• Wednesday, April 17, 2024


BAFTA Breakthrough India alumni recount AR Rahman connection

As part of BAFTA Breakthrough India, a jury of British and Indian industry experts select up to 10 Breakthrough talents from across India to take part in the year-long mentoring and guidance programme.

AR Rahman (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for DIFF)

By: Mohnish Singh

Besides being BAFTA Breakthrough India alumni, what is common among director Arati Kadav, and music composers Alokananda Dasgupta and Karthikeya Murthy? It’s music maestro AR Rahman.

At a media roundtable with BAFTA and Netflix representatives on Tuesday, Kadav, Dasgupta and Murthy said through the BAFTA Breakthrough India programme, the trio were able to connect with Rahman, which was a dream come true for them.

Recently, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) announced the third edition of its Breakthrough Initiative in India. This flagship-new talent initiative is part of BAFTA’s year-round work to support new talent, operating alongside their Awards ceremonies worldwide.

Kadav, director of the acclaimed sci-fi film Cargo, said through the programme, she had “one of the best meetings” with Rahman, who is former BAFTA Breakthrough India Ambassador.

“He is a huge fan of science fiction and interactive storytelling. We had a long meeting where we were watching VR videos. We were like just two kids in a candy store. It was so good to see that excitement (in Rahman), to keep that alive in spite of having worked so much. I hope we collaborate soon,” she said.

Murthy, known for his score in the 2019 Tamil film “K.D.”, described the illustrious composer as a “great mentor”.

“(Earlier) I was part of one of the shows that he was judging. He remembered me only by the song name. At last, BAFTA made it happen. The meeting that happened with him through BAFTA opened my eyes to music that is outside films. He has told me (about) so many opportunities,” he added.

Dasgupta, whose music credits include web series such as “Sacred Games” and “Jubilee”, recalled meeting Rahman by chance in the US when she was serving as a guest lecturer at New York University through BAFTA.

“I was guest lecturing at New York University and Rahman sir wrote about my ‘Sacred Games’ music on Twitter. All my life I’ve been trying to meet him and I thought it would never happen. But it was a chance meeting in the snow. It was very magical where we just spoke of work…” the music director added.

‘BAFTA Breakthrough India’ is the international version of the highly successful Breakthrough Initiative, which has been running in the UK since 2013, China since 2019 and has launched in the USA this year, supporting over 130 emerging talents to date.

Not just Rahman, Dasgupta said she was also able to connect with “Fleabag” star and creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge for a conversation after which she felt like they were long-time friends.

“One of the things that made me get through when life was tough was ‘Fleabag’. I spoke to Phoebe Waller-Bridge and it was just amazing. Just chatting… We just spoke like we have been friends forever…

“BAFTA Breakthrough for me is just another step to the other side. That was reassuring not just professionally but also personally because I cannot omit life from art at all. To hear them speak about their life was such a gift,” she said.

Filmmaker Prateek Vats (“Eeb Allay Ooo!”), performer Sumukhi Suresh (“Comedy Premium League”), Monika Shergill, VP- Content, Netflix, and Tim Hunter, Director- New Talent, BAFTA were also part of the panel.

Vats said talking to screenwriter Paul Laverty, best known for his screenplays for films directed by veteran filmmaker Ken Loach, “Sherlock” co-creator and actor Mark Gatiss, and Oscar winning-director Asif Kapadia of “Amy” fame gave him “more perspective”.

“It’s a huge thing for me as someone who has just started working. It’s so easy to lose focus. You make all your currency by doing experimental work and suddenly you are expected to do a different kind of work. That’s the consolidation everybody expects. Just to talk to a man who is making films after film, one is 88 (Loach), one is 75 (Laverty)… That’s the focus, the long haul,” he said.

Suresh, who also moderated the session, said BAFTA Breakthrough India happened to her right after she started her own venture, Motormouth, which was mainly to get writers together to create shows and movies.

“(The BAFTA initiative) It is about two things: international exposure and meeting producers and writers which really helps you. You see that everybody is going through the same thing,” she said.

But something “very tangible” happened for her through the programme, she added.

“I have been writing a show for the longest time – it’s a mix of immigration, comedy and spy universe. I genuinely don’t want to take a name because I’m superstitious but I’m close to delivering my final episode to them to see if it can happen.

“I don’t know if it will happen or not, but to reach a certain point, that you’ve arrived there, you have given that faith… That’s a lot to do with BAFTA and the writing workshop I did with Netflix during the pandemic,” Suresh added.

Asked what would be Netflix’s role nurturing talent from BAFTA Breakthrough India, Shergill said everyone who is part of the programme should feel they can come and pitch their work to the streamer.

“They can share about what they want to do. How we select that work and make them part of the project is a function of many things. We work with different kinds of creators. We (Netflix) are a platform that is open to all talent.

“Anyone who has been through the BAFTA Breakthrough programme, we also have an emotional connection at some level (with them). We being a part of this journey many of them have their work on Netflix. You all should at any time feel free to reach out with your next work,” the top executive said.

As the idea of ‘breakthrough’ could mean many different things, Hunter said it was hard to pinpoint one particular quality they seek in a potential candidate, who can be part of the programme through an application process.

“We look for people who will benefit from the programme. Somebody who makes a very compelling case about why they had a breakthrough last year,” he added.

India was a perfect fit for the BAFTA Breakthrough programme because of its “diverse pool of talent”, said Hunter.

As part of BAFTA Breakthrough India, a jury of British and Indian industry experts select up to 10 Breakthrough talents from across India to take part in the year-long mentoring and guidance programme.

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