Posts Tagged ‘New York Indian Film Festival’

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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jaideep Varma’s documentary Baavra Mann is yet to get a release in India. Karan Singh Tyagi saw it at New York Indian Film Festival earlier this year and wrote this post for us. Read on.

(We suggest you play the song in the background while reading the post)

Baavra MannWho is this long-haired Sanjay Dutt duplicate?

Duplicate nahi hai bhaiyya. Iska naam Nirmal Pandey hai. Kya acting kari thi isne ‘Is raat ki subah nahin’ me”, was my prompt reply, as my cousin and I stood in line with a dozen others, scanning movie posters outside Gaiety (Bandra) and booking our tickets for ‘Auzar’. As an 11 year old, I couldn’t contain my excitement, at having recognized Nirmal Pandey in the ‘Auzar’ poster, and went on this long rant about ‘Is raat ki subah nahin’. Much to my cousin’s chagrin, I told him everything about the movie – how it was violent and funny at the same time, how all the actors spoke a very different language, how the story finished in one night, and importantly, how Papa and I were lucky to see the movie on the big screen, as it had a single show in Bombay.

This innocuous little incident came back to me while watching Jaideep Varma’s documentary, ‘Bavra Mann and other Indian Realities’, in New York. For those who haven’t seen it yet, Jaideep’s movie traverses through the life and films of Sudhir Mishra, and somewhere in the middle of the movie, Mishra laments how ‘Is raat ki subah nahin’ was confined to a single show in Bombay and how many people didn’t get to see it. On hearing this, I silently smiled as my mind went back to watching the movie with Papa in the same show that Mishra was referring to. How I wanted to thank my father at that very instant! Not just for taking me to ‘Is raat ki subah nahin’, but for giving me the hereditary gift of love for movies and being the best companion I could have had while I nurtured  it.

There were numerous such nostalgia trips throughout Jaideep’s movie. The portions dealing with ‘Hazaron Khwaishein Aisi’ left me mesmerized. Listening to ‘Bavra mann dekhne chala ek sapna’ on the big screen again did my soul so much good; it stirred something deep within me, something in desperate need of stirring. My mind went back to when I first saw ‘Hazaaron..’ I remember crying tears of joy and sadness, laughing gleefully, feeling melancholic and empty, while ‘Bavra Mann’ played on loop and images from the movie interposed with flashes of my life didn’t leave me for days at end.  Probably, this is a uniform reaction that ‘Hazaaron..’ elicits. The movie strikes a deep chord somewhere, and makes one confront broken promises, failed dreams, and all those bittersweet memories, that we carry with ourselves. Right after watching Jaideep’s ‘Bavra Mann’, a friend who had accompanied me to the screening in New York forwarded me this by Avijit Ghosh who captures this sentiment beautifully:

There are a thousand reasons to watch Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi. But enjoy it as a last anthem for a generation who knew how to believe. Watch it holding the hand of a woman you have loved and lost. And it would be nice if you have drunk some rotten whisky before.

As must be painfully evident by now, I am easily susceptible to bouts of nostalgia. However, these glorious nostalgia-filled moments were not the only reason why I enjoyed Bavra Mann. I have often wondered what drives filmmakers to make the kind of movies that they do. For example, at the risk of doing a Baradwaj Rangan here, I have been fascinated by two particular scenes from Black Friday and Gangs of Wasseypur.

Sample these dialogues:

Black Friday – “Jiske paas kuch nahi hai karne ke liye, dharam ke naam par chutiya banta rahega”. GOW2 – “Jab tak cinema hai log chutiye bante rahenge

I have often wanted to argue that we can discern in these dialogues a kind of master narrative, a collection of meanings, and, perhaps, a powerful leitmotif that runs through all of Kashyap’s movies, a kind of slavishness and hive mentality – towards religion in Black Friday, towards cinema and everything that one acquires from it in Gangs of Wasseypur. To take the analogy further, slavishness towards power in Gulal, towards self and personal ego in DevD and No Smoking. Therefore, Kashyap’s movies are magic on celluloid, because he lets characters with such aggressive spirit and slavish devotion face their internal conflicts and external surroundings. What we see on screen is the result of a bundle of contradictory aspects and motivations, a certain kind of dualism that everyone and everything in life has. I have repeatedly asked myself, what are the questions that Kashyap is trying to answer through his work? Has he found any answers yet?

Bavra Mann poses similar questions to someone whom Vikramaditya Motwane calls the “original Anurag Kashyap”. Despite the frequent and frenzied analysis of cinematic moves of all current directors’, I feel there is a strong lack of literature that provides us with enough resources to examine and study their work. This is where Bavra Mann triumphs. It gives enough resources to the audience to interpret Sudhir Mishra and his movies in a new light. Bavra Mann is a fascinating exercise in self-revelation and film lovers will revel in the personal anecdotes and casually delivered remarks that reveal layers and layers of information about Mishra and his body of work. The movie has a series of interviews with Mishra and people close to him, covering the length of Mishra’s career, beginning with his childhood, continuing through his education, his failed marriage with his first wife, his relationship with renowned film editor, Renu Saluja, his early film work, his breakthrough success with Dharavi, and his daring work in Hazaaron.., his most autobiographical Khoya Khoya Chand, and finally his recent movies. There is a treasure trove of diamonds in the movie. After all, who wouldn’t want to eavesdrop on Mishra and Shantanu Moitra’s recounting of how they got Swanand Kirkire to sing ‘Bavra Mann.’

A criticism often peddled against movies like Bavra Mann is that the director holds back, and is reverential towards his subject. Here, Jaideep is never in awe of Sudhir Mishra. His questions are probing and the discussions on films themselves are less about why they’re great and more about how they were put together. Jaideep knows that directors are not good at explaining motives behind making particular films. Movies, like many things else, begin with something very vague and abstract. Jaideep, therefore, never tries to look for definite answers and actual motives behind Mishra’s work. His aim is to allow the viewers the freedom to interpret the scene in the way they want, and depending on how their cinematic education (and earlier experiences of Mishra’s movies) has prepared them. Bavra Mann succeeds in bringing before us the greatest number of possibilities to reinterpret Mishra’s movies. After watching Bavra Mann, I realized that Sudhir Mishra’s movies (especially the earlier ones) resonated with me because they were being truthful about life – the movies expressed some deeper emotional experiences that Sudhir Mishra recognized in his own existence. This in and of itself was a reason for me to love Bavra Mann.

However, for me, the biggest strength of Bavra Mann is that it never wavers from admitting that Sudhir Mishra continues to be plagued with what is an inconsistent body of work. It subtly engages in criticism of some of Sudhir Mishra’s recent movies (the likes of Inkar, Calcutta Mail) to reflect on the present-day infertility of thought in India. By using Sudhir Mishra’s example, Jaideep exposes the dangers inherent in adopting a conformist and consensus-driven career. According to me, it is in this context that the movie makes a brutally frank attempt to unravel the intellectual decline of India and Indian movies (using Sudhir Mishra as a metaphor).  The movie, therefore, is an elegy of intellectual life not only of Sudhir Mishra but of us all. In a way, the movie tries to jolt us (Sudhir Mishra included) out of the dark recesses that we have allowed ourselves to fall in.

I do not know if Bavra Mann is getting a theatrical release anytime soon. However, I strongly hope that everyone gets a chance to see it. Watch it to revisit old times, to go back to your personal stories intertwined with Sudhir’s films, watch it to hear “Bavra Mann” on the big screen again, watch it as a student and lover of cinema, and most importantly, watch it because it is a powerful statement on the times that we live in.

Naseerudin Shah says the single most perceptive thing in the movie: “Mishra’s best work is yet to come.” Even though, I love ‘Hazaaron…’, I wouldn’t want it to be Mishra’s best work. I earnestly wish that it turns out to be just a teaser of what he (and by association) Indian cinema goes on to achieve and that no one is ever required to come to the rescue of this long-haired maverick director, like I had to once come to the rescue of his similarly long-haired leading man outside Gaiety.

– Karan Singh Tyagi

(Karan was born in Meerut, lived and studied in Bombay and Harvard, and after a brief stop in Paris, now finds himself in New York. He strongly feels that Ramadhir Singh was directly referring to him while saying, “Sab ke dimaag me apni apni picture chal rahi hai aur sab saale hero banna chah rahe hain apni picture me..” When he is not day-dreaming about movies or Real Madrid, he also works as a lawyer. You can find him on twitter here: @karanstyagi)