Prerna Arora – a talented film maker

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I was reading an article in “The Guardian” which questioned why there were such few female film makers and interestingly, no woman has ever won an Oscar for directing. I wonder if this could be the year that all changes? Film Industry is a cut throat and a male dominated industry; films is a big business, filled with financial risk and so the whole industry is based on demonstrable success, unless something has worked in the past it’s very rare that people will take a risk.
Last week I interviewed a young film producer from the Indian film industry and all these thoughts were in my mind, how can an outsider with no prior connections with Bollywood enter and start with the film which has been critically acclaimed, an National award winner and work with big names and the likes of Bill Gates who tweet about the film?
It was a pleasure and honour to talk to a film maker who proved that she is prepared to fight with all the problems as a woman and if there is a will there is a way. A woman with determination and a positive mind set – Prerna Arora. Prerna Arora has made films like Toilet Ek Prem Khata, a very well made film about women and the importance of sanitation, alongside films such as Rustom, Padman and many others which are releasing in 2018.
Q: Why did you choose to become a film maker? Did you study film making or was it an inborn talent?
A: It’s an inborn talent, if you have the right skills and luck both of which are very important factors in any field you go to. It has to be an inborn talent, it can’t be inserted into you and you can’t believe in somebody else’s dream, it doesn’t work. Film making came to me very very early as I was growing up I was intrigued by films; reading about it, it became like my bible, watching Yash Chopra films and really wondering how could he created that film, what goes on behind all of these films. You have to believe on the subjects you are showing; it is a responsibility and a liability. If I believe in something I have to prove it or show it through my movies, therefore it becomes a responsibility and liability that I have proven it and showcased it accurately. I felt that film is a very strong career and I went for it, it is not easy because people don’t understand.
Q: As an outsider what challenges did you face?
A: The biggest challenge I had was to have people believe in me, even my close ones when I was trying to express myself they did not believe what I was trying to say- that was the biggest challenge. There were many people on this planet that didn’t believe in what I was trying to do or understand it. It was always resented or detested in a very odd manner. They asked me why don’t I become an Assistant Director or have a position of a production manager and that’s where I should begin, everybody always misled my path and nobody said just believe in yourself and go ahead. When people come here to become actors everyone boosts them up, but for a producer you have none. Who tells you that you have talent? Hardly people believe that producers are talented; they are looked upon as moneybags.
Q: In the Observer (UK Newspaper) they quoted that 99% of working women in the film and TV industry have experienced sexism. The majority of the industry is male dominated and big stars sometimes refuse to be directed by a woman. What are your experiences as a female film maker?
A: I agree there is 100% sexism and being a female they always look upon what we have and as much as we talk about equality and feminism I think there is a trend that comes from the west or may be the hidden anguish within so many women. Nowadays women are starting to come out slowly because of the technology which gives them the platform to express themselves without any restrictions. The film industry is male dominated, yes it is a very tough industry but once you establish yourself then there is no problem. Look at Aishwariya Rai, Anushka Sharma, Deepika Padukone and Zoya Akhtar, all of them and many others are treated very very well. Initially yes there is a difficulty to accept that woman can be as intelligent as men and that’s where we are lacking.
Q: How did you adjust yourself in the industry?
A: I came here without any expectations, no favours or pity, not influenced by anybody, not asking anything from anybody. I always asked what I wanted or needed for myself from God and the universe. I tell myself that I have to achieve it and all the decisions in my head for my films like Rustom, Toilet Ek Prem I did not discuss with anybody, I just believed and went ahead with it.
Q: Your next movie release is clashing with two khans of the industry Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan. Any nervousness?
A: Yes I am nervous; I accept that because I wouldn’t want to come out alongside those big films. There is an acceptance; there are films released every week and then we have 4000 theatres which can be easily distributed between two films, the larger film can take a chunk of 3200 but if is a small film can take around 1200. I think in holidays and weekend’s people come to watch films but every week there’s a new clutter of films. So if you invest so much money how do you recover that money? It’s not important that every time people have to be free to watch your film, you don’t have the choice anymore- people want to relax with your films. There’s another film called Simba which we clash with as well- it’s like a triangle. If I am able to find another date for the film Kerdarnath then I will take a call with my director.
Q: You are working with big names in collaboration such as Ekta Kapor, Anushka Sharma, Twinkle Khanna and Aishwariya Rai. How is the experience working with them?
A: It’s a good experience; I love to work with actors who have turned producers as it is a blessing for me. I am very fortunate that I got an opportunity to work with Anushka as my partner, John Abraham, Vishal Bhardwaj and Rakesh Omprakash- I am so very lucky to have them, my stress becomes lower because they are more responsible and they have everything in place as a producer they are passionate because their names are there and it makes me feel more comfortable.
Q: You’re soon to release films in early 2018- Pamanu, Pari and Padman and you are also making a Sport Biopic film; past sports biopics have been criticised in the news; what are you doing differently to keep out of the negative news?
A: I am working with Anil Kapoor and he is working very hard on the script and the whole team is working hard, this is a very important film for us. This is a different kind of film; it is about a story of a winner, his determination, his achievements and hard work. It is an inspirational movie where people will look up to, any story which is about survival or fighting is inspirational. It is very important for people, sometimes people feel low and these kinds of stories inspire them, it influences me a lot and I love stories like that.
Q: You are making films on social issues, how much impact do you think you have made on your viewers?
A: I think a lot of impact and I am making a film called, Bati Gul Meter Chalo, which talks about electricity problems and the power of electricity has in ordinary people’s lives. This film is set to be in north of India, what happens there with the failure of electricity is what happens in the story- electricity is a big problem.
Q: What are the three most serious social issues in the country which you would choose to make a movie about?
A: I feel sad when I see the infrastructure of the country such as seeing ambulances on the road and the family sitting in the ambulance when they are stuck in traffic. You can’t reach on time because there is no space for the ambulance to move. I would like to talk about common people issues and their pain which they go through with on a daily basis.
Q: Impact of illegal online distribution has also had an impact on the film industry, what are your views on this?
A: It is going to be less now because lots of precautions have been taken. I would say good and bad exists as it is part of business and it will never end; people who are doing this they don’t care about industry, producers or actors so it can’t change them.
Q: As a film producer do you think it is necessary to be involved with social media?
A: It becomes a trend now; you can’t help it- it is like everybody is a part of a rat race. I believe in going with the times but on the other hand I would say getting too involved isn’t necessary.
Q: What are the ingredients of success which you believe in?
A: Determination and willpower. Believe in yourself, don’t listen to people, if your dreams are true work very hard to achieve them and make them into a reality.