Having started out with a hugely celebrated directorial debut "Masaan", Neeraj Ghaywan is feeling the pressure to outdo himself but he says it is more of an "internal struggle."
"Masaan" bagged several top honours at the festival circuits, including two awards at Cannes- FIPRESCI, International Jury of Film Critics prize and Promising Future prize in the Un Certain Regard section.
"Struggle for second film is more internal. For the first film, the struggle is external. Right now, I am dealing with my own self because getting to that next story is really challenging.
"The pressure is there because of the way people talk about 'Masaan'. I am deeply buried under the pressure to make my second film," Neeraj told PTI.
"Masaan", a colloquial word in Banaras for cremation ground, followed four characters whose lives are connected by the river Ganga. The film starred Vicky Kaushal, Richa Chadda, Shweta Tripathi, Sanjay Mishra and Pankaj Tripathi.
The director says his way of dealing with the pressure is to forget that he made a film like "Masaan".
"I am like 'no, forget Masaan, it doesn't exist'. I want to start out with a completely clean slate, without any baggage. That internal struggle is something that I am going through."
It has been more than a year since the film had it's theatrical release in India-where it was successful too- and while the director isn't toying with a solid idea right now, he did have one subject which he let go.
"I was toying with some idea, but I got too attached with the material and hence had to distance myself from that. I have been doing ad films and have just made this one short film. It is very topical," he said.
Neeraj was speaking at a special panel discussion at the
47th edition of International Film Festival of India (IFFI).
When his debut film hit the screens, several prominent Bollywood stars gushed about the project and some like Shabana Azmi had even expressed their desire to be a part of his next.
Though having started his film journey assisting Anurag Kashyap, who rarely has worked with big Bollywood stars, Neeraj says he is very much open to collaborate with big names.
"I am totally open to do that. Now the divide has gone. Deepika can do a 'Piku', Alia played a migrant worker in 'Udta Punjab' and made it so believable. I think women have outdone male stars. Women are experimenting and exploring a lot more than them."
The director says the biggest USP of female actors today is they are not insecure about their stardom.
"Male stars are going for the stereotypes, they don't want to lose the first three days of the weekend. But female stars are really experimenting and I like this about the current lot. They are not insecure about their stardom."
Citing the example of his friend and filmmaker Abhishek Chaubey's "Udta Punjab", Neeraj says the film was the "biggest success for our ilk" as it proved that stars can be moulded in characters too.
"I keep telling Abhishek, the biggest success for our ilk is that you got stars to come and become characters, because you are talking about a certain issue. Imagine if you had made an indie film with no actors. Nobody would've known.
"These stars, when they do a film like this, it comes on a national scale. It is a win-win (situation) for everyone.