A techie has helped two of the most opinionated and highest-grossing Hindi films that we saw in the past two years. Priya Samant worked as an “impact advisor” on Vivek Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files as well as Sudipto Sen’s The Kerala Story. In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, Priya talks about her work and choice of films. (Also read: The Kerala Story BO: Film enters ₹200 crore club, becomes ‘all-time blockbuster’)
The journey of her job as an impact advisor – a term and job she claims to have created – began with Brahmanand Singh’s 2019 film Jhalki. The national film award-winning director had approached Priya and requested her to organise an event in the US.
Delay in UK release
Talking about her recent project, The Kerala Story, Priya said, “When the film got delayed in the UK because of the censor board, I worked with communities in the UK to ensure that it passes through. I (kind of) helped them, and gave inputs wherever was required so that the UK censor clears it. I made sure they got everything they needed. I wanted them to understand that it is not about religion, but terrorism. That terrorism has no religion. You must watch the film before passing any judgment.”
Dealing with the authenticity of TKF, TKS
Priya has worked on two major Hindi films – The Kashmir Files, and The Kerala Story. Both have been accused of manipulating the number of victims. Does she have a process to ensure she is taking up projects that talk about authentic and real cases and are not propaganda?
“I believe in the filmmakers’ vision. What he has to offer to the table, especially for The Kerala Story. They have said on record that they will talk about the numbers when the right time comes so I would not reflect on that part. For me, it is important to believe in what they offer. I stand by everything that I have said,” Priya said.
She added, “Every event that we did for The Kerala Story, we had a guest speaker – from a lawyer working with the survivors to a senior military officer. A third party talking about the issue makes it more authentic.”
She also said, “After The Kashmir Files, I received many offers but I did not take them up. They had to do many more drafts before I could join. Finally, I took up The Kerala Story as it felt right.” She also revealed that she is now working with a woman producer, on a women-centric film and will be involved with the filmmaking right from the start.
What does an impact advisor do?
Priya said, “The job of an impact advisor is to take the director’s vision, create global ambassadors to take his/her message across the world. To ensure communities that affect the issue connect with the message, and the message also reached beyond that.”
She also said she “launched the concept of ‘impact advisor’ with Jhalki in 2019. That was also the time when I met Dr. Jayantilal Ghada. He was working on Gul Makkai at the time. They wanted me to help with that and since then, the trajectory has been upwards.”
“I do a lot of speaking on international forums – how to position entertainment as a key verticle of trade, and I have had imminent film personalities such as Sidharth Roy Kapur, AR Rahman, Nitesh Tiwari, Majid Majidi, Boman Irani Subhash Ghai and Rajshri Deshpande as my panelists.”
Publicist Vs Impact Advisor
The job of a film’s publicity and marketing teams is also to ensure that a maximum number of people engage with the film, identify with the issues it raises and come forward to talk about it, and eventually watch it. How is an impact advisor any different?
Priya said, “PR and marketing are very much focused on a single territory. I do not know with what lens they look at issues (related to the film). (I can talk about my work). Every film that I did, I took it from the lens of impact – the human aspect of the issue being raised in those films.”
Priya then recalled working on The Kashmir Files. “I hosted a reception for Kashmiri Pandits and Hindus at the US Congress and people told their stories while the Congressmen heard the community. Then, I also spoke at a United Nations event about the importance of films like The Kashmir Files.”
Recalling working on a tight schedule for The Kerala Story, Priya said, “We had limited time – the issue was global and the film focusses on cases from Kerala alone. Even though Adah Sharma, Sudipto, and the entire team were busy with their post-production and publicity, they would always be available. Whether it was 5 am or 11 pm, they would happily be present.”
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(With Inputs from hindustantimes)