Photographer, producer, purveyor of all things, places and people, and an aggregator of epic humour - that’s Atul Kasbekar’s Insta bio. The celebrity photographer is also the producer of Bollywood movies such as Neerja, Tumhari Sulu, and Looop Lapeta. But did you know that his son Arnav Kasbekar, now 25, is also a budding filmmaker? Apart from assisting his dad in Tumahri Sulu, Arnav has worked as an assistant director on quite a few international short films such as Beginning of the End, Retrieval 2021, Nick Of Time, Black & White, and Guerillas. This Father’s Day, we got the father-son duo to talk about their shared passion for films, food and football.
Excerpts from the interview:
1. How do you celebrate Father’s Day and what do you both generally bond over?
Atul: I am just hoping for a nice gift, since he’s not making any money right now, so I have to buy myself a gift and pretend he’s given it to me (laughs). But on a serious note, the gift of time is the best that he gives and the fact that he’s 25 and still loves to hang out with us. Food and football are something we generally bond over. We enjoy having a good meal together. If we visit one of our favourite restaurants together, he knows that I am exceptionally good at picking the dishes without someone suggesting what to order. Whether he wants to eat fish, steak or risotto, he just won’t look at the menu. Our favourite restaurants in Mumbai are Royal China, Izumi, Masque, Indigo Deli, and Ummrao by Courtyard By Marriott.
2. How do you bond over football?
Atul: Talking about football, Arnav got hooked on to football at the age of three, and became an Arsenal fan, because I am. We have watched many matches at the Arsenal stadium in London together and have met several footballers. Our favourite players are Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp.
3. What are the virtues of your father that you have imbibed/or would like to imbibe?
Arnav: My father is someone I really look up to. He has given me the opportunity and freedom to do whatever it is that I love, and he would be fully supportive of it given that I put in maximum effort in whatever it is that is. His courage is something that has taken him a long way in his life and career and that is one of the virtues I wish to imbibe. The other quality that I really adore is that he is a relentless hard worker.
4. What do you like the most about Arnav?
Atul: He's got a gift. He's extremely likable and the best part, he doesn't even have to put in an effort.
5. What made you choose filmmaking?
Arnav: The art of filmmaking really fascinates me. There is a lot of beauty in creating something so captivating. It also takes equally creative and artistic minds to understand the deeper meanings which these films pass, and to appreciate the elegance of the work. It's always an incredible thing to make and witness the wonder of these creations. The whole process of making a movie right from the birth of the script to final post-production is a movie in itself.
6. What are your thoughts on the current mix of Indian films as compared to international films when it comes to powerful cinema?
Atul: I think ours is a vastly disparate audience, so you keep hearing that it is a multiplex film, or this is a single screen film, we tend to divide up the audience. My belief is that a good film is a good film, you cannot make a movie that everybody loves, as long as you appeal to a certain market, you are good. When we made Tumhari Sulu, people kept talking about how we should do something for the youth, and I was also getting a little carried away of what we can do to change the script to appeal to the youth. Then I realised, no matter what you do this film will not appeal to the youth. For instance, Modern Love is different and for an evolved audience. Every movie can’t do KGF or RRR numbers.
7. How was it working as an assistant director in your father's movie ‘Tumhari Sulu’?
Arnav: Working as an Assistant Editor was great. It opened me up to the world of filmmaking. Being on the sets every day helped me figure out where my strengths would be best put to use on a film set. It helped me understand the hierarchies and the importance of each crew position. This made me respect the way a film is made even more.
8. What sets Indian cinema apart and what are the elements that inspired you?
Arnav: Like with any regional film, culture plays a huge role in the essence and elements in cinema. Our Indian culture is so vast and beautiful that we have so much to offer and show the world. Our movies show the world how rich and unique our country is and that’s what makes Indian cinema so exciting on a global stage.
9. How is it different from working with international directors?
Arnav: After graduation I have been on multiple commercial sets in India but have had the privilege of working on one Hollywood feature film set. The film was called He Went That Way starring Zachary Quinto and Jacob Elordi directed by Jeffery Darling. Working with an international crew in general is an amazing experience. You have this growing friendship during the schedule of the movie, and you make bonds you will never forget. I had the privilege of working with geniuses in their field of work. They inspired me and motivated me to keep learning and pushing myself. It also made me realise my dream of working in this industry is slowly becoming a reality.
10. These days we are not dependent on stars for good films. How do you think OTT has changed the whole dynamics of films and content?
Atul: There was a time if a big star had a release, the bare minimum box office collection was guaranteed. But now those rules are out of the window, if the audience doesn’t like it on Friday, by Monday nobody is having a discussion and by next week, it’s not in the theatre, however big the actor is. It’s super important not to take the audience for granted and push the envelope. In the recent months, a few films with big stars tanked, whereas KGF numbers are absolutely unreal, and Yash is not a household name in Mumbai.
About five years ago, we were negotiating with a star for OTT, he was like I am coming down on my career, so you better pay me a hefty premium to do this. That has completely changed now. The only two parameters for OTT are - was it good or was it not good - because there’s no real box office numbers attached you never know the exact viewership shared with viewers. If you played a gay character, OTT is where you get to experiment. You don’t have to deal with censorship.
11. Your next film has a dream starcast - Vidya Balan and Pratik Gandhi. Tell us more about it and your upcoming projects.
Atul: It’s about modern marriage, and how couples shouldn’t take their equation for granted. Any marriage needs constant work, we are caught up in the rut of life, you tend to take it for granted, on both sides. Next up is Tahira Kashyap’s Sharma Ji Ki Beti, featuring powerhouse talents Sakshi Tanwar, Saiyami Kher and Divya Dutta, whose lives are intertwined with each other in Mumbai. Needless to mention, Sakshi and Divya are incredible and effortless.
12. What are you currently working on?
Arnav: We just wrapped up a super exciting fashion film with actress and supermodel Barbara Palvin for Bulgari and Vogue Turkey. Currently I am working on creative directing music videos, ads and fashion films.
13. Do you want to make more short films or transition into mainstream movie making?
Arnav: As of now I am focusing on the short form content space. Content ranging from music videos to ad campaigns, which include social and television. My main goal is to push my creative boundaries and create unique and special advertisements that leave an impression on the viewer. Eventually however in the next few years I would definitely want to transition into mainstream film making and watch a movie of mine on the big screen! That’s the dream!
14. Which Bollywood director and actor do you aspire to work with?
Arnav: A director I aspire to work with is Anurag Kashyap and an actor I aspire to work with is Anupam Kher.
15. Your favourite Bollywood/Hollywood movies? Which is the best directed movie according to you?
Arnav: Some of my favourite Bollywood movies include Gangs of Wasseypur, Udaan, Kai Po Che and Lunchbox and let me add in Neerja as I have to be biased. My recent favourite Hollywood movie has been CODA, I think the narrative was so simple yet so powerful and moving. It's tough to pick one movie that I feel was the best directed as I think that’s unfair, but if I had to choose it would be The Godfather.
16. You have your own film and media production company, what kind of content do you intend to put out?
Arnav: I recently started my production company called Atmosphere Studios. We intend to make content that’s super fresh and pushes creative boundaries. We aim for every photo or video we put out to leave a long-lasting impression on our viewers.