Iggy works in the Indian Film and Advertising industry in a variety of capacities. And because she has such a plethora of experiences in this area, I thought it would be terrific to have her stop by the Drift and give us some idea of how certain aspects of the industry work. Because she is so tremendously engaging, instead of doing a traditional Q&A, I'll just let her tell us her story.
Hi my name is Iggy Ahluwalia. When I was little, my kid sister couldn’t pronounce 'Didi'. She kept calling me Iggy – so the name stuck.
I grew up and went to school in Goa. I majored in Literature. I moved to Mumbai to do a MassComm course at Sophia Polytechnic. When I finished in 1997, I miraculously ran into and then got my first real job with a film director called Mukul Anand.
Mukul was a major film director – he had movies like Khuda Gawah and Agneepath under his belt. I was his second Assistant Director (AD). The film was based on terrorism in Kashmir and revolved around two special agents played by Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt. I ended up doing a lot of research on that subject, the Indian Army and the political situation.
Mukul passed away while making the film. Dus was the most expensive project on the floors at that time – it never got made. I was very close to Mukul. His passing away broke my heart.
I think I tend to run away whenever I’m really low in life. It might not be the best thing...but it works for me. Gives me time to think and recuperate.I went to Pune and worked at the OSHO commune there and later at an animal shelter, Jeev Raksha.
A year passed and in 1998 I got a call from Mukul’s first Assistant Director Raj Kaushal (Raj is Mandira Bedi’s husband). Raj wanted me to work on his first feature film, called Pyaar Mein Kabhi Kabhi, which was also the launch for Dimple’s daughter Rinke Khanna. I was Raj’s AD and production assistant. We were a small team so we did everything ourselves – Art, Dialogs, even song lyrics. It was a fun experience. Hands on on all fronts.
Once PMKK wrapped, I went to work as a producer for Raj’s production house called FUEL. We had a panel of five directors and I produced advertising films for all of them. Santosh Sivan did some films for us, so did Ashutosh Gowarikar. (FUEL shut down about two years ago.)
In my six year stint with FUEL I had produced close to 200 commercials. I had directed some small commercials and promos as well. I had always wanted to direct my own film. In fact at FUEL, we were constantly writing Film scripts for Raj and pitching them to various film production houses. I had been writing a script with Vibha Singh (the writer of Dharm). Raj at FUEL and Vicky Tejwani approached me and agreed to produce my film. We went to the floors in 2003, worked on the music and casting. And a couple of weeks before I was to go to Scotland to shoot, the producers pulled out. My film was basically a children’s film and the producers weren’t sure they would recover their money from it.
Now the producers had registered the script in their name. They told me the script belonged to them (officially it did...but Raj was a friend and I totally didn't expect this). I was stuck – I couldn’t take my script to anyone else. Over the last year of producing the monies that FUEL owed me had been accumulating. Besides there was an agreed amount for working on the film as well. The amount owed to me was negotiated ruthlessly and I ended up walking out of FUEL with a paltry sum, no script and scars from being betrayed by what i thought was a close friend.
I was pretty screwed. It seemed like perfect timing to leave Mumbai...and so I took a year off.
I moved to Bangalore...spent a lot of time reading, writing, watching films, walking and somewhere along that time I took up sculling. I learned with the Indian Army coaches and was on the brink of sculling for Karnataka for the Indian Nationals.
That's about when some work lucked out in Mumbai (producing for ginger water films) which I took up keeping Bangalore as base. When I got back from Mumbai I decided to move to Auroville, Pondicherry for a while (Mumbai really makes you crave silence!!) and worked there as an organic farmer and as a part time English teacher to village kids.
Right about then the Raj who pulled the plug on my feature film approached me to work on his feature film. I was not sure of doing this because of how things had ended between us. But his producer (Nikhil Panchamiya, Fourth Wall Productions) called me and he was a really nice guy. He told me he really wanted me on board. He didn’t need an associate director or a line producer but he wanted a Production Designer instead.
Initially I refused as I didn’t have any prior experience of Production Design. But when I found out that Hemant Chaturvedi (Makdee, Company, Maqbool) was on board as the cinematographer I decided to brave it and take the plunge. I'd been wanting to work with Hemant for some time and this seemed opportune. So I got hold of the script, read up and prepared myself.
And that is how Anthony Kaun Hai happened and I became a so called Production Designer.
Iggy will back soon to tell us more about how Production Design works in India in Part 2 of her story