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Friday, December 8, 2023

Abhiraj Minawala: The Talented Filmmaker to Watch Out for in Bollywood

Abhiraj Minawala, undoubtedly, is an impressive filmmaker.

His directorial debut Loveyatri saw the launch of Salman Khan’s brother-in-law Aayush Sharma and newcomer Warina Hussain.

Though critics state otherwise, Loveyatri breaks all stereotypes regarding the Gujarati culture and is a refreshing love story.

Perhaps his eye for a perfect romantic film comes from his prior experience of working as an assistant director on YRF movies like Band Baaja Baaraat and Jab Tak Hai Jaan, to name a few.

After seeing the film, it has become certain that Abhiraj is like a breath of fresh air and certainly has an eye for good cinema.

Abhiraj Minawala talks us through his journey of life after Loveyatri.

You began your career as an assistant director in Yash Raj Films. How did this opportunity come about… Was it a struggle to get this chance?

Before I joined Yash Raj Films I had worked on two feature films as a production trainee when I was yet in college.

I was given the chance to work with Nagesh Kukunoor on Aashayein starring John Abraham and a film called Yeh Hausla starring Sameera Reddy, the latter was not completed.

Getting into Yash Raj was never going to be easy as every aspiring filmmaker wants to get in there and there is a lot of competition.

Somehow luck favoured me and they had an opening on one of their projects that were already on the floor Rocket Singh.

That’s where it all really began for me.

I have never attended film school, never had any formal training, today everything I know about films and filmmaking is because of my training at Yash Raj Films.

People came there thinking of it as a place of employment, I saw it as an institution.

How does it feel like to have directed your first film under Salman Khan’s banner?

While growing up I have been the biggest Salman Khan fan, and I am one till this date.

So for me when I got a chance to work with him as my producer I was on cloud nine.

The kind of faith and confidence he has shown in me encourages me to give it 200% all the time.

There is so much to learn from him.

What’s your rapport with Salman like?

Like I said being a big Salman fan and then working for him and till this date learning from him.

To me, he is like a mentor, a friend and someone I know will always have my back no matter what happens.

I have great respect for him and just admire the way he conducts business till date.

He is someone I think I can always open up and talk about anything that is there on my mind.

I know that he will always understand me and give me the best possible solution to that problem.

What were some of the biggest challenges you had to overcome as a first time director?

One of the biggest challenges I had to overcome was that now I had to be the leader of a young team and that is not always easy.

I have always worked with great team leaders like Ali Abbas Zafar and Maneesh Sharma, now it was my time to lead and inspire.

Even on the days when one would say things aren’t going your way, you yet have to lead the way with a smile.

For me, its always been important that a person I am working with always comes in with a positive attitude.

In what way has life changed for you post Loveyatri?

Well for me life has been pretty much the same post-Loveyatri, regardless of how my films do, I am always going to lead my life the way I was brought up.

Most of my friends till date are not from the industry, because I always like to cut off from the world when I am not a particular project.

The changes that I see is that a lot of talented writers are now looking to collaborate on several projects which I didn’t see before the release.

After breaking stereotypes in Loveyatri, would you consider making a full-fledged Gujarati film, given that Gujarati cinema is on a revival?

I don’t think I would ever be able to direct a Gujarati film.

To be honest, being born in Mumbai, my Gujarati is a little different from the way its spoken in Gujarat.

As such, I would never want to do injustice to a particular script or film.

However, I would surely love to one day produce Gujarati films, when I am confident of producing.

Post the film’s release, what have you been up to?

Since the release of the film, I have just been trying to meet as many writers as possible to try and develop something interesting.

I don’t want to rush into anything but also want to make sure that I have developed at least a couple of ideas.

What style of films are you hoping to focus on?

Some close friends have told me that they would like to see me continue making Love Stories, but I don’t want to be known for any one genre.

I want to make entertaining films and make Entertainment my genre.

There’s so much to make out there, Action comedy, Sports Drama, Thrillers.

There has also been popularity towards digital mediums like Netflix and Amazon Prime. How do you hope to also be a part of these platforms?

I would love to explore the world of Digital content, I think it’s growing fast and is the future.

One feels that it’s a platform where filmmakers get a little more liberty and get to explore a lot more avenues.

I would love to make digital content for these platforms.

The #MeToo campaign has finally hit Bollywood. What is your view on this crucial movement?

I think it is really important and I am glad that this movement has hit Bollywood.

It should really encourage a lot of women to put their voice out there against any injustice.

But also I feel just making accusations on media platforms is not enough.

One must make sure they go ahead all the way with their complaints and make sure justice is served the legal way.

I think we have a fantastic legal system in India and one that isn’t for men or women but for what is right.

Finally, breaking into the film industry is difficult. What advice would you give to all the budding filmmakers out there?

My advice to all the aspiring filmmakers would be to, first of all, learn how to be a good person and be positive.

Always try and work with a smile on your faces no matter how hard the task is, hard work and perseverance never go unnoticed.

It’s important to keep watching films, you will always learn, one should never stop learning.

With each learning curve, we are certain that Abhiraj will reach new heights of filmmaking.

Here’s wishing Abhiraj Minawala all the best for all forthcoming projects.

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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