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Interview: ‘Prateik Babbar was always the first choice for Chakravyuh’, says Sajit Warrier

Image Courtesy: Sajit Warrier

Lights, Camera, and Action… this is what comes to our mind when we think about a director, right?  But let me tell you all there are some really talented directors that have served the audiences with phenomenal movies and proven their mettle in the film fraternity by their excellent work. From them, one director whose recently released web series has created quite a buzz on the OTT platform.

Filmmaker Sajit Warrier directed “Chakravyuh – an Inspector Virkar Crime thriller” produced by Applause entertainment in association with Mayavid, is being extremely well received by audiences.

Read on as he engages in a freewheeling chat with Hema Singh about the concept, choices, working with Prateik Babbar, his plans as a filmmaker, and more…

How did you think of the concept for the film (Chakravyuh)?

The whole idea of Chakravyuh is developed from the famous crime novel by Piyush Jha and is written beautifully by Karan Shah, Chaitanya Chopra, and Kailash Surendranath. We worked to make sure the screenplay is intense with lots of twists and turns. What I wanted to create was an edge-of-the-seat thriller, which connects with the youth. This is their world and the treatment was very important. The story needed to connect with a mass audience who can understand the grit and grime of this world.

Chakravyuh has created quite a buzz. Can you tell us something about it and the reaction you’ve garnered for the film?

I always believe if we create something with conviction then it will truly connect with its core audience. We got a great team to work together on this project. Applause believed in this story and we had a wonderful cast and crew. It was an overall team effort and I am so happy I could work with all of them. The overall theme and the world of the series is very unique and we had to work hard to make it palatable to a wide audience without losing its intensity. I am so happy that it has been accepted and loved by a large audience.

Who has been your inspiration throughout your journey?

I come from a background where my dad is an accountant, my mother is a housewife, my brother is an IT professional and my wife’s a graphic designer. However, all of us just love watching movies in theatres. I just enjoy the emotion on people’s faces when they are engrossed in the story viewing process and that’s what inspires me. The social experience of being engaged in a dark theatre is what pushes me to keep doing my work at ease.

Were Prateik Babbar and Ruhi Singh first choice?

Prateik Babbar was always our first choice. He has an intensity, which is rarely tapped and it was such a pleasure to work with him. From physically transforming himself for this role to creating a character with a lot of pent-up fury this was a very challenging part for him and he just rocked it totally. While talking about Ruhi Singh, she was great when we auditioned her. She really got the desperation of the young girl who was mistreated in the digital world. She brought loneliness and anger into her part which plays the most important thread in Chakravyuh.

How was it working with the entire star cast (Gopal Datt, Shiv Pandit, Simran Kaur Mundi, Ashish Vidyarthi, Ruhi Dilip Singh)? Any anecdote or incident during the shoots that was memorable?

Simran Kaur Mundi and Shiv Panditt were totally amazing. They were always present and engaged with each other’s characters. They would improvise a lot. Gopal Datt is a character, which was truly dense brought in a lot of levity. He was fun all the way. The young actors like Rohan Joshi and Anjali Sivaraman were enjoyable to work with. Ashish Vidyarthi sir is a legend and his presence really brought in the intensity we wanted for the show. Asif Basra who was such an amiable person will truly be missed. It was a pleasure to work with the whole cast and crew of Chakravyuh.

So how was your journey up till now?

I started as a fine arts student in Vadodara and excelled in animation and visual effects then I tried to delve deeply into Screenwriting and directing at UCLA, Los Angeles and worked with some really talented team of filmmakers in Hollywood. After professionally working in Mumbai for 15 years or so, I enjoy experimenting a lot in the visual medium. For me storytelling as a visual experience is an endless ride. This is just the beginning!

Who is the director you admire most?

I was born in Calcutta and was raised watching Bengali and Malayalam films, so the list is endless. Even as an adult I was drawn to lot of “subtitle movies” as we called them. However, if I were held at gunpoint and had to choose, I would say Stanley Kubrick.

What it luck or hard work that made you a successful person today?

Passion and hard work goes a long way I must say. However, one has to be extremely stubborn to survive. Get used to hearing NO a million times yet keep at it.

How much does reviews by critics or the audience matter to you?

Anyone who spends their hard-earned money to watch something you create has all the right to express their opinion. I love to hear their perspective always. But the truth is one cannot make everyone happy.

What type of research do you do for that movie?

Research is important but instincts are what make a movie unique. You take the research material and spin them into the world of experience you have gathered. Hopefully your instincts and approach will then create a unique visual experience.

If you were to make a high-budget film what will the plan cast be like?

Is there a limit to one’s demands? (Wink) I would love to have all the wonderful actors in my film. However, I truly think we need to invest in the art of storytelling. The writing of the screenplay, the visual magic, the craft of editing and an amazing musical score, this is what I would truly want in my film.

What is your favorite genre, when it comes to direct a movie?

Horror and comedy are two genres that make me satisfied. In a theatre, these two genres will give you an instant feedback. When a scare plays well you get the shudder in a theatre and when your punch line hits in a comedy you get an instant guffaw. I feel there are no other genres which give you such satisfaction.

Where do you see yourself 5-years down the line?

Hopefully, in a houseful theatre watching movies with everyone (Smiles).

What is your biggest strength and weakness?

I am extremely patient with people and with situations. My weakness is I have a sweet tooth.

What according to you is the best and worst part of your journey?

Well, that’s tricky… but here I go. The best part of my journey is I am involved in something I absolutely enjoy. Making movies was always a dream and to think I can keep doing this for the rest of my life. Sometimes one is too obsessed with this journey that you miss out on all the beautiful family moments which never come back.

Lastly, what are your future plans?

I am an artist and a visual effects creator. I believe we can make a visual effects spectacle that the world will marvel at. I am working towards that! (Gratitude).