. And then he talked. And he talked about Bimal Roy and S.D. Burman, and Salil Choudhury and Pancham Da and A.R. Rahman. Both Devanshu and I were beaming with pride and were overwhelmed with emotion. Whatever we achieve in our lives from here will have its importance, but not many moments will come close to this. Let it go down in history that when Gulzar Sahab received the highest cinema honour of this country, Devanshu and I were physically present there, feeling proud and inspired and humbled, and very, very special.

Thank you jury and the officers at DFF. Thank you the I&B Ministry and thank you honourable President of India, for giving us such wonderful joys to me and my family. It will remain special, all our lives.


  1. Fully packed with emotions and experience.. Once again sir ji log congratulations.. This jodi will make a mark soon..Vaibhav Raj Gupta.

  2. you both r like a pole star who can achieve every milestone in his life...truly speaking you both r my ideal... I m pursuing mass comm nd I want to follow ur footsteps...

  3. Dear Satyanshu,
    It is really a moment of great pride and faith that somebody like you has got recognized after a meaningful journey. Neither late nor early, it is the beginning of something that will take you to things you are aiming at. Looking at the awards, i think that Indian government-appointed jury has finally come of age. Without any bias and favour, they are bringing genuine Indian cinema before us.

  4. In those few minutes of the film, you beautifully managed to capture the purity of childhood innocence and how we made and continue to make choice between right and wrong. The feeling of success to this height in your very first attempt has been put very humbly by you, I like the fact that more than anything else, you have focused on the film buff inside you. Kudos and hope to see more of your work!

  5. @Vaibhav, Gayatri, Sunil Sir, and Roopa: Thank you so much for your kind words. As film-makers Devanshu and I really hope to keep working hard forever. But yes I am more fond of the film-buff within me. :)

  6. Congratulations Satyanshu... and many more to come... i am quite late in wishing nevertheless ... der aaye durust aaye. Wish you many more laurels in the years to come.

    1. Thanks Arun Sir! It is the good wishes of all of you that keeps us going. :)