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Reeling It In

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Film producer and entrepreneur Ashi Dua Sara’s love for the reel has her handling projects that are not only intriguing, but like none we’ve seen before. Her excitement for two of her films is palpable in her conversation with Pearl Mathias

Born in the small town of Bareilly, UP, Ashi Dua Sara spent her entire childhood at boarding school. Strangely, she recalls, that in boarding schools you aren’t shown many films and you are really not aware of what’s happening in the world. “We were literally confined to one hill and just that many people,” she reminisces. However, once out of school, the world was her oyster.

On summer break at University, she interned with NDTV and worked on two shows, We the People and The Big Fight. Subsequently, a stint at an event company had her organising fashion shows at Lakme Fashion Week. She moved to Mumbai and hasn’t looked back, having since set up an entertainment company and worked in TV advertising. In her latest achievement, she has produced the recently released Saif Ali Khan starrer Kaalakaandi. Here are excerpts from our conversation with Ashi.

How did Flying Unicorn Entertainment transition from an advertising agency to a production house?

More than an advertising agency, we were an entertainment company that was creating advertising funded programming (AFP) properties for television. I curated many shows for SONY, Zoom and many other channels. The transition from that to a production house happened when I had this idea of doing something to mark 100 years of Indian cinema, and that’s when I put together the concept of Bombay Talkies. I got four filmmakers on board and put together the film. That’s when I knew I wanted to make movies. Bombay Talkies was the first film I made and that’s where my journey began. Making movies is really addictive. Once you start, that’s all you dream of.

What led you to get on board with the Kaalakaandi team? Can you share some interesting behind-the-scenes moments?

I wanted to work with Akshat Verma. For a while, I was chasing him to write something for me and when he shared the Kaalakaandi script with me, I was instantly drawn to it.

He said that he wanted Saif Ali Khan in the lead, so we approached Saif and he completely loved the script! It was quite an exciting film to make, and very challenging as well. It’s not your usual film. We had a tough time with the censor board as well. Shooting was extremely challenging because the entire film was shot at night on the streets of Mumbai… in the monsoon! So, we were perpetually on the go.

A behind-the-scenes moment? Well, while shooting the climax, we had a little bit of an accident. Saif had a gun in his hand and accidentally fired it at his own thumb. We had to rush him to hospital and get surgery done immediately. It was scary at that point, but all’s well that ends well, and everything turned out fine.

What can the audience expect from Bombay Talkies Part 2 (also known as Love and Lust)?

From Love and Lust, the audience can expect really, really interesting stories and some interesting takes on love and lust by Zoya Akhtar, Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee and Anurag Kashyap. We just finished shooting and it is in post-production, and I’m really excited about it. The film is being produced by Ronnie Screwvala and me, and you can expect something really different from these four filmmakers, something that they haven’t done before.

What does a normal day in Ashi Dua’s life look like? In an alternate universe, what would you like it to look like?

A normal day involves me going in to office, working on whatever project is in front of us, meeting interesting people, constantly finding writers, and eventually, by the end of the night, trying to read at least a couple of scripts and hoping that I find something that I like and want to pursue.

Actually, I’m quite happy with my life. Quite content. Of course, I strive to be better and to do better. But, in an alternate universe, I’d like everything to be smooth and simple… Oh, and Aamir Khan reading my script and immediately saying yes to me!

What are you most excited about in this New Year?

I’m really excited about my two new films that will be out this year starting with Kaalakaandi, which is already in the theatres and then the anthology, with Love and Lust, which is slated for a release in the second half of the year. I hope this year turns out well for us!

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