The writer-director of sensations like Sacred Games and Jubilee, this filmmaker is churning out OTT hits at a pace that’s leagues ahead of his contemporaries. The man of the moment, Vikramaditya Motwane invites us into the inner workings of his creative mind.
The right mentor can truly take you places. All you need to do is surrender to their vision. The writer and director of cinematic marvels like Udaan and Lootera, Vikramaditya Motwane owes a sizeable fraction of his learnings to India’s master storyteller, Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
“The kind of training I got was invaluable. When Sanjay trusts you, he trusts you with a lot of work,” says Vikram, the finest protégé of the filmmaker, who’s become a living legend as renowned for his brilliance as he is for his quirks.
“Working with him can be overwhelming because you realise you’re handling a lot on your plate. But that’s the best way to learn as you’re doing everything and growing organically.”
A Powerful Debut
Vikram astutely soaked in the experiences of working with Bhansali on Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, thus polishing his craft and sensibilities and paving the path for his critically acclaimed directorial debut, Udaan, in 2010. The transformative story of a rebellious teenager, expelled from boarding school and dealing with a strained relationship with his father, became the cinematic masterpiece of its time.
“I was keen on making a coming-of-age film as we had not seen one in India for a long time. I had gone to Cannes with Sanjay and was very inspired by it. This was commercial cinema, very raw and relatable. That’s where Udaan came from. The story was an amalgamation of many things — scenes from my life, my father’s life, his relationship with his dad… I was happy with the script, and when I found that the people I shared it with were also moved by the story, I knew I was onto something good.”
A Unique Niche
Be it a romantic drama like Lootera or mega-hit productions like Queen and Udta Punjab, Vikram has consistently raised the bar, specialising in the dark and the diverse.
“What attracts me to a script is a one-line idea at its core,” he says. “For instance, in Lootera, the concept of an artist painting his last leaf to prevent someone from dying intrigued me. It’s up to a creative person to see the vision beyond.”
Despite the brilliance of his films, some did not work their magic at the box office. But the quasi-idealist in Vikram has a pragmatic perspective on the focus on numbers today.
“There’s a space about moving people and changing their lives, which goes beyond making money and critical success,” he explains.
“Having said that, you want the film to do well because you don’t want anyone to lose money. If I had to choose between commercial success and critical acclaim, I’d choose the former because that’s primary.”
While his films are submerged in the darker side of things around the world, the fascination remains confined to his work.
“Looking at the dark side of life is an offshoot of your observation from the books you read, or the films you watched. I lead as normal a life as possible. Ironically, that’s what attracts us to the dark side — because it’s the opposite of our lives.”
Taking It All In
The filmmaking genius behind Sacred Games and Decoupled, Vikram is currently soaking in the praises coming his way for another success — Jubilee, his latest in the world of OTT.
“It could have been easy to make it look like a heavy period film, but we ensured that the focus remained on the characters — their lives were far more important,” he highlights.
The 10-episode series comprises an interesting ensemble of characters, indulging in games and gambles in a race to the top. It’s this form of engaging storytelling that’s earned Vikram his much-deserved accolades. Today, he defines success “by the fact that I have the freedom to make the films on the budget I want.”
Outside of the industry, he’s quite the outdoor junkie and an avid football fan, who’s also fond of hiking, long walks and swimming.
“I love attending music concerts, for which I travel abroad every year,” says Vikram, a man of few words, as we ask him to describe himself in five words. “Angsty, procrastinating, emotional, introverted and fanatical…”
This has been adapted for the web from a story originally published in the July 2023 issue of HELLO! India. Get our copy of the latest issue right here!