Saad Khan is lucky. Two years ago he was eager to shoot his first film. He had the story he wanted to tell - three assassins waiting at a deserted railway station. Saad places his film, Station, as ‘dramatic-comedy with a conversational feel’. Mulling over a low-budget production, Saad happened to meet venture capitalist Sumit Ghosh at a Subway outlet. “He liked what he heard and cut a cheque for the signing amount then and there,” he says. And Station, a 100-minute Hindi feature film shot in Bangalore with 12 local actors, took off in December 2011.
It wasn’t until April 2013 that they wrapped it up. Saad isn’t making much over the long time his full-length directorial debut has taken.
“Ship of Theseus took four years,” he offers as a comparison. “Most of the guys working on the film were also busy with other projects. We shot on a tight schedule. We were also particular about quality. We have shot the film on a RED MX camera, the kind used for Hollywood films like Inception and The Social Network,” Saad adds.
It might all go his way. Station has been viewed by a closed group of distributors in Mumbai and “they are wondering why we didn’t come on earlier,” says Saad.
Years before, Saad was applying to study film and media abroad in 2006. “I was 17 when I got interested in theatre during my years studying mechanical engineering at M S Ramaiah Institute of Technology. I directed my first play when I was 19,” he says.
Saad’s US visa didn’t come through immediately and he puts it down to racial profiling. The eight-month wait to hear from the US consulate might have been a test of patience but it resulted in something even better. During this time, faculty from New York University were touring Bangalore and Saad got to meet the head of the department where he was applying. “He interviewed me for 45 minutes. Next thing I know, I was offered a full scholarship and assistantship at Tisch School of Arts, NYU. I paid 600 USD instead of 40,000 for everything, and that’s all,” says Saad, well aware that at today’s rupee rates, his kind of luck is to kill for.
With a certificate in filmmaking and a masters in communication and media from University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Saad headed back to home shores and landed a job as assistant director to Ashutosh Gowariker for the 2010 Abhishek Bachchan-Deepika Padukone starrer Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey.
Creating a movement
Shortly after that experience Saad set up Centrestage in Bangalore in partnership with filmmaker Siddhanth Sundar who incidentally has the lead role in Station. “I call Centrestage a media movement where all art forms - film, design, theatre - are promoted. I want people to know and be assured that they can build a career in performing arts, earn a living with it, that careers here don’t necessarily have a short-shelf life, and that it’s not all about being in the midst of bad company. Look at me, I am a teetotaler,” says Saad.
Centrestage has been gaining popularity with its programme - The Improv, where actors take on situations given to them by a live audience. Their latest show was held on August 25 at LikeThatOnly in Whitefield.
There’s also the film production company Gold Chase Motion Pictures Saad started with model Karan Rao to concentrate on making ads and films.
“I have been very lucky. I know it. And if there’s anyone I want to credit my successes to, it’s my parents. We are a middle-class family and yet they supported me with all my dreams. Today, I am so busy handling so many things that I don’t even get to see them despite living in the same house (in Sanjay Nagar). By the time I get back they are asleep,” says Saad. His brother Maaz is now involved with Saad’s projects as business head at Centrestage. “I am older than him but I look younger than my years and I am not going to reveal the number. Let that remain a personality quirk,” he says, counting some lucky genes.