Tushar Tawde is a risk-taker who dares to follow his dreams as an independent director and calls everyday a challenge but fun at the same time.
Today, we feature on the blog, the multi-talented and award-winning director of Ad films, short films and assistant director who worked for leading brands such as Rajshri Productions, Tushar Tawde. The director recently bagged the Digital Crest Award for his digital film on UTI Mutual Fund, ‘Take on Tax’ and was recently exclusively selected for Kyoto Filmmakers Lab 2017 in Kyoto, Japan. Tushar shares his success story, challenges and dreams as a director in the Indian film industry. You can check his incredible work on his website here.
Beyond the over-popularized and huckster world of glamour and films, there are innumerable tales of survivals connecting the dots. In today’s times, films are undergoing a turbulent wave of change. In India, where web TV is gaining momentum, we also see the churning of meaningful content that has gained the upper hand in mainstream cinema. We live in a country where there is no dearth of talent zooming into the cut-and-thrust world of Lights, Camera, Action!
Tushar Tawde is one such young talent in Mumbai. An emerging film-maker, he has dabbled in various genres and roles, right from being an Assistant Director to directing short films, corporate flicks and ads. With his digital film for UTI Mutual Fund, ‘Take on Tax’, he also bagged the coveted Digital Crest Award. Brimming with ideas, he recently won laurels at the Kyoto Film Lab 2010. The upcoming talent in the film industry narrates his story, laden with fire in his belly towards achieving his dreams.
Embarking on a journey that’s distinct from the world of conventional engineering or medicine, he confesses that the path he set upon wasn’t clear initially. “After I cleared my junior college in Science, my parents wanted me to pursue engineering, but I chose arts to buy time to understand my priorities. There was no clear-cut answer,” Tushar says.
He landed his first job as a faculty, teaching Adobe software. One thing led to the other when he discovered editing or rather the art of story-telling. His first attempt at a short film never got edited and he humbly admits that he didn’t do a great job canning it. “I joined a film-making course at the University of Mumbai and gravitated towards my life’s goal of making it as a director,” he explains.
Now, film-making and the world of shootings can be intimidating for someone armed with dreams at such an early age. Tushar started with an internship on a TV serial and the first day itself made him lost on the vast sets filled with huge equipment. He hobnobbed on Day One itself with established TV names. There was no way he would understand the craft instantly but the people around guided him into the world. But his biggest learning experience came on his first film as an assistant director, where he brushed shoulders with Marathi stalwarts like Nandu Madhav and Satish Tare. The film which never saw the light of the day was directed by the late Yashwant Ingavale, a man he calls his Guru.
He rues, “Unfortunately, the film never hit the theatres but I can tell you that it was a great film.”
From a happy-go-lucky dude, Tushar slowly learned the intricacies of making it big on his own, which he describes as the most difficult phase in life. He found himself assisting different directors to understand the craft and art of filmmaking. He says, “I have a house in Mumbai but mostly lived outside, where I sacrificed no less than an industry struggler.” Things started to fall into place when he joined a production house to direct corporate films and yet, he was wary of getting stuck in a rut. “After those years, I finally mustered the courage to do things on my own as a freelancer and to make commercials with some beautiful people. Now, every single day is a challenge and fun.”
The young filmmaker boasts of a rich career graph in seven years with more than 100 short films, 50 corporates and 200 + Food webisodes to his credit.
“In the entire process, be it short films, corporate or film episodes, the difference lies between the budget and target audience. Every story demands its own budget and each one of them has its limitations in terms of equipment hired. So, it’s paramount to understand the needs and available resources at hand to make the film,” he unravels. “But above all, your story must stand out. If you lack the creative nerve to tell a good story, no matter how advanced your equipment is, the narration will lose its sheen and will not be good enough.”
Talking about some of his professional highs, Tushar says: “The UTI Mutual Fund ad film, ‘Take on Tax’ was directed by me as part of an amazing campaign with iCOntract and Good Fellas Studio. It won the Digital Crest Award. The moment our names were announced, we were on cloud nine, for all our efforts finally paid off.”
“The 100 Day Challenge is also very close to me, in which I made 100 films in 100 days. Throughout this project, there was no money factor involved,” he shares.
The scripts were written in such a way that production costs would be less or even zero. The biggest support system while making these films came from friends,” he lets the cat out of the bag.
The moment of reckoning arguably came when Tushar was selected for the Kyoto Filmmakers Lab 2017, where he was roped in as Director for Toei team in Japan. It came as a career milestone that recognized his talent as a filmmaker. He narrates his experience, “I shot a three-minute short film with the Japanese actors and crew at the legendary Toei Studio in Kyoto, where filmmakers across the globe were selected and split into two teams. The entire crew was lent the support of major film studios in Japan- Sochiku Studio and Toei Studio.”
“It’s been a great learning experience. Time is valued on Japanese shows and every single minute delay is accounted for”, he says. “From guided access to Samurai costumes, martial art trainers, swordplay and art direction, everything was in place and minutest attention was paid to detail -and perfection.”
Tushar couldn’t hide his awe at the professionalism prevailing in the way films are shot in Japan. “We were given scripts set in the Edo period and unwavering support to translate them on celluloid in the very same setups where the great masters of Japanese cinema worked.” Looking back at his journey so far, Tushar says thoughtfully, “You never know where the next filmmaker will emerge. Today, the person who has a story and appropriate funds can go ahead to make a film or set the release date. The sprouting of various websites, which help makers to pool funds and pitch a story worth narrating, is encouraging. It is empowering when a filmmaker like him can afford to worry less about finding traditional producers.”
In an industry driven by camps and known names, what role does a brand play in the career of a young filmmaker? Tushar sees it as helpful to start with or being associated with a leading brand as it instils confidence among potential producers “At the end of the day, it’s the quality of the film which matters the most but a brand definitely helps one to gain a foothold and first impression,” he says.
Tushar also believes that web series are here to stay and will give tough competition to traditional TV shows, but at the same time, the latter won’t be extinct as many are arguing. “Digital content will be on par with TV as far as viewership is concerned. It will set the stage for film-makers like me in opening an unchartered medium to explore. Nobody can tell you what to make. There is only a moral sense for us to decide on censorship, which, I guess, is working right now for us. It gets difficult to enter the TV arena being ruled by our established seniors but digital remains our turf since no one except the viewers can claim to rule its content,” he quips. The year 2017 belonged not just to meaningful cinema but also proved that regional films like Sairat, can set the cash registers ringing. The young gun says: “It’s not easy to defeat Hindi cinema but regional cinema has come up with beautiful concepts to win hearts. There is no denying the fact that regional cinema will not only survive but thrive in the ongoing process of making content-driven films. There is also a tectonic shift in this direction by the Hindi film industry. The applause for Newton is proof that content-driven films will work, no matter the medium or language,” the thinking director says.
In some of his short films, Tushar donned the mantle of both the director and actor, Bossturds being a case in point. “Acting in films was never a motive. In fact, I acted in my films since I couldn’t rope in artists for free. I would love to work with actors who can do justice to the roles,” he smiles.
When asked to offer an advice to aspirant filmmakers, Tushar says with a laugh, “I am myself a young aspirant filmmaker. At the same time, I understand that I have been able to survive in the industry by making good content. My only advice is to students coming with the notion of making lots of easy money. Be prepared for the unknown and, like they say, expect the unexpected.”
Making a feature film in the near future is the only logical step. Like many, Tushar has always nurtured such a dream right from the start, but at the same time, there is a difference that separates him from the crowd. “I am not in a hurry. I firmly believe that when I am ready with the perfect script, my sub-conscious mind will push me towards that goal. Writing preoccupies my life a lot. The entire process of writing and re-writing scripts, then scrapping them altogether is what I do all the time. The day when I’m not able to scrap the script is when I know I have to make the film,” Tushar says.
Hard work and perseverance can be said to define the film journey of Tushar Tawde. Waiting for the young film-maker to direct his feature film on celluloid, aren’t we?
PS: The interview wouldn’t have been possible without the invaluable inputs and help at the editing table from my dear friend Meghna Dutta.