Amitabh Verma is passionate about making impactful films on social causes
Rajkumari Sharma Tankha
Born and brought up in undivided Bihar, Amitabh S Verma moved to Delhi for his undergraduate studies – he did his graduation in Sociology from Hindu College and PG from Delhi School of Economics. But post this, he joined Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) for a course in Film Editing – the inspiration perhaps came from his elder brother, filmmaker and writer Mukul Verma, who had started the Breakfast Show on DD in the 1980’s.
Today, apart from being a trained Editor, Amitabh is also a director, singer, composer, lyricist, and a writer, all of which he loves doing – quite a handful for one life, but say that to him and he laughs it off.
“I was well-known for my singing skills in my school and college. I learnt Hindustani classical music as a child, so music is my first love. Being a film buff, I enjoy everything connected to films, but if you ask me my favourite out of all these then it would surely be singing and directing,” he says.
Unlike many other young boys his age, ‘acting’ never attracted Amitabh. “I am very uncomfortable and bad in front of the camera. Acting is not my cup of tea,” he says. “While in FTII, I did small roles in many student films but that was because they were not getting anyone else to do those small parts. I was terrible as an actor. Even when I am shooting my videos I just want to finish my bit and move on,” he adds.
Making a name wasn’t easy
When I decided to join FTII I knew it was not going to be easy. It’s not like you pass out and there is a good, well-paying job waiting for you. Apart from teaching me filmmaking skills, FTII helped discover the song-writer in me, which did held in good stead. After passed out from the institute, I got the opportunity to assist Sanjay Leela Bhansali for the film Khamoshi The Musical.
After this, I started assisting Onir, an editor then. He gave me my first lyrics-writing break with his music album Aria which he was producing with Namita Premkumar. Aria was followed by two more albums where I again got to write songs. The third album where I got to write was by the Bhupen Hazarika – a big deal for me. We used to sing Bhupen da songs in school choir and here I was not only getting to work with the man himself but was also getting a chance to re write one of his most iconic songs (Dola he dola) which we used to sing.
Later, when Onir decided to make My Brother Nikhil, he told me write dialogues as well along with song-lyrics. This film got great reviews, and was showcased in many prestigious festivals all over the world, which gave me a lot of confidence. I started taking film writing more seriously.
Then came Chal from Hansal Mehta. He asked me to write the songs for the film, and the icing on the cake here was that the music was being done by Viju Shah – I was a big fan of Viju bhai.
I then decided against full time film editing, rather did a lot of TV writing for shows like Haqeeqat, Sanjivani, Jassi jaisi Koi Nahin, Yeh Meri Life Hai, Kavyanjali, Kya Hoga Nimmo Ka among others.
Antardwand was a next big thing for me – I not only wrote the screenplay and dialogues for this film but was also the lyricist and associate director (also the unofficial editor). The film won the National Award for the Best Film on Social Issues. And I never looked back after this, I kept getting offers to write song lyrics and film dialogues.
I finally got to direct a film Teen Do Paanch (starring Shreyas Talpade and Bidita Bag), but due to the pandemic-induced lockdown, my producer (Smiley Films) decided to sell it to Hotstar as a series, a fact about which I am not very happy.
Me 2 Films, a film production company
This was started by my wife Shruti Anindita Vermaa 15 years back. Prior to this, both of us were doing a lot of commercial work that gave us money but not satisfaction. Me 2 Films was started with a very clear vision to make films that we wanted to make.
In a span of a decade-and-a-half we have created several award winning films, travel shows that showcase our culture, social films with messages that have impacted people and songs that have folk background. We believe in making films that make a mark and so far we have been quite successful in doing that.
Under this banner, we make one film every year on a subject that we both feel very strongly about. Films can become a vehicle of change.
Some of the films worth mentioning are Bhor, Bholi, Bappa Morya and Gurez.
Bhor is a film on sexual abuse, Bholi is based on child trafficking while Bappa Morya has Ganapati Visarjan in the backdrop.
“We celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi in our house every year for which we get an eco-friendly Ganapati idol. Once we went to Juhu, and my son Aarush my son some broken Ganapati idols on the shore which really disturbed him. He kept asking why these idols were thrown – and the idea for Bappa Morya was born. Aarush has featured in this film and every year during Ganapati pooja days, this film goes viral.
The idea for Gurez came to Shruti while were shooting a documentary in Gurez in Kashmir sometime back.
Lots. I have finished writing two films and right now the process of casting is going on. One of the films is called Vrindavan which I am directing with Shruti Anindiata. Another one, which is a slice-of-life comedy, is also in the process of casting. Apart from this I am writing songs for a couple of films. I have just finished writing dialogues for a film for Jahnu Barua. I am also writing songs for the film, and really looking forward to it.