The Lootera Journey: From the Eyes of the Executive Producer

Dipa DeLootera is a unique film for me in every sense, a film that’s been fun and one which has provided me with a lot of learning as well, but let me take you through my journey first before I get to Lootera in detail.

The Start

It all started off when I got divorced and suddenly needed a steady job as I realized being a single mother was not going to be easy. I used to do freelance copywriting work earlier, but now things were different. Sometimes things just happen by providence and one such incident happened to me also then. When I was at a salon, a person I knew casually from earlier, who was into advertising (Shukla Das) met me and said I have what it takes to become a good E.P. I was a bit taken aback because I did not even know what an E.P meant, at that time! However I did go on to meet her at her office and took up the assignment thinking I would learn on the job. I wasn’t sure what made her feel I would make a good E.P, probably it was to do with something she saw in me and also maybe that she knew that I was looking out for a steady job.

I started off the tough way, working with top agencies like HTA where each day I would learn something new including simple terminologies and fundamentals. After doing this for a couple of years, I went on to start my own production house along with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, whom I got to know as he was assisting Shukla. We started off very small, what with me handling production and Sanjay looking at the creative aspect along with meeting prospective corporates every day. We made a lot of corporate films and ad films but did not really make money as such. This went on for a while till Sanjay eventually left to work on feature films with Vidhu Vinod Chopra. That was when I got into the Television space, producing shows for Doordarshan like Teen Talk and Rehne Ko Ghar Nahin, Saara Jahan Hamara.

I enjoyed this stint not just because the shows were popular but also because of the way it was happening. In the case of Rehne Ko Ghar Nahin…….Sagar Sarhadi would come up with unique stories almost every day and we would work our way around it. Teen Talk was a program for teens and youngsters and a little ahead of times. It even had teens doing all the work work on the show (apart from key technical work) and this included my son Vikramaditya Motwane who was the Chief A.D on the show. While all this was happening I met up with Deepa Mehta and thus got into feature films.

Entry into Feature Films and Way Forward

Deepa Mehta was working on Water and she asked me to join her and handle the production. It was again a surprise to me as I had not worked on feature films so far and knew that this would be a totally different ball game altogether. I am not sure when and how I actually met her probably for the first time, maybe it was through Vikramaditya because he was already part of Deepa’s team on Water. I went on to pick up the basics of film production while doing all the pre-production and getting the Banaras shoot organized. Unfortunately the film got shelved as things got blown out of proportion. However for the brief period of time that I was involved with the film, it was a wonderful experience indeed. One of the best things about the whole experience was working with Canadian producers who were so systematic and meticulous, I learnt a lot from them.

Later I heard that my friend Somnath Sen (currently teaching with Whistling Woods) wanted to make a feature film, Leela and wanted me to work with him. Leela went on to become a niche film and I enjoyed working on it. I happened to know Vishal Bhardwaj who called me when he was working on Makdee. He was forthright in saying that they were short of budget and things were going a little haywire and hence wanted me to help them out. I was happy to do so as money alone wasn’t the motivating factor for me. While money is important, for me the kind of projects and especially the kind of people I was working with was more important. Thus I worked on Makdee and The Blue Umbrella with Vishal. Later when he was starting Maqbool he again called me but then I mentioned that with Bobby Bedi being the producer and having his own team, I may not be required and that’s exactly what happened. I also worked with Ashvin Kumar in The Forest, a film where I also played a cameo 🙂 . When all this was happening,  my son Vikramaditya was going through his own journey into films and finally got his break with Udaan.

On Lootera, Vikramaditya Motwane and More

Naturally when Vikramaditya started making Udaan I came on board and started working with him. Subsequently when Phantom Films got created I’ve joined them and worked on Lootera again with my son and already I’m into 2-3 other movies being made by Phantom. This is a great phase in my life as I’m getting to work with my son and even my daughter-in-law (Ishika Motwane, still photographer who’s worked on films like Slumdog Millionaire, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Devdas, Veer Zaara, Wake Up Sid, Udaan, Lootera and many more films) and get to work on diverse films at the same time too. The rest of the team are like family too & I’m the universal “aunty” or “mom”

If I were to compare working with Vikramaditya to that of other filmmakers I would say that my effort and interest levels would remain the same with any film but needless to say my emotional attachment while working with my son would obviously be a lot higher. I always knew Vikramaditya to be technically sound, and his knowledge of films astounded me. And my respect and belief in him as a filmmaker only grew after I started working on his films. Working on Udaan was not easy at all as we did not have the luxury of a big budget and yet had a wonderful story to put on film. It was quite challenging to work within the budgetary constraints and yet make a good film. In fact Jamshedpur was chosen to be the city of shoot due to my family connections with the city (my geologist grandfather P.N.Bose was instrumental in getting the Tata’s to set up the city of Jamshedpur/Tatanagar by informing J.N.Tata about the iron ore reserves in the area) which I did put to the best use in terms of getting permissions and other ancillary ways.

With Lootera things completely changed and yet the challenges remained, though of a different kind. This was a period film and had many actors, which meant many actors dates to be looked into. Also we were shooting in multiple locations often with shortage of actor’s dates, like when we had to suddenly shift from Dalhousie to Kolkata due to bad weather conditions at Dalhousie. We shot in Purulia which is generally considered to be a dangerous place and hardly used for film shootings. Once we moved back to Dalhousie once again Ranveer hurt his back and that suddenly put more pressure on us. We had to create the winter feel at Dalhousie artificially since it was almost summer by then and hence had to use artificial snow etc. The entire Kalatop area which is usually popular with tourists was cordoned off by the forest department, enabling us to focus on the shooting in the right manner. All these and many more such incidents and events made the whole project exciting, tough and interesting for sure.

The main learning that I’ve gained from Lootera is eventually everything DOES turn out for the best. If even after lot of planning things go wrong, you need to stay calm and work things out. There has to be a way out and the more focused and calm you are, the easier it would be to work your way towards the same. Looking back I’ve worked both as a line producer and as an executive producer and feel that the only difference with respect to both the responsibilities is that as an E.P I have the added backend task of handling the financial/accounting aspect of the film as well which usually the L.P is not bothered about. I’ve mostly worked on films with a small but adequate team size (both as E.P and L.P) as I feel that a smaller team will be more efficient and dedicated as well. But then I’m currently also working on a film which has a really big production team as well. So I am open to all possibilities, depending on the kind of the film I’m working on.

What Next?

I am already on to about 3 different films and all of them are very different from each other. In fact one of them features a large ensemble cast, the first time that I’m working on such a film. This is currently a phase that I’m very much enjoying and there’s lots to look forward to.

– Dipa De Motwane

Note-  Yet to check out the Make Your Own Lootera Poster-Contest? Click here to know all about the same.


3 thoughts on “The Lootera Journey: From the Eyes of the Executive Producer

  1. Good to read about EP’S, I feel they contribute so much for smooth functioning of a project, yet they are most overlooked people in sets.
    All the best for Lootera

  2. Dipa !
    Great post. And yes the production aspect is so important to a film which is sometimes overlooked by the audience.

    And being a father daughter team myself I can understand the working bond on a project. In my case I prefer the creative responsibilities and I prefer to direct and dad produces the film and looks after the financials but it does work the other way too.

    All the best for your future projects.

    MAM, Sethu, enjoying reading the inside story. keep the posts coming…

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