I started nurturing a desire to make films when I was in Class XI. During the mid-1970s, I was initiated into the world of Indian and foreign films of repute. I was drawn to the medium, but I wasn’t actually a cine buff. My interest brought me to the world of advertising and my assignments there helped me hone my skills. In the early 1990s, I quit my cushy ad job and ventured into full-time filmmaking.
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Our young director (Premangshu Roy) was often found engrossed in sweet nothings with his beloved on the phone. I first got myself a dummy model of his phone. On the last day of shoot, I cooked up a story that my phone wasn’t working and, hence, needed his phone to make an urgent call. My director reluctantly obliged. I acted as if I was angry with the person at the other end of the line and suddenly threw the phone — the fake one — into the lake. The director was aghast. We now started calling up the director’s number. He asked us if we could hear the ring. Everyone in the unit kept pretending that they couldn’t hear the phone. In fact, a few, who were unaware of the joke, even jumped into the lake to retrieve the phone.
I was once offered a film, provided I did the shoot abroad. I said I’d rather use that money to make a better film in India. I didn’t get the project. What am I? An ad filmmaker or some idiot’s travel agent?
I started a Facebook page called Voice of Ram talking about social issues that I believed in and soon it took a life of its own. It is a platform which not only highlights a social issue but also offers a solution. It has touched upon issues related to India-Pakistan peace, political activism, anti-corruption and better governance.
As I sat there in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, I remembered my whole journey, from a small village in Odisha, and I wondered why I was being given this award. Then I looked around at the other recipients, and realised that they did not set out to achieve something, to win someone’s heart or make their families happy or make money. They had one thing in common ‘ they had a dream, they loved doing something and they put all their heart and soul into it.