Abhishek Bhatnagar is known for Waster (2022), A Passenger in Love and Fat Boy (2018). In this interview he speaks about the memories and romances that happen in travel.
Most Indians have fond memories of railway travel, both long distance and local. What made you choose this setting?
I have been brought up in Delhi-NCR and we were lucky to get metro train when I was a teenager. As a kid I was always fascinated to the question about where all these trains finally goes? Later in my college days I had met my childhood love in the metro , which in a way gave me a second chance to restart and relive my incomplete first love story again and I tried my hand though failed again. I choose the setting because while I keep growing up I saw the metro growing up to a vast network which covers 5 cities. It is like an entire civilization to me and so I thought to write a film with niche detail on how everyday passengers seek for love in an every day simple metro journey.
How does Passenger in Love define your style of film making - small casts, simple endearing stories, settings with which many can identify…
I think it’s not my style it’s just a mumblecore genre of filmmaking which has been in practice from ages. You take dogma 35 or French new wave or talk about Indian Parallel Cinema…In every generation some filmmaking souls around the world want to tell their stories without any pressure and I think their passion help them find the way. I am more of a storyteller and I enjoy being naïve on being a real director with pro style and skills.
What was the biggest challenge for you shooting this film?
I am a very quiet person but for this film I had to accommodate the whole crew from Mumbai in my house in Delhi because I couldn't afford a hotel for them…aah I am kidding…that was the only fun part. I think money was the biggest challenge…we survived without money for a month on making a film. I made this film on the Red Bull budget of a low budget bollywood film…if you can imagine.
Are you a romantic at heart? Often our creative work is a product of all that we value in life and what we cull from our personal reading, experiences, relationships, dreams. How much of this film is reflective of your own tastes?
Offcourse I am…I am also planning to write two more parts of passengers later in my 40s and 50s when I will have a bit of more experience on romance as compared to now. I will shoot those part with same cast. I have already signed the actors for it. It’s gonna be like Before Trilogy.
What do your other films have in common with Passenger in Love?
One can study the setting, the dialogues, the costume, but how does one get educated in portraying human emotions?
I think that’s the gift a few of us have. I am lucky that I’ve it and that is why I feel it is my duty to make art.
How was it collaborating with your actors? What were the fun enjoyable parts?
It was a beautiful experience to collaborate with them. At first I was not sure that they would be able to learn all those lines by heart. I remember I gave them the script and shared the phone numbers. I strictly advised them to only read script over audio calls and never ever meet until we start the film. They were so sweet, they directly met on set as strangers and we shot the film.
Video Excerpt of the Interview