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This budding filmmaker from Apeejay is making waves on the big screen

ACFA alumnus Kunwar Raj Singh makes his acting debut in Bollywood



Apeejay College of Fine Arts (ACFA) alumnus Kunwar Raj Singh, is a budding filmmaker from Jalandhar. Kunwar Raj’s professional career in filmmaking started with shooting one-minute films. This later drove him towards attempting short films and today he has shot four Bollywood movies including Baadshaho, Soorma, Romeo Akbar Walter (R.A.W.) and recently launched Attack as an assistant director. Alongside, the passionate filmmaker has directed 14 music videos and five short films. In 2022, he also made his Bollywood debut as an actor in his latest film Attack. In an interview, Kunwar Raj  shares how he set off on a journey to filmdom. Edited excerpts:

When did you discover your love for film direction?  How did this journey start? Did you always want to pursue this career when you were a kid? 

Honestly, I’m a filmmaker by chance. I was never into filmmaking, photography or any of its linking streams from my childhood. It all started in my college days. I chose to study multimedia because I was getting four years to enjoy my college life, and literally, only to join my father’s factory after finishing my degree. But life had other plans for me. Apeejay introduced me to photography in my second semester and I started clicking pictures on my phone to complete my assignments. The pictures started coming out well and those got praises from my teachers. I guess my dad saw it before anyone else and to my surprise he got me my first DSLR camera. Some of my photographs even got featured on National Geographic’s ‘Your Shot’ edition. This was my first kick towards this career and made me dig deep into it. In fact the funniest bit would be: once there was a Punjabi film shooting going on in my house during my school days, and I found it so boring that I went away to stay at my friend’s place. But see where I am today! 

Did you direct or write film scripts when you were in ACFA? How did the institute help you in building this career path?

Absolutely! Short films will always remain my first love. Actually, it’s a funny story why I made my first short film. So there was a girl who I liked in college. So only to impress her, I wrote and made my first short film which actually went on to win a local film festival. This made me ponder on pursuing a career in filmmaking. Eventually, I started studying more about it. After that, I directed five short films and won nine awards in different film festivals including Dadasaheb Phalke award, award in Sikhnet film festival, USA, and more while I was pursuing my degree.

Apeejay has been a big support in my filmmaking journey. While I had no equipment of my own, my college used to lend me a professional camera and all the other equipment required. My teachers used to be a huge pillar of support for me. I used to call them anytime in a day to ask for guidance and they used to happily help me. In fact, I still do that. I don’t think I would’ve been in this career without being a part of Apeejay College of Fine Arts.

So, when did you live your first Bollywood moment? 

I can never forget this moment in my life. When I was in my final year I got a call from T-Series films that I have  been selected as an intern in a film. After a couple of days, I was standing inside an enormous film set with Ajay Devgn and Ileana D’Cruz alongside. This was my first film Baadshaho. I used to be so excited for a 7 am meeting over call. I used to get ready by 5 am. I was a part of 62 days hardcore action shoot that took place in the scorching heat of Rajasthan with Ajay Devgn, Ileana D’Cruz, Emraan Hashmi, Esha Gupta, Vidyut Jamwal and my director, Milan Luthria Sir. This was my first Bollywood moment! 

Tell us about your tryst with short films? 

A filmmaker benefits the most from short films. I got to learn the craft hands-on while I shot my short films in college. There were no budgets, no proper heavy duty equipment, still we used to plan all day to get that particular shot. Short films let me discover my love for filmmaking and through my films I could actually convey my ideas to the world. It helped me to meet like minded people in my college and city, who later became my partners in my company ‘Filmy Boys’. Without a doubt, short films will always be my first love! 

What does an average day look like for you as an Assistant Director?

So I’ll explain what my usual day on the sets of Attack used to be like. So for a 7 am shift, an assistant director (AD) has to reach the sets by 5:45 am and for that I used to wake up at 4  in the morning. Because it’s Mumbai!! (Laughs). As soon as I reached the sets and completed my breakfast, I used to check if the given requirements were completed by the production team and everything was available to execute the day’s shoot on location. This planning of things required is done in the pre-production phase. As it’s said, a director is the brain of the project, a cinematographer is the eyes and an assistant director team is the hands and legs of the project – so from finalising the exact time of the shot with the actors, getting the set ready for shoot to ensuring all the important information is conveyed to every department of the film is what an AD and his/her team does. In addition, the assistant director and his/her team is also responsible for maintaining continuity thus helping the director achieve its vision. It gets so hectic and the workload is such that an AD hardly gets to sit on a shoot day. For around 12-14 hours in a day I used to just stand, run and supervise the set. But at the end of the day, it was just pure satisfaction because I love the craft. Post-packup around 7 pm, the entire AD team used to crosscheck the next day’s requirement with the production team and plan the next day’s shots in advance thus finally completing a day’s schedule. 

Your much-awaited film ‘Attack’ has recently released wherein you were the assistant director and writer? How has the movie been performing? 

Yes, the film was finally released early this month after a two-year Covid hiatus. The critic reviews are amazing as we brought something totally new to the Indian film industry. Kudos to the main men, my director, Lakshay Raj Anand, and John Abraham for supporting and bringing fresh energy to the industry. A fun fact that I would like to share is: it was a film in which the whole assistant director’s  team and the director were below the age of 30. We have been receiving a lot of appreciation from the film industry and good wishes as well as love from the audience.  Also, this was my debut as an actor as I performed two roles in this film. Well, it has been a unique experience for me to be a part of such a large scale action film and to be in front of the camera for the first time.

What are your future plans? Any more movie or music launches in the pipeline for 2022?

My music video with Rakhi Sawant, Gurbax and Burrah was recently released and is getting overwhelming response from the audience. The next key goal for this year is to direct my first Punjabi film along with my team – Filmy Boys, which is more like a family to me. So currently, we’re working on the final draft of the script. A lot is going on on the music front. Soon Filmy Boys will be releasing music videos and commercial ads. 

Harshita is Assistant Editor at Apeejay Newsroom. With experience in both the Media and Public Relations (PR) world, she has worked with Careers360, India Today and Value360 Communications. A learner by nature, she is a foodie, traveller and believes in having a healthy work-life balance.