QALANDAR

Qalandar* – A 35 year old man from a village in Punjab (India) has to learn riding a Bicycle to get closer to his fleeting dream. A dabbler by nature. Music, cinema and books interest him, and thus, make him a complete misfit in his village and family.

His age and intellect becomes his biggest roadblock in learning cycling and such a trivial pursuit becomes the chase of his life.

To live up to his name, he has to find his way or his way would find him.

(*Qalandars are wandering ascetic Sufi dervishes)

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What does it takes to shoot a Short Film? A device, which is in your hand most of the times. In my case, it is my first independent film, (Director/Producer) so its pure courage. And sometimes, courage is more important than talent.

The thought of Qalandar has been living inside me for quite a few years. There’s a whole charm of riding a bicycle and why it seems like magic, when you balance a bicycle. You are actually defeating gravity in a way. I myself learnt it quite late in my life. I remember my Uncle reacted to this story idea by quoting Albert Einstein. “Life is just like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

The whole genesis of this film originated from a thought of someone not being able to do something very basic and is too old to even attempt that. Something, which can define your existence and masculinity. For the milieu, it was always a friend’s, (Kulwinder Harshaai)  home in Punjab, which came to my mind. I wanted to treat it like a feature film or my first step towards making a feature length film. One thing I was sure about that it has to be in the countryside, or it was my own aversion to cityscape which was also responsible for my location choice.

My friend Kulwinder Harshai, Creative Producer, apart from being my link to this village named Guruharsahai (in Ferozepur District of Punjab) is also the one on whom the protagonist of my story is based.  This film wouldn’t have been possible without him. He just opened the doors of his home and heart, and let us all in! From locations, sets, actors, accommodation, food & country made liquor to music, vocals and the dialogues of the film.

Though an independent film but I approached every department from the feature’s perspective. I was lucky the first technician who I shared the script with, came on board as the cinematographer, and Mihir Desai also ended up becoming my Co-Producer. This has been the best casting of the film!

Now our main objective was how we are going to tell the story on screen. I wanted to explore Punjab beyond the clichés of pop culture like mustard fields, hospitality, handsome men, bhangra, food & flamboyance. The Punjab etched up in my mind did have all this but primarily it had a serene and placid feel to it, which I’ve attempted to capture in the visual narrative.

I myself a product of pop-culture but my biggest grouse with it is that it never exercises its power to propagate the hidden gems of any culture; and is only interested in ‘selling’ culture as commodity. The land of five rivers, including the part in Pakistan, has given us poets like Shiv Kumar Batalavi, Paash, Amrita Pritam and Sahir Ludhanvi to name a few. And, if we delve deeper into the history Baba Farid, Bulleh Shah and Guru Nanak. I’ve seen Batalwi & Paash’s books being sold at popular places like bus stations in Punjab but the pop-culture chooses not to mention it at all!

Film making is a collaborative art, I knew and had seen it in the best of professional set ups in Bombay. And it’s ‘magic’ too, I saw this happening every day. The way one by one whole village came together to make sure Qalandar moves! Dev Verma, my associate, ushered them all from our side incredibly – from recording sync sound to making sure we cover everything on time.

The villagers never said ‘no’! The most beautiful example of this collaboration is the scene, when Qalandar is pushing the bicycle uphill. This hill, which we all called “Dali’s Hill” was made accessible by villagers. I guess the ‘Spirit’ scored over logistics or it was simply Punjabiyat, as we all say back home!

Since the story idea was based on Kulwinder’s life I had decided to cast him only as Qalandar…But as I got into the pre-production I realized, thankfully, I could either burden his gentle shoulders as an actor or a creative producer, not both, and I chose the latter.

Siddharth Sen, a professional actor based in Bombay, came on board as Qalandar. Siddharth transformed into Qalandar effortlessly and his quiet charm warmed up all of Kulwinder’s family, who were part of the film’s main cast. Siddharth, a keen observer just absorbed everything around him and that reflects in the subtler nuances of the film. The reason for casting Kulwinder’s family was essentially budget and equally the fact that raw actors bring certain truth to their performances which technically correct ones may not be able to!

Working with all of them was absolute pleasure. I just had to share the gist of moment with them and often capture the magic, or was it truth? This film is a combination of good accidents also. Qalandar’s Chacha, who works in the fields as a supervisor is an 80 year old man. He was one actor who improvised and was cracking jokes off camera! A real Qalandar!

Somi, who plays Qalandar’s nephew and confidante in the film is a trained Physiotherapist in Faridkot, Punjab. His love for Alia Bhatt and social media has become a part of my narrative as well. How Somi came up with his own lines, which became dialogues of the film is also memorable!

We finally managed to finish Qalandar’s shoot in five days. The film was edited on my personal laptop “Macbook Pro” with the help of my editor, John Joseph, and it took me six months of post-production to finish the film, since, I was working on Aamir Khan’s Secret Superstar simultaneously as a Script Supervisor. Indirectly it was my assignment with Aamir Khan Productions, which made Qalandar see light of the day!

We had a 35 minute long first cut, which was brought to 26 minutes. Now we decided to abandon editing the film and finalizing it. Mandar Kamalapurkar (Sound Designer) brought a certain kind of finesse and texture to the film. Mandar’s expertise took the film to another level! He was patient and professional at the same time.

Finally there are few names, which still helped this film but I cannot define their role. Pallavi Pethkar (Poster Design), Collin D’cunha (Talent Sourcing), Mohit Sharma (Ambal Productions), Shipan Vyas (Vfx), Mahak Gupta (DI), Priyarth Mukherjee, Kedar Sonar and Kasbah Digital. My apologies to those who are in my heart but my brain fails to recall!

To live up to his name he has to find his way or his way would find him: We too are on our way, it seems!

– Rohit Sharma

Qalandar premieres for the world on 3rd May, 2017 at the New York Indian Film Festival, New York. So if you are in NY, do catch it.

Screening info:
3rd May 6:15pm
Village East Cinema, New York, New York.

(Qalandar was also Shortlisted in MAMI Film Festival, 2016 (Mumbai) under Large Shorts Category. Winner of Best Screenplay- Jury in Indian World Film Festival, 2017 (Hyderabad, India), Official Selection, New York Indian Film Festival 2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cannes Film Festival has announced the official selection of shorts for the 70th edition of the festival. Payal Kapadia’s short film, Afternoon Clouds, has been selected for the Cinéfondation forum.

Payal is a third-year student of direction at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune. Her 13-minute short film is among 16 films chosen, from among 2,600 works submitted this year.

Afternoon Clouds depicts a 60-year old widow, who lives with her Nepali maid, Malati. The entire movie revolves around a single afternoon in their house. This film features Usha Naik and Trimala Adhikari.

A jury presided over by Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu will decide the winners. The three Cinéfondation prizes will be awarded at a ceremony preceding the screening of the prize-winning films on Friday 26th May in the Buñuel Theatre.

The Film And Television Institute of India, Pune has introduced a new short course for television fiction. See the attached picture for all the basic details. And click here for more.

Remembering Kishori Amonkar

Posted: April 7, 2017 by moifightclub in music, RIP
Tags:

Kishori Amonkar passed away this week. I have a failing (as against passing) knowledge of Hindustani classical music. I have what they call a good ear for music. I can discern a few ragas based on years of listening to few favorite compositions by classical vocalists. And, my one-time obsession of doing well in movie/music quizzes meant I had to know the answer to ‘which raga is this famous Hindi film song based on’ kind of questions that usually came my way. Within this limited repertoire of my classical Hindustani musical knowledge, however, I can safely say I must have listened to Kishori Amonkar for a couple of thousand hours over the years.

How it started is a story by itself.

I must have been about 11 years old when a boy named Kishore, who was about 3 years older, entered our friend circle. Or, to be more precise, our circles merged. Over months of playing cricket, football and generally wasting time together, some of the older boys in the group started calling him Kishori. I duly followed suit. On enquiring about reasons for this strange name (I had never come across a girl named Kishori), one of the older boys told me about a singer named Kishori Amonkar who occasionally featured on DD. I filed that away in my memory and went on with life. A few years later I was old enough to start buying blank T Series cassettes (Rs 12 for 60 minutes tape) and using the old Philips recorder to tape anything that caught my fancy – songs from Chitrahar, ad jingles and title tracks of TV serials. The idea of recording something was immensely fascinating. And, soon it got out of control. I’d use the same cassette to record things over and over again – news, cricket commentary, Meryl Streep’s Race to Save the Planet and everything in between.

One late Monday evening I sat with the recorder while the weekly staple – Sangeet Ka Akhil Bhartiya Karyakram – came on. Normally, I would switch off at this time and go to bed. But then the announcer mentioned the name of the artist for that evening – Kishori Amonkar. Well, I stayed back and decided to record it. I didn’t care much about what was played that evening but I recorded about 25 minutes of her signing. My summer vacations soon began and on afternoons when there was no one to play I would listen to the tapes. Since I was being indiscriminate in listening to anything that was there on them, I didn’t forward any tracks. And, so I heard Kishori Amonkar many a times over that month. In May that year, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. The state mourning that followed meant there was nothing on DD except classical music. And, there again was Kishori Amonkar. I watched her sing and what impressed me more was her persona. She had a presence; a certain magnetism that reached out to you despite your complete ignorance of her craft.

Over the next decade I kept that cassette and heard those tracks many times over especially during late evenings in solitude. There was almost a pattern in a certain year in the 90s where I would play Maya Memsaab, Libaas and Kishori Amonkar in that order before going to sleep. One fine day (or evening) the cassette gave away; the tape came out of the cassette while the song was playing and was completely mangled. From then on I listened to her sporadically. I never got myself to buy a CD of her songs. I attended a SPIC MACAY event in late 90s where I heard her sing and I came away with a sense of satisfaction of having heard a legend. That was it.

Only a few years back while scouring through Youtube, I came across a whole treasure trove of Kishori Amonkar songs. In them I found the two compositions that I had on my cassette. They weren’t the exact recordings but it was the same composition. I also learnt why one of those songs felt so right listening to them in the evening. It was Raag Bhoop – a raag to be played in the first ‘pahar’ of the night. I heard them on Wednesday evening when I heard she was no more. I have linked them here.

I was happy to note the next day she was given a state funeral by the Maharashtra Government. Maybe she deserved a bigger honour. But I’m happy that a city like Mumbai still maintains its respect for its true legends. In times when we seem ever so keen on reviving our cultural identity and nationalism, I’d think Kishori Amonkar and her legacy are true representation of what’s great about our culture. That’s what needs protection and nurturing. And, keeping that alive wouldn’t need any vigilantism. It would only need a keen ear and an open heart.

Subrat Mohanty

Dear friends, supporters and well-wishers,

Sincere thanks from the bottom of my heart for thousands of amazing congratulatory messages that we have received in the last few days. We are simply overwhelmed! Many of you have asked us to pen down the experience of discovering, writing and creating the inspiring story of ‘Poorna’ for the screen. It’s difficult to summarise two year long journey in a single post. But here’s a modest attempt to capture that frustrating but exciting journey.

Discovering Poorna

It all started in August 2014 when Shreya (my wife and co-writer) first heard about this incredible story of Malavath Poorna on NDTV. I also noticed that the story had tremendous potential. I had been working on a mountaineering film which wasn’t progressing at the expected pace, so I was not very sure about taking this up. Instead I was looking to go back being a writer for hire. I was both financially broke and unsure of taking another spec script adventure.

However, the symbolism and the potential messaging in the story was too strong to resist! The idea of a thirteen year old overcoming our societal attitudes towards girl child, hopeless education systems, and the almost insurmountable social challenges of being born a Tribal Girl, it overtook all my professional inertia. We took the first baby step towards the film by trying to summarize what this story symbolized, by spending several nights of furious notes making.

I had a “writerly” conviction when I wrote a treatment note and sent an e mail proposal to the Telengana Government. I was almost sure that no one will reply and this will be forgotten.

But the government responded, and soon Dr. R S Praveen Kumar spoke to us on phone. On 25th August 2014, we boarded a flight to Hyderabad to meet Dr. Praveen Kumar. By this time I had an entire file on Poorna, creation of Telangana and RS Praveen Kumar life.

The film looked like a strong polemic which worried Shreya, but it satiated my unconsciousness deeply because I wanted a film which has a practical use. My brother used to mention that John Le Carre’s “The Constant Gardner” is shown to all Oxfam staff in programs in Africa. I wanted to create that kind of film.

Dr. Praveen Kumar met us and understood why we wanted to make a movie on this. He was also quite impressed with our ideas about the film but he kept asking us “are you sure…Prasahanthji…!! Are you sure?” I told him even if the film doesn’t happen, I was just very happy to meet him. So he, in a split second, agreed to do a chai pe charcha next day outside his office.

It was Sunday. We had tea in the “shadow of guns” at the Andra Pradesh Police Officers Mess lawns. I understood that even though Dr. Praveen Kumar works in social welfare department; he is a decorated IPS officer whose life is valuable to the state. I can’t say more.

Dr. Praveen Kumar is a man of immense vision, and has razor sharp understanding of conflict and human emotions. Poorna is an extension of his belief, and our access to the subject matter of the film.

So in the meeting Dr. Kumar took our thought systems like a storm, in half an hour I formed the structure of the film in my head.

I also had a giant déjà vu moment. Interestingly, Dr. Praveen Kumar had already featured in a movie called Rakta Charitam – a film written by me, in which Kannada Superstar Sudeep played his role as a cop who took on the mighty faction leader Paritala Ravi, played by Vivek Oberoi.

I love kiccha Sudeep and I took that as a divine signal. That very day, Shreya and me wrote a one liner sitting in a corner in his office and carried edits in our hotel.

It was all spec and since I’ve been a writer for hire for large-hearted producers, this film brought in a very tough transition. All expenses…outstation travel, local stay, local travel, expensive print out at hotels…were going to be on our own expense. Nobody was funding or managing the usual 5-star-all-expenses-paid writing extravaganza. So we had to be very careful because it seemed it would take time for this film to be made, much like all films do.

Then we met Poorna and Anand (climbed the Mount Everest with her), and had a free-wheeling chat about their life aspirations, over lots of ice cream and cold drinks. I noticed Poorna looked like an old soul. Not much in terms of plot points but I got a fair idea about the abstractions which would be used in adapting her life for reel.

We spent rest of time reading up Social welfare school books and getting acquainted with facts; because we were dealing with a story involving a government sponsored program.

A lot of plot also comes from our own observations. On a road trip to Kashid, we had seen poor students sweeping the school in Maharashtra while the rich ones kept sauntering here and there. We decided to put that in our film.

Creating The Script

It was clear that the film will have to be dramatized heavily as compressing events within the cinematic time would be big challenge. Then there is a huge North Indian bias which prevails in Bollywood. Why would they care about a village called Pakala in a town called Nizamabad?

That overwhelmed us completely. The problems presented themselves often. It paralyzed the entire writing.

So we put deep thinking aside and made marketing pitches, and started to write to almost all indie producers, from Kerela to Mumbai. My experiences with studios weren’t very good earlier, so I avoided them for fear of further disappointment.

Almost all showed very less interest despite the fact that Telangana Government had given us an impressive list of freebies like free locations and subsidized stay and local travel for the film crew.

Many producers kept squeezing us and often offered other projects to direct or write.

Another idea was to approach a “big” director like Neeraj Pandey, who could make this possible. But I realized making a movie is easier here than to get Neeraj Pandey or Adi Chopra’s phone number. The people in between don’t let that happen.

We thought it was happening because we had not put enough work on the script. So this time around Shreya came up with a character of a cousin sister for Poorna called Priya. Suddenly it opened up lot of pain in the narrative and gave us tragic dimensions of Poorna’s character- same arc played out as a tragedy – two sisters – the happy go lucky breaks out while the other talented and ambitious one is thrown into darkness of early marriage destroying all her hopes . Thus it became a film about a girl who Dr. Praveen Kumar, despite his best efforts, wont be able to save. That gave Dr. Praveen Kumars’ character a certain hurry and pace in this game of numbers – girls inside the school and girls outside the school.

The script was rewritten with this central idea and results showed up immediately. When Ashok Purang (Producer of Filmistan) heard it, he reconnected me to my friend Tanisha (actor) who I had worked with in Sarkar Raj. In the first narration, Tanuja ji (Actor/Tanisha’s mother) got very emotional. They had not yet set up their production house but offered all logistical support if I was to make this soon.

Back To Hyderabad

I met a star producer called Dilraju, who loved the subject but wasn’t sure about the film’s box office pull. Unless a star got involved to play the mentor and a Bombay based distribution tie-up. I was like a grazing goat looking to chew on Akshay Kumar’s Bollywood grass but intermediaries in between kept us out.

We then applied for NFDC co-production market. We were certain that it would be picked but when it didn’t make the cut, we were crestfallen. I never felt such a rage in my life.

Flight To Delhi

Given the story’s close relevance to Government’s much well-intentioned and praised ‘Beti Padhao Beti Bachao’ mission, a source in Hyderabad told us to chase Prakash Javdekar (I & B minister), who could route the film through CFSI. It sounded quite like a plan. We landed in Delhi.

Our  source mysteriously disappeared just as we were about to reach Shashtri Bhawan. Air tickets + Hotel expenses – everything went for a toss. Later, when the minister came to know about our plight, he apologized and called us to Pune.

The Bus To Pune

Few hours after he accepted our file, we learnt that he had been transferred to the Forest ministry. An expensive handmade poster which I designed and got made to impress the Hon. Minister is still lying in my study! The title of the film in that poster was ‘’Power Girl Poorna’’!

The Final Push

One year passed as we kept doing breakdowns, storyboards, posters, drafts and more drafts of the script. But still we had no producer.

Actor Sonu Sood loved the script immensely but offered me another film he was about to produce.

So despite our best intentions, we were back to square one. Then my brother Nishant introduced me to actor Rahul Bose who decided to come on board as a producer. Rahul set up meetings. I narrated the script to Amit Patni who later funded the film. I passed the producers baton to them happily and made the Telangana Government meet the production for work to begin.

I very much feel this film is my baby as a writer and co-director, and I feel very proud of the mark it’s making. “Poorna” represents the aspirations of millions of children in rural India, and the power they possess to realise these aspirations. As the dialogue goes in the film- “Joote nahi hai toh kya hua, pair toh hai.

Prashant Pandey

To get the reference of the country in the header of the post, you have to watch the film. Surely that can’t be enough reason to watch it, so here’s Varun Grover’s recco post on the film.

“अबला बबाल देख
डायन छिनाल देख
कुलटा कमाल देख – सारा-रारा-रा”

ये फ़िल्म देख लीजिए सब लोग। बैठे-बैठे ढेरों कारण तो अभी गिना सकता हूँ। उसके अलावा, जो हर फ़िल्म में होता है कि जो गिनाया नहीं जा सकता (जैसे आँसू या तालियाँ), जो एक अंदरूनी जादू है – उसके लिए तो सिनेमा हॉल जाना ही पड़ेगा। (और जैसा कि अक्सर होता है, ऐसी फ़िल्में मेहनत करवाती हैं। शो कम हैं, दूर हैं, पब्लिसिटी नहीं है – लेकिन यही आपके प्यार की परीक्षा भी है।)

१ – Avinash Das की #AnarkaliOfAarah वहाँ जाती है जहाँ सिनेमा तो क्या, हम लोग असल ज़िंदगी में भी जाने से डरते हैं। सोच की उस हद तक। Male entitlement और female consent पे बहुत बात हो रही है पिछले कुछ समय से लेकिन फिर भी जो बातें और लोग उन mainstream debates से छूट गयीं/गए, या जो सही से नहीं कहीं गयीं, उन सबका धुआँधार निचोड़ है।

२ – स्वरा भास्कर (Swara Bhasker) ने जो आत्मा फूँकी है अनारकली में, अपने अस्तित्व का एक-एक कण डाल दिया है। ऐसी दमदार मुख्य किरदार कि आपको उसके लिए डर लगे।

३ – ग़ज़ब के गाने। छिछोरे से लेकर क्रांतिकारी तक – और कई बार दोनों ही एक साथ। रोहित शर्मा का संगीत, और Ravinder Randhawa, Ramkumar Singh, Dr सागर, और ख़ुद Avinash के बोल – (“हम खेत तू कूदारी, हम चाल तू जुआरी”), पावनी पांडे और स्वाति शर्मा की आवाज़ें – बेहतरीन।

४ – फ़िल्म की भाषा। इतनी प्रामाणिक भाषा बहुत कम हिंदी फ़िल्मों में सुनने को मिलेगी। भकुआना से लेकर सीजना – हर शब्द में रस है। जो भी ‘उधर के’ लोग हैं, उनको तो मज़ा ही आ जाएगा।

५ – फ़िल्म का पहला और आख़िरी सीन। दो बिंदुओं से वैसे तो एक लाइन बनती है लेकिन यहाँ एक पूरा वृत्त बनता है।

६ – ‘तीसरी क़सम’ को दिया गया छोटा सा, सुंदर सा tribute।

७ – अनारकली के universe के बाक़ी किरदार। Pankaj Tripathi का ‘नाच’, Sanjai Mishra का वीभत्स रूप, इश्तेयाक खान का हैरी, अनवर (Mayur More), मफ़लर, एटीएम।

८ – अविनाश दास की पहली फ़िल्म, एकदम independently बनायी हुयी, सिर्फ़ दोस्तों और पागलपन की मदद से – तो ऐसी चीज़ों से जो धुआँ उठता है वो अलग ही रंग देता है।

Varun Grover

Its been a while since we have posted a new film in our Sunday Shorts segment. But this week, we got a new short by Sumit Aroraa. Watch it.

white_shirt_final_posterSynopsis – There is trouble in Aveek and Vani’s paradise. Their relationship is falling apart and all that holds them together is one white shirt.

Written and Directed By: Sumit Aroraa

Actors : Kritika Kamra  and Kunal Kapoor

Director of Photography: Surjodeep Ghosh (Sulemani Keeda)

Music and Background Score: Advait Nemlekar