Sagar Ballary’s Food For Thought on Bheja Fry



Debutante director Sagar Ballary of the Bheja Fry fame holds forth in this column on his belief in the movie, its stupendous and unprecedented success at the box office, the doors it opened for him and the prospect of small films in the era of multiplex boom.

Bheja Fry ≠ Unconventional film

Bheja Fry was never intended to be an unconventional film. We never tried to make it as something different. There are good films and there are bad films. I guess it turned out to be a good film close to the intentions of the making team. Bheja Fry was always supposed to be a comedy. The crux of Bheja Fry’s humour was already ingrained in the collective unconscious of the Hindi Film audience over the years with films like Chasme Badoor, Chupke Chupke, Katha, Padosan, Half Ticket, Golmaal, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron etc… The film merely came and refreshed the forgotten memories of such content.

Humour and laughs = Commercial viability

Bheja Fry became commercially viable because of the humour and laughs. Because of the timing of the release, because India lost the Cricket World Cup, because a decent real comedy was long overdue – on television and cinema, because people were sick of seeing the same boring emotions and plots, because it was made on such a low budget, because it was a smooth logical narrative that delivered what it promised. For other small budgeted films to be commercially viable I think there are no absolute values. At the core of it must be a good film. Not just screenplay and dialogues but superb performances and proper film craft. To rake in the moolah like Bheja Fry, I guess if it’s a comedy it should help.

The screen never lies…

I would never do a film without believing in it. You cannot make anything without a belief. Without such a mental volation the film would end up feeling hollow and pretentious. The medium of film is such that what is on the screen never lies… it always speaks the truth.

We need freedom and money to make a film

When I signed a three-film deal with Sahara I did not differentiate between the corporate and non-corporate. After all everything is run by human beings and it’s all about the right communication with the human beings you are dealing with. We need freedom and money to make a film. Any party who understands this is eligible to finance movies. But apart from just financing movies the producer also has to take the project to a platform where it is marketed and presented for mass consumption in the best possible manner within the funds he has allocated. Sahara One Motion Pictures under the guidance of Seemanto Roy impressed upon me that they could easily do this. I believed Seemanto because of the serenity on his face. Well now we are making movies together.

Exciting times for Hindi Cinema

Small films are here to stay. They have made their presence felt especially in these multiplex times where programming good content in the cinema halls is a big requirement. One must never ignore the economic evolution of India as a financial institution and the growth of new entrepreneurs. Also a lot of finance is pouring in from third generation NRIs. We are now in one of the most exciting times for Hindi Cinema on the whole. But new filmmakers have a great responsibility – of utilizing these finances honestly, sincerely and the energy of utilizing the money should concentrate in making a good product rather than earning a great fee or involving big stars.

Lessons learnt

One thing I learnt from Bheja Fry – there are no absolutes. With such a low-budget, a very small marketing budget, no hoardings, no bus-back publicity but only a few thousands posters, a modest programming time for TV promos, two small theatrical trailers, a star cast that was not the “mainstream,” no hardcore action, no hardcore romance, no mainstream music and songs, no exotic locales and releasing on the dreaded day of Friday the thirteenth, the film broke all norms. But I would still like to reiterate that it’s a victory of good comedy as the most favourite genre of today’s times. Is the country going through stress?! Also at the heart of it Bheja Fry was a well-made film. I can confidently say that. Every technician who worked on the film was carefully chosen to be a part of the film. Every one had a fire in their belly to do something good. The cinematographer Parixit, the audiographer Tapas, the editor Suresh, music director Sagar, production designer Meenal Agarwal, and all other technicians. To support that Sarika, Vinay, Ranvir and Bhairavi came and gave me magical support. I am so thankful to them. Milind came in like a breeze gave his best and disappeared like breeze. As for Rajat I am so grateful to him for believing in me so much. Bheja Fry is also a victory of this filmmaker who sat in his modest office at Santacruz and kept making films, which he strongly believed in and managed to create a model to raise finance either through internet or other means and to make films like Raghu Romeo and Mixed Doubles – made with a modest budget of Rs 55 lakhs. I learnt so much under him on Mixed Doubles. There was so much magic around us when we made that movie. I am happy that he has signed a Rs 20 crore deal with PNC to make more films. For the financial model of low-budget films Rajat Kapoor is a hero and he deserves all kudos for it.

Finally life has become so hectic that I kind of miss my unemployed days. “What is this life full of care, if we have no time to stand and stare?”

To shoot Bheja Fry I took six days and 12 nights but to write this piece I took 14 nights and numerous days. (I guess more – that’s how hectic life has been lately)

I wanted to end with the title of a poem by Theodore Tilton that majorly impressed me in school – “Even this shall pass away.”

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and need not necessarily subscribe to the same.