Nikhil is smitten by Sophiya!
They call it the independent style of filmmaking.
Take Deepa Mehta's (Fire), Kaizad Gustaad's Bombay Boys.
Deepa Mehta's Fire.
Santosh Sivan's Halo and The Terrorist.
Ramgopal Varma's Satya (although he isn't exactly divorced from commercial cinema).
Nagesh Kukunoor's Hyderabad Blues and Rockford
They are also here to stay.
Making his foray into this independent world is Sunhil Sippy with a black comedy interestingly titled Snip, which he feels is the unique selling point of the film.
Sunhil, who is trained in filmmaking from Georgetown University in the US, has done shows for Disneyclub on DD Metro.
He had, in fact, been working on a couple of scripts for the last two-three years. And then was determined to get one project off the ground
So he coalesced the characters from different scripts together into one. And that was the genesis of Snip.
Snip is a mad comedy about a barber snipping off a customer's ear accidentally, and the series of adventures that follow thereafter. In his own words, Sunhil describes the film as "It is about chaos. (smiles).
"I also think there is a gritty, serious side to the story as well. It is about life, fear, horror, belief that holds the strength and integrity of the pivotal characters together.
"Basically, Snip has three stories happening. Each binds the other together. It is about an honest person who turns to crime. Apart from that, the attraction for me lies in how various people from different walks of life interact."
Sunhil cites the character, Munna (played by Saurabh Shukla). "He has never really interacted with a woman before. He has never been with a woman. (winks)
"So when he has to share a room with a British agent, he doesn't know what is happening. It is like a vicious killer suddenly turning into a schoolboy. So it is an exploration of how people change when when people come across a particular situation."
The colour black and the genre comedy
Why a black comedy? Because Sunhil has never taken anything seriously in his life. Including himself. Besides, as he says, "Black comedy is easier than romantic comedy. The romance element in Snip is on a small scale.
"There is more to Snip than just that. In terms of worldwide popularity, the darkness in the comedy of a film really helps get a wider appeal. The way the industry is moving, I feel, there will always be an action film, a romantic film. But the genre of black comedy is really exciting."
He is all praise for his cast." We would play around the sets, try different things and try to create this easygoing atmosphere. As a result, one gets a natural and realistic kind of look in the film."
Cast it as he can -- casting right
For Sunhil, the right casting makes all the difference. Sophiya Haque, who plays the lead role in the film, was initially rejected for the role. But Sunhil watched video tapes of her in different costumes. One particular image struck. And she was in.
Nikhil Chinappa, who had just tagged along with a friend at the audition of the film, tried his luck on insistence of the same friend. He bagged the role of Sophiya's romantic interest.
An aside -- this is history of sorts: an MTV VJ being paired opposite a Channel [V] one!
For his part, Nikhil says, "I thought I was quite crappy, but obviously Sunhil saw something in me. I don't have a massive role, but I think I would be a fool to refuse such a setup, where people like Ravi Chandran (cinematographer) and Sunhil are involved."
"Sunhil is like Michalengelo. His boyish charm and cool personality were strong enough incentive for me to do Snip."
His feelings are reciprocated. Sunhil says, about Nikhil, "He is a charming guy. He has done quite well for his first film, in spite of a brief role. I hope people don't confuse it for a love story, because it's not"
Sunhil does not belong to the school that believes that established stars make a film work. He reasons that Saurabh and Archana Puran Singh are stars in there own right. "I want to work with people who want to work with me. Finally we are talking about the heroes and stars and shit like that, but ultimately it is the film, which is the real star."
On his own steam be it!
For the England-born and raised Sunhil, basing the film in Bombay proved no problem, with Makarand (Deshpande) and Saurabh actively helping him out. He adds, "I am not settled abroad anymore. Probably, I don't know, I feel weird about doing a film in England. I did make short films in college. That's it."
In spite of being the grandson of the illustrious G P Sippy, Sunhil decided to make it on his own steam. "They didn't believe in this kind of film. They believe in the commercial, mainstream kinds. I wanted to do something on my own."
But if it is not a high-budgeted film, the question arises: what objection could they possibly have? They have introduced newcomers in the past, haven't they?
"I'm staying away from that one. (smiles) I never asked them whether they wanted to help or not. The sense of achievement you get out of doing something independently is very important to me."
So Sunhil met quite a few people interested in making this kind of film who heard the story and screenplay and liked it. "You know, people never put their money in till the last minute. We didn't really have much money in the bank when we started shooting. I had to go on blind faith that it would come through!
"The problem is, when its your first film, you never know what is going to happen next. You have to believe that it will work. The sheer belief that it will work has to be so strong. You cannot play cautiously.
"Up to a point, you play really safe -- meeting the right people to finance the film. The moment everything is clear, you take the plunge and the risk -- you have no idea if the well you are jumping into is full or empty.
"Right now, I have no idea if there is any water in the well at all. I am in mid air, fluffing my arms." (laughs)
Idols for an ideal
A fan of Pedro Almodovar (Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down), Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas) and Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), he wants to make the kind of films that his idols made.
Meanwhile, Sippy is all set to release Snip this year.