Paroma Neotia tells us about her resolve to tell stories that touch people's hearts
Movies have always been her greatest escape from reality since childhood. And, when she was old enough to realise that real life is not one big happy and romantic journey, as portrayed in Bollywood movies, she thought of creating a different world through cinema. That’s Paroma Neotia for you — a softspoken, emotional and determined millennial, who aspires to make movies that touch the hearts of people.
Back to the start
Paroma, 23, was exposed to the best of Hindi commercial cinema since she was eight or nine years old, thanks to her dad, Harshavardhan Neotia, who is a film buff and one of the biggest fans of Yash Chopra’s films.
“My father had a crucial role in my choice of career. I am a romantic at heart and always wanted to bring soul-stirring stories to life. Dad supported my decision to study film production and filmmaking at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts. It was there that I was exposed to world cinema,” recalls Paroma, who fell in love with the works of Satyajit Ray, Kurosawa and Terrence Malick, while studying in New York.
Emotions over the box office
Realising that the power of cinema is far more profound than of mere entertainment, Paroma decided to make films that affect the audience deeply. Thus began her journey as a producer with Paradise Film Production, which she plans to rename Neo Story. “Cinema is a powerful tool for propaganda and a good film should be able to evoke some kind of emotion in you, good, bad or ugly. If it makes you feel nothing, it can’t be a film,” she asserts.
“I bawled like no one’s business after watching Veer-Zaara for the first time, and I’m yet to come across a film like that. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I consciously looked out for honest love stories to start with,” says Paroma.
She chose to kickstart her production journey with Shieladitya Moulik’s Hridpindo, a love story starring Arpita Chatterjee in the lead, after scouring through over a dozen scripts in a fortnight’s time.“I wanted to go with a film that stirs me emotionally, since my mentor, Shrikant Mohta, taught me to always go by what I feel, and not what should work in the box office,” Paroma explains.
Think global, act local
Her exposure to world cinema, and also to Indian regional films, made Paroma realise that regional films are way more honest than Bollywood films, in terms of content, and that Bollywood is yet to catch up with them. That’s a big reason for her to make films in Bengali.
“Bengali cinema comprises one huge chunk of Indian cinema, besides South Indian films. Look at what SS Rajamouli has done in Baahubali, in terms of craft and scale, yet retaining the emotional quotient. I could so emotionally connect with it despite the huge spectacle,” explains Paroma.
Learning the ropes of the trade
Among the many constraints of making a film in Tollywood, Paroma finds lack of discipline to be the biggest challenge, when it comes to working. “What can be done in half a day, often takes more than a day. There is definitely a problem in terms of efficiency and work ethics, but I guess that’s changing gradually,” she affirms.
Paroma feels that in pursuit of success at the box office, often good stories by relatively unknown talents go unnoticed. “One of my aims is to discover genuine storytellers. One doesn’t really need a formal degree to write a good story. I am going to have a team of good writers to scour for fresh talents with a story to tell. You can be a 12-year-old kid, or a 16-year-old girl, but if you have a story that touches hearts, we want to lend you our ears,” she says.
Parental guidance “I have learnt from dad’s patience and compassion, which helps me immensely as a filmmaker. One has to listen to any story with a heart,” observes Paroma. She adds that her mother Madhu Neotia taught her to pursue her goals with nothing short of full force, and energy.
Going ahead, Paroma plans to produce more films, and also direct a few herself. She has written a few scripts already. “My biggest takeaway is that it’s important to solely and singularly believe in what one has set out to do, irrespective of even what your parents think. If I commit myself to a project, I should stick to it unwaveringly. Whether a film clicks or not is a different question altogether, and shouldn’t have any bearing on my commitment,” says the quietly resolute girl.
All-time favourite film: Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham...
Most romantic film: Veer-Zaara.
One film she could relate to: Kapoor & Sons. It makes you realise that the picture of a perfect family is not always true and important, and it’s okay to accept that things can go wrong, instead of trying to convince yourself that everything’s fine.
Favourite filmmakers: Yash Chopra, Terence Malick for Tree of Life, Ashgar Farhadi for A Separation, Majid Majidi, Satyajit Ray and Akira Kurosawa.
PICTURES: Debarshi Sarkar