Sooraj Barjatya: My cinema is an aspirational take on my real-life experiences

He made his directorial debut, young romance Maine Pyaar Kiya, right after graduating from college and since then filmmaker Sooraj Barjatya says all his films have been a reflection of his real life.

With Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! and Vivah, he explored marriage in different eras. He presented a nuanced take on broken relationships when he made a film like Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, several years after directing the idealistic family drama Hum Saath Saath Hain.

“When I did Maine Pyaar Kiya, I was out of college, 21 or 22 years of age and then got married and had two kids and you learn the value of friendship and you make Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!.

“And then you lose a mother and you make Hum Saath Saath Hain, when you realise the value of marriage you make Vivah and then with Prem Ratan Dhan Payo you realise that every family has problems, you cannot deny (it),” Sooraj, 57, said.

Every director draws inspiration from the kind of life they have lived and he is no different, the filmmaker said.

“We always borrow from life. Creation comes from your own experiences. What I show in films is somewhat similar to my life but we show it in an aspirational way,” he added.

Sooraj Barjatya’s upcoming release Uunchai, from a script penned by Sunil Gandhi, stems from the current chapter of his life. The Hindi movie revolves around three friends, played by Amitabh Bachchan, Boman Irani, and Anupam Kher, who go on a trek to Mount Everest base camp to fulfil their buddy Danny Denzongpa’s last wish.

A father of three, Barjatya said since the definition of family and togetherness has evolved, it is important for his cinema to keep up with the times.

“Now family is all about allowing space to children, as parents we expect (something) from children but we should have something for ourselves to do.

“We have this film about 65 plus people, who take this trek to challenge themselves. They are leaving behind all the comfort. So, everything has been part of my life,” the director, who grew up in a Marwari film family, said.

With the boom of OTT medium and exposure to global cinema, the grammar of storytelling has undergone a sea of change more so in the past two years. But for Sooraj Barjatya, rather than staying “relevant” in the film business, it is all about being honest to his calling.

“The moment I try to be relevant that will be my end. You need to be yourself, follow what you do as you will get your own audience. There is an audience for every genre and I know I am there for that genre (family dramas) and I am happy there. If I try to be relevant, I will be fake,” he added.

During the pandemic, Barjatya said he decided to challenge himself as a director with Unnchai, which unlike his previous films was shot at real locations across Delhi and parts of Nepal.

“I have never done this much outdoor, like going to 13,000 ft… You fall in love with all these visuals,” he said.

The director is grateful for his cast and crew, who trusted his vision, and followed him to the rough Himalayan terrain.

“We took all the (precautions) because the actors are aged but their motivation is amazing and they are ready to do their work,” he said.

Unnchai is scheduled to be released on November 11. Actors Neena Gupta, Sarika and Parineeti Chopra round out the cast of Unnchai.

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