Anmol Mahajan has had an interesting journey so far. He started his career in the Punjabi film industry at the age of 13 and also began assisting in music videos. Not many know that the director and writer ran away from his home to come to Mumbai and pursue his passion for storytelling.
“This is what I always wanted to do. So I had to come to Mumbai. Phir kya, log milte gaye karwan banta gaya,” he continues, “I started my Bollywood journey with legendary cinematographer Ashok Mehta, my technical godfather. He is the one who actually pushed me to write my first feature-length script. I will make it into a film soon, my third project, and will dedicate it to him.”
After working with Ashok Mehta, he joined TV and set up prominent youth shows as a creative director across networks, such as MTV Webbed, MTV Kaisi Yeh Yaariyan, Channel V Sadda Haq, Channel V Million Dollar Girl, Channel V Gumrah, UTV Bindass Yeh Hai Aashiqui, etc.
“Then I met my writing partner Novoneel Chakraborty (a bestselling author) at Beyond Dreams Entertainment. That was the time we both decided to collaborate. While having samosas in the beautiful monsoons of Mumbai, we started writing our first idea, and that’s how India’s first content company, Act3 Creations, was born. The idea behind this name is that we are a content solution company, and ACT3 is a moment in the film where the entire story culminates. We started in 2015 when OTT had not even started. To earn money, we also wrote episodic TV shows along with film scripts. We started getting attention from all the top producers in the Indian film industry. It was a new idea to open a content company, and it received lots of appreciation,” he says.
While writing, Anmol and Novoneel started pitching concepts, but managing the pitching and churning out new ideas every day started becoming a task for both of them.
“The day we felt exhausted and somehow we felt it was affecting our creative output in films, we decided to stop pitching. For three years, every day, we started creating concepts. Today, we have almost 300+ creative IPs across genres, and we have even created new genres. Then we started facing problems due to a lack of legal support. Holding IPs was a big task,” he shares.
Moving on, Anmol also joined the ad agency Sparkt Pvt. Ltd. as a creative director under the guidance of Mr. Aditya Chandra.
“The idea for this sudden shift was that now I have experienced the writing and production part, so let’s learn how to package and sell it. Joining an ad agency helped me a lot in understanding rooted human behavior, finding solutions to tricky problems, and understanding how Indian consumers behave from certain perspectives. That is what made me spearhead an in-house production department at my ad agency. Besides being a screenwriter and an ad filmmaker for various high-profile brands like Procter & Gamble, Philips India, Aditya Birla, Mahindra Rise, India Bulls, Bharti AXA, Star Network, Malaika Arora’s Sarva Yoga, TED Talks India with SRK, I have worked as a senior creative director behind various successful avant-garde advertising campaigns and youth-based content across networks. I have produced and directed innumerable promos, music videos, digital ads, TVCs, web exclusives, and alternate content,” he adds.
Anmol also worked with production houses like BBC Worldwide, Balaji Motion Pictures, Rajshri Productions, Swastik Productions, Vishesh Films, T-Series, Adlabs, MTV India, and Beyond Dreams Entertainment before joining an ad agency – Sparkt India.
The director and writer developed his interest in writing when he was just 10.
“I remember writing 60-70 pages about what I had gone through in a day. I was a curious kid. My relatives/cousins used to run away from me because they generally got fed up with my silly questions. I maintained a diary and wrote everything in it. This is what I observed throughout the day. For example, I used to observe how much rust there was on the name board of the grocery store, how stuff was hanging and placed outside the shop, and what torn posters were there on the cash counter, etc., so that when I had to write a scene about a grocery store, I could use my observational memory and write in a detailed manner,” he says.
He also did an exercise while enjoying tapri ki chai.
“I used to check out the feet of people standing in the group near me, and I specifically tried to understand their relationship dynamics with each other through their proximity. Initially, of course, I failed many times, but gradually I started getting the hang of it. And in our relationships, proximity plays a very important role, whether it is in real or reel life. This is how I started paying attention to details and developed a feeling for writing before actually putting pen to paper. I also used to take an empty room and try to set it up with all the furniture and everything just using my imagination. This is how it helped me develop the power of visualization. I have written films along with my writing partner that are currently in production, and one of our written scripts is going to be my debut feature film. It’s a supernatural thriller,” he adds.
About developing his interest in direction, Anmol says,
“This interest was always there. Sometimes I think that in my last birth, I surely died with the hunger of making films. Of course, Mr. Raj Kapoor, Alfred Hitchcock and my technical godfather legendary cinematographer Ashok Mehta sir were my key sources of pushing me towards the business of narratives. I’m lucky because out of the 1.3 billion population of our country, very few people get this opportunity to express themselves through storytelling. Creating my own world and living in it is not only my passion but also my nature,” he says.
“Do you have any formal training in direction?” I ask.
“Yes, I graduated in Mass Communication & Advertising and did a diploma in Filmmaking from Marwah Studios, Noida. But film school can only teach you the basics; the skills of directing stories come inherently. The more you observe, the sharper your eyes and mind will become to see stories from a different perspective. So the blend of film school and practical experience on set, along with a dash of passion, definitely helps in achieving a good storytelling experience. However, you also have to be flexible to adapt to new cultures, habits, and have the patience to hear and see different perspectives,” adds Anmol.