Our mind plays all kinds of tricks, often dangerously merging the line between reality and imagination. And we poor mortals, dazed and confused and tortured by our own conscience, desperate to restore some comfort and tranquility. But alas! peace cannot be reclaimed that easily.
The story of Professor Saurabh Sharma (Manav Kaul) is one perfect example of such a psychological discord, intensified by his wife gone missing, and he himself being an insomniac doesn’t seem to help either.
Entangled in-between the police officer’s inquisitions and the advancement of a flirtatious student, and also under the influence of the the unending sleeping pills, the professor’s life looks more distorted than ever.
Disturbing? Yes, thank you very much!
Be it the blood-filled bathtub mysteriously clogged by a bundle of human hair or a chopped up human finger under the cabinet, Maroonisa dark and trippy psychological thriller that seems to have it’s roots deeply embedded into our human psyche; stimulated by that part of our unconscious brain that deceives our consciousness, and makes us vulnerable yet so dangerous.
Overall an intelligently made film, based on one single location, entirely interiors. With only a handful of characters writer/director Pulkit have managed to weave an intricate tale of murder, betrayal, love, adultery and insanity!
Superb performance by Manav Kaul, he portrayed the tired and delusional man desperate to find his wife, with enough conviction.
Devyani Cm as the young seductress and Sumeet Vyas the hot-tempered lover-boy are really good but one particular actor needs a special mention, Saurabh Sachdeva playing the character of Inspector. R. Negi was simply brilliant!
Nowadays it’s difficult to find the right combination of talent, determination and humility all in one person. And Pulkit, the young and gifted filmmaker have all these qualities and that too with a great sense of humour!
In Conversation with Pulkit as he talks about his journey as a filmmaker!
Hi Pulkit welcome to Cinema Forensic!
How does it feel to watch your first feature film Maroon on the big screen at the prestigious Mumbai Film Festival?
It’s Great! It’s also a very weird kind of feeling I must tell you. You know when your film gets selected in the film festival they do a technical check, so they called me for that. On 24th morning I was sitting alone in the theatre and they played my film. Suddenly I started crying you know – what was happening! Something that I always dreamt about – I felt my career, my schooling, my college, came to Bombay, just being 5 years in Bombay and now watching my own film in the big screen – it was a superb kick!
And then I was very nervous on how people will react, because you always love your baby, but the film is not for you na? So during the actual screening I couldn’t watch the film with the audience. I left the theatre. I came down, had coffee, cigarettes; and my assistant who was there in the theatre, she kept messaging me – like people are smiling, giggling, how they are reacting and all that.
Even after the screening, the question answers and all, I met the audience – ya it was superb. I know I will make another film but this thing won’t happen again – the first time experience – it was like ‘pehli baar apko pyaar ho gaya‘. Very beautiful feeling!
Congratulations again Pulkit! Now let’s begin from the beginning. Tell me something about yourself, your background.
I was born in Bihar, Muzaffarpur. My parents still live there.
As a kid I was never good in studies (laughs). Actually my father being a businessman in Bihar I had so many restrictions – because at that time in Bihar children of businessmen used to get kidnapped a lot. So I wasn’t allowed to play with other kids, it was just going to school and back to home. I didn’t have any friends. I didn’t know what was happening around the world. Even in the newspapers it was always stories about crimes and murders. May be that’s why I am so keen in making dark films (laughs).
But the best thing happened to me in Bihar was music. Since I wasn’t allowed to play I got interested into Indian classical music – I played Tabla for thirteen years!
And so I asked my father to get me out of Bihar. And after 10th my dad got me admission into a boarding school in Haryana and I passed my 12th from there and that too with superb grades!
Then I took admission in Amity university Lucknow but I never wanted to be a graduate. So I didn’t attend any classes and just before my final exams I shifted to Mumbai!
It was May 2011. I got admission in Barry John Acting Studio but then again I realised i am too shy to be an actor. Then I tried assisting few people, some of the big shots in this industry. And within two years I became an associate and made good money but still there was no satisfaction. Night after night all you had to do was watch foreign films and copy references from them. I don’t believe in this module.
So, then me and Jyotsana (Jyotsana Nath is the current producer of Maroon), we both decided to quit our jobs and start something of our own.
And soon I wrote my first short film Bombay 1992, but that time we went over budget on the film. So I had to sell my car, ask money from my dad and finally the film got made. This short film taught me how important it is to control your budget.
And then how did the journey of Maroon got started?
Actually before Maroon I wrote another script in 2014 and one of the big studios was backing it at the time but due to their interference in the casting I had to take leave from the project.
Then it was very difficult, people here in Bombay they don’t entertain you, don’t trust you – why will they talk to me, why will they listen to my script? You go to a producer and they ask who is the actor? Then if you go to the actor he asks who is the producer? So independent directors are always in trouble.
So after writing the script of Maroon I narrated it to so many people, everyone loved it and they said ‘you should make it’ but no one actually stood by me. That’s the sad part.
But then Jyotsana was brave enough to come as producer and make this film happen because it was very important for me and Jyotsana to set an example – and we really did it without any compromise!
So after you wrote the screenplay of Maroon you were sure of Manav Kaul as the lead?
I approached Manav in 2014 with a different script of mine, a satire – controversial and dark. Manav said it will be difficult to get this film funded and even released and asked me to write something else instead. He even assured me that he won’t charge a single penny from me!
And then I wrote Maroon. The idea was there with me for some time and I wrote the full screenplay in just thirteen days! I was assisting a friend of mine who was in the hospital and there only I wrote my first draft. And on the 14th day I went back to Manav, narrated the script and he said ‘let’s do it’!
How difficult was it to shoot the entire film within the specific time and budget constraints?
We started preproduction in June and we finally shot Maroon in October 2015.
We didn’t have any production team and we didn’t even know much about production. So a friend of ours, Vivek Kajaria who is a well known Marathi film producer – I asked him for guidance and he came on-board. So we took an estimation of how much money we have in our hands and how many exact days can we shoot without compromising the film.
The good part was all my actors, be it Manav Kaul or Sumeet Vyas didn’t take any money from us. They just loved the script and said ‘we will make it’!
So we shot the entire film in 15 days without a break!
Everybody got so tired. And then again I wanted the film to be handheld and the Alexa camera is very heavy – so my DOP Soumik Mukherjeewas drained and frustrated. For actors also, specially for Manav – what did go in favour of his performance was the actual lack of sleep which his character did require!
Three months of preproduction, fifteen days shoot, three months for sound and for music another four months!
Wow! So how did you plan out the sound design and music for Maroon?
The basic sound design of the film was there in my very first draft. Sound plays such a important role and I always wanted that sound should be the hero of my film. So yes Mandar Kulkarni did a great job.
And for the music Sagar Desai came on-board only after the edit of the film. When I met Sagar I asked him to see the rough cut without sound, without music and asked for his suggestions. And he was so excited and came up with so many ideas – I really liked his excitement.
And lastly Pulkit, now that you have made your film and I am sure you will keep making many more and keep inspiring us, which are the directors who inspired you?
Till 10th, 12th standard I didn’t have much exposure to films. While in Lucknow I started watching a bit of Hollywood films for the first time.
And then of course after coming to Bombay I started watching the so called classics. The first film that really inspired me was A Short Film About KillingbyKrzysztof Kieslowski. Then I watched films of David Fincher, David Lynch andHitchcock. I am always attracted towards dark kind of cinema because I really feel we all have a dark side that we tend to hide from everybody. And I know every one loves to watch dark films.
Thank you so much Pulkit for sharing your journey with us!
Directed by Alankrita Shrivastava, the film featured in the Section: India Gold chronicles the secret lives of four small-town women who wants to break-free from their regular lives, and rebel in search of freedom.
Directed by Milind Dhaimade, this is the story of five friends who struggle to find a place to play football in Mumbai.
Featured in the Section: India Gold, this movie is not only about missing the every-Sunday football game ritual at the Juhu Beach, but it’s also about growing up, about friendship and about finding one’s own space, and then of course happiness!
The genius dancer Uday Shankar directed and acted in this classic film which is currently featured under theSection: The New Medium at the festival.
A unique form of story telling, a real “dance film” – rare and brilliant, such accurate compositions and use of various dance forms makes this film visually breathtaking and highly unconventional as well.
Section: India Gold, directed by Rohit Mittal, this one is a feature length mockumentary in which a documentary crew follows a notorious auto rickshaw driver called Narayan in the suburbs of Mumbai.
The movie overall has a voyeuristic quality since the film-crew directly becomes the part of this weird, sexually frustrated and often mentally deranged life of the auto driver. Dangerous and realistic at the same time!
Directed by Akshay Singh, this film makes a statement on the Indian obsession of fair skin! The story revolves around a certain beauty parlour in Banaras run by two sisters Pinky and Bulbul.
But the film takes a different turn when a body is being found and soon two police men come to investigate. Featuring under Section: The India Story, this film is surely something to look out for in this festival.
Though categorised as a Canadian entry, this film is based on an Indian issue, the language is Hindi and it’s also made by an acclaimed director from Indian origin, none other than Deepa Mehta!
The film revolves around the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old girl by six men inside a moving bus in New Delhi, December 2012. A fictionalised take on the incident and the consequences of such a gruesome crime on our society.
The basic script of Wazir was written as early as in 1994 and later around 2004, the film was supposed to be producer/director Vidhu Vinod Chopra‘s first Hollywood venture, with Dustin Hoffman in the lead!
But then it had to wait for another 12 years to be finally made by director Bejoy Nambiar and released as a Bollywood thriller last Friday.
The film Wazir has no doubt an innovative concept.
If you have played chess you must be knowing that Wazir (meaning the ‘minister’) is the most powerful piece on a chess board and using this as a metaphor the film title has been conceptualized. Actually there are several references of chess being repeatedly associated with the film’s story line.
And then, watching two of the most talented actors of our industry sharing screen space, Amitabh Bachchan (as the old crippled vengeful Pandit Omkarnath Dhar) andFarhan Akhtar (as the traumatized officer of law Daanish Ali) brilliantly complementing each other with their effortless performances is indeed a treat for the audience.
But unfortunately a cool concept and great star cast doesn’t seem to be enough to create a cinema of superlative order.
The story has too many illogicalities that are difficult to ignore, too many convenient routes taken by the script writers (in total nine writing credits including the dialogue writers!), and on top of that the ending becomes predictable after a certain point of time.
May be a bit of more pace/thrill and a tinge of less emotional drama and background songs could have worked better.
Overall a decent first half that drags into a wobbly second half and then an unsurprising ending!
In spite of creditable camera work by Sanu Varghese and appropriate editing by Vidhu Vinod Chopra himself, the film simply doesn’t satisfy you to the fullest.
Hope 2016 brings many more quality films that will eventually quench our thirst for better cinema.
After the National Award winning film Shahid, (director) Hansal Mehta and (actor) Rajkummar Rao comes together with yet another promising film – City Lights.
The dazzling lights in the big cities are often tempting from a distance but on a closer look one notices the dark shadows they cast that can easily swallow the weak and the naive along with their little expectations.
Deepak Singh (Rajkummar Rao), his wife Rakhi (Patralekha) and their sweet young daughter – lost and fragile yet desperate to try their luck in the city of Mumbai.
In this film we get to see a glimpse of the ugly side of Mumbai, the famous city of dreams that ruthlessly crushes the dreams of the poor and the helpless only to feed the riches. People are cheated manipulated and humiliated, pushed to their limits until they fight back and demand their existence.
City Lights is uncomfortably raw; it makes us look at poverty and despair from disturbing proximity.
A remake of the British film Metro Manila, City Lights is a superb effort to tell the story of the ordinary – their lives, their wishes and their endless limitations.
Brilliant performance by Rajkummar Rao – I personally think he deserves another National Award for this act. The portrayal of a naïve Rajasthani villager – the accent, the body language, the tone, the expressions – he was just perfect.
Patralekha, the debutant actress also did a pretty good job but the surprise package in the film is Manav Kaul who plays the superior of Rajkummar in the film. A very powerful actor – so natural and spontaneous.
The director Hansal Mehta has done it again. It seems that he has perfected the art of telling stories of ordinary people in a simple, realistic fashion which is kind of rare in Bollywood. He along with his cinematographer Dev Agarwal has deliberately set a dark tone for City Lights to get the gritty feel of poverty and hunger. A wise decision.
Well edited by Apurva Asrani and of course with the backing of Mahesh Bhatt (in production and marketing levels) the film has evolved into a fine piece of cinema.
The only problem is the songs in the film; actually it’s not that the songs are bad but I think they are over-used. It can be irritating at times when every emotional scene is underlined by heavy doses of mediocre songs in the background. Then again Jeet Ganguly could have done better.
On the whole a very emotional film; it certainly makes you reach out for the central characters – to warn them, to protect them from this cruel world (or rather the cruel city).