On May 22, 2011, I picked up a call from an unknown number.
“Is that Sudhish Kamath?”
“Yes. Who’s this?”
“This is Luv Ranjan. I wanted to thank you for your review…”
*cutting him off*
“Haha! Very funny. Who’s this? I can’t tell your voice since I’m out right now… Nice try though.”
“Where are you right now? Are you in Bombay?”
“You know I’m in Bombay. I’m at Pop Tates, Versova.”
“Will you be there for another 20 minutes?”
“Ok, just stay there. Let me come and thank you in person for your review.”
“Sure. I’m around.”
Twenty minutes later, it turned out that it was Luv Ranjan indeed.
Pyaar Ka Punchnama had just released a couple of days ago. And my review was out earlier that day. “I didn’t want to thank you because it was a good review. I got many reviews that were good. But I thought yours was the only review that GOT what I tried to do with the film. You were the only one who brought up what I did with the climax. For everyone else, the film was about the rant,” he explained.
Contrary to popular opinion, I thought that Punchnama was the rare film to show men as the weaker sex in relationships – manipulated, blackmailed, broken down and reduced to tears – while the girls did seem justified in their behaviour without really doing anything out of villainy, malice or treachery. They simply exercised their agency.
While most people chose to interpret the film as a full blown rant of male angst (which the monologue indeed was but the monologue was in the second act and not the third – part of the conflict and not the resolution) I had interpreted the film as subversion. The film was feminist in my eyes. (The original, not the sequel – the sequel was exactly what people saw the first film as – a comedy about male angst that embraced the broad strokes.)
It was a brief meeting that lasted 20 minutes.
Over the next three years, I called Luv maybe four or five times. Once to ask him if he wanted to collaborate on X – Past is Present (he was busy with Akash Vaani – a film told entirely through the girl’s point of view of an arranged marriage and criminally ignored) and the other times were professional phone calls asking him for his comments about censorship.
On April 2, 2015, after I had announced quitting my day job as a film critic with The Hindu, I got a call from Luv again. “Welcome to the other side,” he said. “I want you to know that I meant what I said the first time I met you. Any help you need, you have a friend in me.”
I thanked him for this genuine heartfelt gesture and went back to figuring out X – Past is Present and another film I was asked to write by the same producer. To cut a long story short, over the next 15 months, I I didn’t get paid for all the work I had done over the last three years. People told me I was stupid to even complain because most people in the business don’t get paid. The business is such that you don’t call out producers – no matter how big or small.
I had exhausted all my life savings because I had put everything I had in the last film in completing X – Past is Present, writing a film without an advance over six months (I had paid for the writing assistant and the recce in Europe) and taken loans to complete my new film Side A Side B instead of sitting and sulking or waiting for things to happen.
Earlier this year, when we were looking at distribution options, I decided to call Luv to ask for his help and expertise. “I really liked the teaser. When can I see the film? If it is what I think it is, I would want to be involved,” he said even before I could ask him for help.
On May 25, 2017, I had a private screening at Lightbox and Luv showed up as promised. He wanted time to process everything he had seen. In June, he called back and said he wanted to be involved in whatever way he could.
When I met him in July, he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I had a lucrative offer from a corporate player that would instantly put me in a position of power and pay me enough to be able to fund my own films in the near future but Luv asked me “Do you want to dabble in films? Or do you want to make films. Just films and nothing else.”
He then pitched me a story idea that I instantly loved.
Luv instantly convinced me that big wasn’t necessarily bad and it was possible to tell stories we believed in within the mainstream space.
Wait, someone was telling me I no longer had to take up a job to make ends meet and actually make the kind of movies I wanted to make AND get paid for it?!
It was a no-brainier. I said Yes. In less than a month, when I went to meet him with a synopsis of the story he pitched, he handed me a signing amount. I didn’t even have to ask him. Nor did he bargain the amount I had quoted.
I went on the flesh out the screenplay for the film last month and we put our heads together to figure out a plan for Side A Side B despite his own adventures and chasing release deadlines for his next.
But I never told him what it meant for a writer to be given a cheque without having to ask.
It’s his birthday tonight. And it sounds like a good time.
Thank you, Luv.
For respecting a writer.
For being a friend. And a brother.
For believing. And making me believe again.
I can’t wait for the world to discover what I see in your vision – beyond the Punchnama films.
P.S: I haven’t updated my journey on this blog in over a year since I gave up my flat and hit the road to be a movie monk. So this is a good time to tell you all that I am moving back to my old building next week. Thanks to Luv, I’m home. Again.
(I’m typing this with smartphone blindness. So excuse typos)