I am not sure how and where to start this post. Still too excited about the news. But let’s get the news first. Vasan Balan‘s debut feature Peddlers has been selected to premiere at Cannes International Critics’ Week. Yay! And since this is his first feature, it’s also going to compete for Camera D’Or. Every year only seven films are selected for Critics’ week and this year Peddlers is one of them.
To quote the official synopsis, Peddlers – A ghost town, Mumbai, inhabited by millions. A lady on a mission, a man living a lie, an aimless drifter. They collide. Some collisions are of consequence, some not, either ways the city moves on.
And here’s the cast and credit list..
Director : Vasan Bala
Screenplay : Vasan Bala
Cinematography : Siddharth Diwan
Editing : Prerna Saigal
Sound : Anthony B.J. Ruban
Music : Karan Kulkarni
Cast: Gulshan Devaiah, Siddharth Mennon, Kriti Malhotra, Nimrat Kaur, Murari Kumar, Sagai Raj, Megh Pant, Nishikant Kamat, Neeraj Ghaywan and Anubhuti Kashyap.
And here are some stills from the film..
And now the news bit is over, i am going to write and behave like Vidhu Vinod Chopra.
It seems like yesterday. Vasan pinged me on gmail and then shared some pics. I said, wow, this guy looks like Andrew Garfield. Vasan – fuck, you got it so bang on. I have been telling all about the Garfield thing. When it comes to cinema, this wasn’t the first time we were on the same page instantly. May be that’s why we bonded so well since we first bumped into each other at a blogging site called passionforcinema. Now it’s dead. Me, him and Kartik Krishnan – it’s been quite a love-hate equation between the three of us since last few years. Except participating in an orgy, i guess we have shared everything else.
And as i sit down to write this post and look back now, i know why i feel so bloody happy for him. Not sure when was the last time i was so happy for someone else. May be because i know how his sweat smells.
By bollywood rule book, Peddlers wasn’t a dream launch. There was no fancy announcement, no articles in newspapers, no big stars to talk about. No posters were designed and no title was thought about. He had assisted Anurag Kashyap for long and was back after assisting Michael Winterbottom on Trishna. He was getting restless to make his movie but Kashyap wasn’t exactly sure about the script. One script out, another came in, that also went out and he wrote a third one. This went on for some time and then he decided to go ahead and prove it to himself. Whatever happens, he was going to direct. It was going to be a true “indie”. On behalf of Kashyap, Guneet Monga produced it by raising funds from everyone possible. Low budget, low on resources, cast friends and family members, everything on “jugaad“. Come what may, he had to make this film. To prove it to himself, to Kashyap, to us and to people around him.
I went to meet him the day before he was starting his shoot. He looked tired, almost dead. I hugged him, and prayed that he doesn’t fall sick during the shoot. He has a record of falling sick while ADing on films and we always used to joke about it. I had read the script and really liked it too. Was confident about his direction after seeing the two shorts he had directed. Not saying this because he is dear friend. Harsh truth has never been a barrier between our friendship. We have ripped apart each others work many a times in the past. As always, me and KK argued with Kashyap too. Why can’t he see what we are seeing? As always, he also argued, gave his reasons and it was a dead end.
The shooting got over and we saw the rough cut. I wasn’t expecting something like this. This was a new language – minimal approach to filmmaking, if i can call it so. Hadn’t seen something like this in any desi debut film. Everything was pitch perfect except his jeera rice indulgence. I thought if nothing happens, at least this is a great CV to have. Kashyap saw the film and he loved it. And to give credit where it’s due – he publicly announced on twitter that Vasan has proved him wrong. We were relieved. As the inside joke goes, Rahul aur Anjali me phir dosti ho gayee.
By that time we all were getting too excited about it – what can be done to this, where should he send it, the usual gyaan gurus that we all are. Kashyap assured everyone that he really loved it, he means it and he is hoping for the best for this one. He told us to wait, the best will happen soon.
And then, it did happen.
For so much blood, sweat and tears, what else does a filmmaker want?
And once you look at the names in the Critics’ Weeks archives, you realise what it means. Bernardo Bertolucci, Jean Eustache, Otar Iosseliani, Ken Loach, Wong Kar Wai, Jacques Audiard and Arnaud Desplechin to name a few. Or just look at some of the features selected last year – Las Acacias, The Slut, Snowtown, Take Shelter.
Add Vasan Bala and Peddlers to the list now. It can’t get bigger than this for a film where money and resources hardly mattered. Passion and sweat was all that counted – of his and people around him. Because without expecting anything, there are many (cast & crew) who made this film happen as their only motivation was “this is Vasan’s film, this has to be done”. Blame it on his friendship and good will.
And google cache is going to mark it. Because it’s history now.