If you have intent, you can make it happen. Balaji Mohan’s success story has roots in intent. You don’t need a producer to become a director. All he did was to pool in some resources from friends to make a short film ‘How to Mess up in Love’. That short film got viral on youtube and later found producers and actor Siddharth. Balaji Mohan postmortem’s his debut film Love Faiolure -
My father is a Telugu guy and my mother is Tamil. It was in 10th class that I decided to become a director. But unfortunately I got good marks in Intermediate and it led to joining of engineering college. But the passion for cinema is still stuck in my head. Looking at my interest, my parents bought me a handy cam in my 3rd semester. I shot a short film on my self. It’s a 7-minute short film that has a phone conversation done by me. It is based on suicide subject.That film did well in short film competitions.
Parents liked by work and allowed me to discontinue my engineering after two years. Then I joined LV Prasad Film and TV Academy for Editing and Sound Design course. I was not eligible to join direction course because I haven’t completed my degree. It is a one year course that allows to have hands on work. I also attended workshops on direction and cinematography during that time. I also used to watch many international and all kinds of films. I used to watch 3-4 films a day.
There used to be a program in Sony Pix called ‘Gateway to Hollywood’. It features short films made by Indians. My short film ‘Treasure’ was selected among the top 12 films. I made it till the last 6 films. Bijor Nambiar’s short film made it to the top. Bijoy later made a feature film titled ‘shaitan’. Then I assisted Sudha K Prasad for a film titled Drohi. I learnt about logistics in film making during that stint. Later on I made 5 short films for a Tamil reality show. One of those 5 shorts films was ‘How to mess up in love’ which is later made as ‘Love Failure’.
It was cinematographer Nirav Shah who contacted me first. He wanted to make it as a feature film. I have asked him for 3 months time to develop the script. Then he introduced me to the producer Shashikant. I got the bound script ready and it was approved. Siddharth came into the project and he was searching for me. He understood the business model and decided to become a producer as well. The objective was to make a simple film as per the demand of the script.
The script was locked before pre-production. We have decided to make no changes on the location. We shot the entire film in less than 40 days in both Tamil and Telugu. One of the reasons for quick execution is the vision of cinematographer. Siddharth has complete control over two languages which helped in quick shoot. I feel that half the work is done when you do the perfect casting. Siddharth made sure that the friends characters are given importance. Siddharth used to stand at the back by giving more importance and visibility to friends characters. The friends character are done by assistant directors (Arjunan and Vignesh).
What are your favorite scenes?
1. The ragging scene in the bus
2. The 20 minutes flashback episode that comes after interval point. It is this 20-minutes part that holds the entire movie. The emotional part of the entire film is embedded into this episode. It was a very tricky part to execute. That is the reason why the dam (women crying) and coffeeshop analogies worked very well.
What are things you could have done better?
1. I should have cast a better faces for random characters like the book seller.
2. After seeing the response dam and coffe shop analogies got, I felt that I might have had more of such things in films. I stayed away from it as I didn’t want it to look radical with too many analogies.
Are you inspired by the book - Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus?
I have read the book and it is an easy rule book. Certain behavior patterns are hardwired into men and women. Men’s need is different and Women’s need is different. There is a dialogue in the movie that ‘Nobody is made for each other’ - however we should cherish the relationship despite differences.
Love Failure has a bias towards men?
It might appear like that because the film is narrated from a boy’s point of view. There is a balancing act in second half during the flashback episode. Guys don’t express themselves to women. Girls are emotionally more intent. If you look at the break-up scene, we have presented two versions. Hero tells Khyathi about his problem. Heroine tells hero about her problem over the phone.
What are the compliments you are getting for this movie?
People are able to relate. Family audiences too are liking it. Love Failure is being appreciated as a healthy film. In Tamil it is doing exceptionally well as it’s a solo hit film in the past two weeks. The film was screened to prominent Tamil film directors (Venkat Prabhu, Vishnu Vardan, Vasantha Balan, Sashi etc) and they are owning Love Failure as an endearing film made in a small budget.
What is the criticism you are getting about the movie?
I am getting very small criticism that the film is male-biased. Some people wanted the conflict point to be more intense and dramatic. Some others wanted two more song (one item song in beach). Love Failure worked because there are no unnecessary songs and because there is no intense conflict point.
Is it an advantage for an editor to become a director?
It helps if you know editing. You can reduce wastage as you have clarity about what you are going to keep in editing. When I shoot a film, I have the entire edited film in my head.
You seem to have got completely influenced with Woody Allen?
I like the laid-back nature characterization and narration technique of Woody Allen. I applied the same in Love Failure.
Who are your favorite directors?
I like Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg apart from Woody Allen. I like the works of Mani Ratnam, Raju Hirani and Sekhar Kammula among the Indian filmmakers. It was Forrest Gump that made me cry for the first time while watching a film. It was that moment I realised that there is a filmmaker in me.
Do you suggest any books on filmmaking?
During my initial days, I bought a book on screen writing by Syd Field. It is a simple book for beginners. ‘Art of Dramatic Writing’ by Lajos N. Egri is also good.
There are lot of guys who want to make it big in film industry through youtube route. Any suggestions?
I feel that one should focus on content/script. Lot of short filmmakers are in a hurry to make a short film and put it on youtube than concentrating on content. I feel that content is the king. If you make sure that content is good, then everything will fall in place. I had no film connections, yet I could direct Love Failure because of the opportunity the internet technology/youtube provided me. Love Failure is an example.
Tell us about your interest in cricket?
I played for Trichy state team (under 13, under 14 and under 15). At one point of time, I seriously contemplated on becoming a professional cricketer. I used to be an opening bowler. I had to leave cricket as I had shoulder problem.
Is love in your personal life a success or a failure?
I am in relationship with a girl. My love is not a failure.
Tell us about your future film?
I have a few story ideas at various stages of development. Will have to decide on one soon. I intend to do films of all genres. I want to be unpredictable when it come to genres of my films. But I make sure that there is humor in whichever genre I attempt.
Ala Modalaindi by Nandini Reddy
Vedam by Krish
Magadheera by SS Rajamouli
Arundhati by M Shyam Prasad Reddy
Ashta Chemma by Mohana Krishna Indraganti
Gamyam by Krish
Happy Days by Sekhar Kammula
Godavari by Sekhar Kammula
Bommarillu by Bhaskar
Chatrapati by SS Rajamouli
Anukokunda Oka Roju by Chandra
Manmadhuru by Vijaya Bhaskar
Santosham by Dasarath
Jayam by Teja.