The Writer/Director – Integrity of a vision
Shaping a vision on the page that can be kept onscreen.
Speakers: Amma Asante and S.S. Rajamouli

Iconic FilmMaker Amma Assante Mauritius Cinema Week
@AmmaAsante winning a @BAFTA for her debut film ‘A Way Of Life’ in 2005

One of the UK’s brightest filmic talents, Amma Asante trained in dance and drama and was a well-known child actress with television credits including Grange Hill, Desmond’s and Birds of a Feather.She ceased acting in her late teens and turned writer and producer with the series Brothers and Sisters(1998). She debuted a director with A Way of Life (2004), which won her the Carl Foreman Award forthe Most Promising Newcomer at the BAFTA Awards and the UK Film Talent Award at the London FilmFestival. The film also won the FIPRESCI and Grand Jury Prize at the Miami Film Festival and the SIGNISAward – Special Mention at the San Sebastián International Film Festival. Her second feature Belle(2013) won the SIGNIS Award at the Miami Film Festival, Directors to Watch at the Palm SpringsInternational Film Festival, and the Adrienne Fancey Award at the TheWIFTS Foundation InternationalVisionary Awards. Her latest feature A United Kingdom (2016) has been nominated for several awards.

SS RajaMouli
Known for his epic vision, Indian filmmaker SS Rajamouli began his career in television, directingdramas. He debuted with Student No 1 (2001), starring Junior NTR that was a big box office hit.Simhadri (2003), featuring the same actor, took him into blockbuster territory and he has stayed thereever since. Highlights of his highly successful career include Sye (2004), Vikramarkudu (2006),Yamadonga (2007), Magadheera (2009) and Maryada Ramanna (2010). With Eega (2012) Rajamoulibecame an internationally recognised filmmaker. The innovative fantasy film swept the awards boardat the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, screened at the Shanghai International Film Festival, thePuchon International Fantastic Film Festival and won nominations at the the Fantaspoa film festivalof Brazil and the Madrid International Film Festival. The mega-budget Baahubali: The Beginning(2015), starring Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Anushka Shetty and Tamannaah Bhatia, was a massiveIndian and international success, including sold-out screenings at the Busan International FilmFestival, Korea, the Sitges Film Festival, Spain, the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia, amongstothers. Its sequel Baahubali: The Conclusion (2017) is the biggest domestic hit in the history of Indiancinema and premiered at the British Film Institute in the UK and opened the Moscow InternationalFilm Festival.

Moderator: Naman Ramachandran

We have been working as a writer/director for many years now. There is a sense of comfort/snese of comfort which we relate to each other.

Is there disagreements?

Yes, there is. But if there, I am the Boss ? Every actor that I work with, if I feel that something is right, if I like it, then I don’t listen to anyone. But if something is a bit fuzzy, not very sure with, then I like to take opinions on different details – art, story, lighting. Then I try analyse ..

Moderator: Film like in Dangal, is a hug hit. Or Toilet ek prem Kathy – a very strong script. Where is the problem in the directing?
SS R: One of the reasons is how the business model has evolved. The producer hires a writer. Then he would make a script with the writer that he likes. Then he goes to the director. Then they would go in search for the perfect cast. So this is the process. There is a strong pattern in how the film comes up.
Gradually the pattern has changed. The producer has no longer any say on the script. He chooses which start and director wants to be in the set. Producer pays for advances for these guys. There is no sense of ownership/attachment to the subject. I think this is one of the reasons why the script has become weaker and weaker.

If you don’t have a sense of ownership in the script, it becomes a problem.

Moderator: How did the world of Bahubaali come about? Can you tell us about the universe that has expanded into VR, Graphic Novel Books etc.

SS Rajamouli:
When the story was forming in its initial days, when we got the characters written down, the main plot points written, we could see that it would be a very big film. Not in terms of economics, but a long looking project, then after the film will be released. At that time I was wondering in terms of a sense of unity , in terms of costumes, the properties. Because each one being designed by a different technician. Then I was told about artistic design, how to get that done. So what we did , we started writing about the characters, about the kingdom, the people. What is Amrendra Bahubaali before his 5 years. What was he as a child? What was his philosophy? What kind of food did he eat? His favourite colours? We came with around 500 questions.. and we came up with a conclusion. Kingdom of mahishmati, what are the crops? What do the people wear. We were writing very clearly about each and everything. So when it comes to design, then we would say that these are the minerals available in Mahishmati. The exercise was done in order to get a uniform in the film. But as we were writing the back stories, we were getting much more interesting stories. Because that would make bahubaali 3, 4 ,5 6.. ?

Then we came up with the ideas of the novels, the storybooks, the animation, animation series. Because we have the Stories. Then we started the avenues. It was a big job. To explore the avenues and efforts. But somehow we found good partners that could execute those things.
The novel – the rise of shivagami is a bestseller for 3 weeks in a show. The animation is a success. The game bahubaali is the highest downloaded app in India, after WhatsApp.
Most of the people don’t know about virtual reality. So there were confused that the 2nd version of the film be in virtual reality.
The 2 films cost 70m . The worldwide box $1.5 b.

Question from Audience: Profit first and then
I personally believe that the story has to be written for yourself first. Not about for sharing of profits. The story has to be written for you. You should not be thinking about who is going to read it. You should love each and every word of it. A fire burning within yourself when you write a story. When the story is done, then you reasonate with it. When it is done, then you look at sharing of profits. That can vary. But first you have to write for yourself.

Assante: When I wrote my first story – a way of life, taking the film around the world – I was worried, because that was for a specific audience. My producer told me, in the specific you will get the Universal. You must write the story that you want to tell. It can take years for a movie to make it into the market.

Question from Audience: in Mauritius, we speak creole, how can we take a film in creole into international market? A script takes around 5, 15 – 20 years to become a film. Mauritius is 50 years old now. How can we have the start of a film industry now in Mauritius?

Assante: If creole is the local language here, write into it. Always then there is the issue of subtitles. It has to be a ‘bad subtitle’ to be a good story. Mauritius has a wealth of story to tell, you have to keep going. Even before you became independent mauritius, you had stories. You have stories which have evolved. So easily you have stories, you can put it better.

SS Rajamouli: Stories are here. It has got nothing to do with independence. About the language – first you need to have a conviction about what kind of story you have written. For eg. I have done around 10-11 films. In India we have around 30 states, we speak in 90 languages, principal industries in 10 languages. Each state has a different industry. In my state, I made films that reasonate specifically in my state. Then I started making for other states. Then I started making film (telegu) in other languages. I made in telegu, Tamil, hindi, Malayam. It did very well in all languages but not so well in hindi. In also in film festivals it reasonated.
It depends on story. It does not need to be for universal language. You need to understand who is the audience who will like that story. Bahubaali is a fictitious story, we set it 1000 years back in history. We did not what language did people spoke in that language. If you want to have story in ancient language you can. As an example, Apocalypto , it was in Mayan language.

Question from Audience: How do you use sound / music / sound effects to tell a story?
SS Rajamouli: Sound is one aspect of film on which I feel a bit weak. I try to get technicians who are good at it. Sound Designing/Music. My cousin is a music director who has loads of experience in terms of music and story telling. I depend a lot on him to get the right sound. Particularly the bg music of a film can be anything. When sitting at the seat of a director, I try to see whether that music is converting that particular emotion. If the music is enhancing the emotion that I want to convey.

Assante: Why do I write? That’s such a hard question.

I write because I want to connect with human beings. I write to learn about myself as a human being. To explore my weaknesses and my strength. I write because I am compelled to.

Question from audience:
Assante: I am not a producer. I am only a director. I have so much influence from UK. But from the influence I have, I believe that I can make a difference. We had pressure to shoot that film in Botswana. We had consideration to shoot in South Africa. In terms of budget, it would had been cheaper to shoot in SA. We used a large % of our crew from Botswana.

Comment from Audience: Lack of Mauritian Talent. There is a Mauritian Crew. It’s just that it’s not happening yet.

Question: Co-Production – We are just starting in film making.
How to deal with the Ego Problem when working in a film.
Personality Clash and Status problems in a film. Like a director pretending more than a producer. Producer getting over a cameraman.

Script Writing.
– do we have protocols when dealing with artistes.

SS Rajamouli: Film Making is always is balance between art and commerce. You cannot only look at economics and does not balance the art. A director has to balance both during the process of film making.
If we have ego problems in a family, it is quite natural to have same problems within 200-300 people. Ego is one of the basic ingredients of human being.

Assante: if I have a story in my head for many years, I cannot let ego come into it.