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Mukti Bhawan (2016)

Mukti Bhawan Review

written by Souranath Banerjee

A movie that probes into the psychology of death, but then also, it’s so full of life!

My Ratings: 4.2/5

Nowadays most of the Hindi films released can deftly be categorised to the limit of some particular genre, and easily conjecturable to a Mukti-Bhawan-poster3certain theme or message or even the complete lack of it!

But then once in a while a few unique films emerge (fortunately) which dare to defy such generalisations, and restrict themselves from spoon-feeding the audience with ponderous morals in-between ceaseless cheesy histrionics.

Yes, Mukti Bhawan is one such film that cannot be bound into one specific keynote, it has to be experienced on the whole, much like an opera, or like life and death!

When 77-year-old retired school-teacher Dayashanker Sharma (Lalit Behl) senses his life’s extremity (the hint being a curious recurring dream), it becomes obligatory for his son Rajiv (Adil Hussain) to comply (though grudgingly) with his old man’s somewhat odd request – an immediate visit to the holy city of Varanasi.

Varanasi, the essential and well utilised backdrop of the film, ordained by the sacred Ganges the ancient Indian city that Mukti-Bhawan-poster4epitomises spiritualism and divinity. And aged Dayashanker believes that death in this holy city can be his ticket to eternal salvation – an escape from the inevitable cycle of life and death!   

And thus, to the surprise of the rest of the family that includes Daya’s daughter-in-law Lata (Geetanjali Kulkarni) and Daya’s grand-daughter Sunita (Palomi Ghosh), Daya and Rajiv, the father-son duo leaves for Varanasi. They finally check in at an aptly named hotel called Mukti Bhawan or Hotel Salvation; where numerous people from all across India come and wait for their death, a tradition to achieve Moksha!

Director Shubhashish Bhutiani, who has also written the script along with Asad Hussain, has ingeniously explored the intricacy of human emotions on the face of death in his film. The script, the situations, the Mukti-Bhawan-posterdialogues, the relations are simply subtle yet so profound!  

UNESCO jury has already awarded the XXIIIrd prix “Enrico Fulchignoni” to the young debutant director and at the Venice Film Festival, the world premier of Mukti Bhawan, the film was cherished by the audience with a stupendous standing ovation after the screening!

Then again, the film is specially blessed with actors who are of such supreme control of their skills.

 Adil Hussain, just within a decade have become one of the finest actors of our country, made his presence felt in acclaimed movies like English VinglishLife of PiParchedSunrise; but in this particular film his performance excels like never before. No wonder he won a Special Mention from the National Award Jury this year!

And of course, the veteran TV and theatre actor Lalit Behl, this being his second film (after Titli) has played his pivotal part with such immense Mukti-Bhawan-poster2commitment, so brilliantly natural and believable!

And then, renowned actress Geetanjali Kulkarni, young and effortless Palomi GhoshNavnindra Behl as the sweet and smiling widow and Anil K. Rastogi as the weird manager of the hotel – all have given their best and are very much responsible for the success of the film!

Mukti Bhawan may be a statement on life and death or it may simply be a very precise discectomy of human relations; I hope you will decide yourself once you watch it.

Mark my words, this is a Cinema that shouldn’t be missed! 

Poster courtesy: facebook.com/muktibhawan

Trapped (2017)

Trapped Review

written by Souranath Banerjee

Up above the sky so high, invisible to the world, you cry, whisper and sigh!   

My Ratings: 4.1/5

When was the last time you were in a spot where there was no food and water – like literally – ultimate survival crisis – and you have to hunt animals for food and go ‘Morarji-Desai’ for your drink?

I know what you will say – that such extreme situations are only for the celluloid; like the shipwrecked Tom Hanks in Cast Away, marooned in an island with no company other than the mute round-faced Wilson; then there was this young James Franco who accidentally put his leg in-between some boulders and sat stuck Trapped-Poster-5alone for 127 Hours. I think WALL·E also did a decent job, forlorned up in the space – but then, he didn’t get much hungry or thirsty, if you know what I mean!

Now what if someone gets ‘trapped’ in an apartment, an ordinary flat in a multystored and otherwise uninhabited building, right in the middle of the concrete urban jungle (say around Mumbai’s Prabhadevi area); cooped up for days, without food, water, phone or electricity, entirely cut off from the outer world – with a birds-eye view of the entire city but still invisible to everyone!

This is exactly what happened to Shaurya (Rajkummar Rao), when he by a twist of fate gets locked inside an apartment in a high-rise, without any hope of ever getting rescued!

Trapped-Poster-1And the most scary part in the film comes from the sensation that it can actually happen to any of us so called ‘city-people’ out here!

Salute to the writers Amit Joshi and Hardik Mehta for such a brilliant idea and script. And then what a marvellous ‘jugalbandhi’ from director Vikramaditya Motwane and performer Rajkummar Rao!

National Award winning actor Rajkummar Rao was outstanding in the film. The combination of Rao’s boy-next-door looks and his brilliant portrayal of someone desperate for survival is what makes the film so real.

And for director Mr.Motwane, with only one character to tell his story, that too pinned in one location, he still managed to successfully Trapped-Poster-3grasp the attention of the audience till the very end!

Another very interesting human psychology portrayed in the film is that, when someone is in the brink of possible extinction, it is the general human tendency to discover an unfamiliar longing for some of the most banal things in their lives.

For example in the film, Shaurya trapped for days, often hallucinating from stress and malnourishment, never desired or yearned for anything particularly unique or remarkable. Rather he wished to relive those regular day to day events; his journey to the office in those overcrowded Mumbai local trains packed with sweaty co-passengers, those crammed up buses with irritating conductors, a simple plate of pav-bhaji with a dash of butter on top – in the time of an inevitable Trapped-Poster-4catastrophe the most ordinary things from our life become so special and desirable!

Geetanjali Thapa, in the short role as the love of Shaurya’s life was commendable, though honestly I thought her character wasn’t really required in the film other than the simple incentive for Shaurya to hunt for a place.

Siddharth Diwan‘s cinematography makes the film look very real while Nitin Baid‘s editing keeps it crisp and to the point. Alokananda Dasgupta‘s music works well, very subtle and used only when required. 

I just thank God, Shaurya has musophobia (fear of rats) and not vertigo (fear of heights), or else, it would have all gone down pretty worse!

Poster courtesy: www.moviescut.com

Silence (2016)

Silence Review

written by Souranath Banerjee

A film apparently waiting to be made for the last two decades; is it really worth the wait?

My Ratings: 4/5

Finally Martin Scorsese unfolds his latest, his so called ‘passion project’, and his third religion-based movie after The Last silence-reviewTemptation of Christ in 1988 and Kundun in 1997. And it’s an absolute beauty!

I pray but I am lost. Am I just praying to silence?’

Adopted from Shûsaku Endô‘s novel by the same name, it’s a tale about two Jesuit missionaries Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver) who travel all the way to Japan to confirm the fact that one of their mentors, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) has publicly denounced God!

‘The moment you set foot in that country, you step into high danger.’

An eternal conflict about faith, religion and theology that seems to have no conclusive ending, or may be there is one?

silence-reviewThe film manifests some top notch performances specially by Andrew Garfield who is undoubtedly the most promising young actor of recent times!

Adam Driver is also superb and Liam Neeson as the wise controversial Father excels without fail. Even the Japanese cast Yôsuke KubozukaShin’ya TsukamotoTadanobu AsanoIssei Ogata and Yoshi Oida – they all have made their presence felt in the film.

Rodrigo Prieto does wonders shooting the mysterious foggy outdoors of Japan, and three times Oscar winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker creates magic with the images!

silence-poster2And composer duo Kathryn Kluge and Kim Allen Kluge truly do justice to the score of Silence.

Surprisingly non-commercial, even a bit too arty and poetic contrary to Scorsese’s usual raw, gritty and direct approach but then again it’s a 2h 41min of absolute visual brilliance.

It so much reminds you of Akira Kurosawa‘s work, not only because of Japan being the backdrop but also for the overall treatment and space used throughout the film.

‘I worry, they value these poor signs of faith more than faith itself. But how can we deny them?’

The premiere of Silence was held at the Vatican; and for me it matches up to be one of the best films directed by Scorsese till date – ‘Sometimes silence is the deadliest sound.’ 

Poster courtesy: www.impawards.com.

In Conversation with Sanjeev Gupta – director of the award winning film Q

In Conversation with Sanjeev Gupta – director of the award winning film Q

interviewed by Souranath Banerjee

Hello Sanjeev, welcome to Cinema Forensic.

Thank you!

Your debut film ‘Q’ have already taken rounds in some of the most prestigious national and international festivals, and now it’s being released on Netflix! How do you feel about it?

Ya, it feels great!

sanjeev gupta photo 1Q has been selected in many festivals around the world and the response has always been positive.

Earlier I did plan for a theatrical release for my film but while waiting for the CBFC’s response I got the opportunity to show it to Netflix. And I instantly went for it and it got selected as well. I feel so lucky that they have picked up Q. Netflix, as a platform, has a huge audience across 180 countries. That’s the best part. With a deal like this, you know your film will be internationally watched.

Congratulations on the film’s release! Now tell me something about your film Q, what is it about and how did you come up with this concept?

Q is a film about a little girl and her relations with people surrounding her, and then those who come in contact with her, and their combined destiny as the characters go through an incredible journey that comes to an unpredictable end.

Actually I keep watching many documentaries and take much interest in the news and other world affairs. So this concept of Q is Q landscape posterinspired through many such real events that I happened to notice over the time. Though not based on one particular incident, my film is a fictional version of many such realities of life.

And since it’s a very realistic story it needed a realistic treatment as well. No background music used in the film, only Foley sounds and on location recorded natural ambience sounds. I wanted to make sure the audience feel the realism and be a part of it.

That’s  brilliant! Tell me something about you, how did you get inclined in making films, when did you decide to be a filmmaker?

I grew up in Agra and was always into films but never thought it will be my profession of course (smiles).

But then I watched one particular film Shatranj Ke Khilari by none other than Satyajit Ray and it did change something in me. I started gollapudi-srinivas-national-award-2014-111looking at films in a different way! Then, after my degree in Media Studies from Pune, I came to Mumbai and tried to assist people to learn the craft of making movies. But since I had no connection in the film industry I didn’t get any exposure. I did various odd jobs and side by side went on exploring filmmaking.

Finally I wrote my own script and started to narrate it to individual producers and production houses. Then after facing numerous rejections I finally met my producer who believed in me.

And that is how my first film ‘Q’ got made (smile).

Don’t you think that with films like Q you Independent filmmakers are the reason why the indie-film scenario is improving in India?

Yes may be it does. But honestly I have a problem when some filmmakers are called independent filmmakers and some not.

IMG-20140929-WA0006Today I choose to make “Q” and tomorrow I may choose to direct a fantasy film or a VFX film, may be even supported by some production house. But ultimately it’s my films, my story and my way of telling them. I even don’t like such categories like, festival film, theatrical film or an online film – films are films, stories are stories and filmmakers are filmmakers!

All the images are exclusively provided only for the use of this article.

Lion (2016)

Lion Review

written by Souranath Banerjee

 A passionate narrative that celebrates both emotions and technology at the same time!

My Ratings: 4.1/5

80,000 children go missing in India every year never again to be reunited with their families, unfortunate indeed.

But then how many of these lost children are fortunate enough to get adopted by some kind-hearted couple from Tasmania, who are lion-poster1not only willing to give them their family name, but also enough love and affection, education and freedom to relive their own lives?

Well, Saroo a kid from rural India who loves Jalebis, happened to be one such unfortunate, yet fortunate soul!

At the age of five an unintentional train journey took him to an unknown city, alone in the streets, miserable and hungry, missing his family, and on the verge of getting exploited. But then, he survives, was sent to an orphanage and from there taken for adoption by Brierley family from Tasmania!

The first half of Saroo’s tale is dramatic enough to be made into a motion picture but the story doesn’t end there!

lion-posterAfter 25 years Saroo decides to find his roots, his village, his people, his family – he comes back to India in search of his brother and mother!

Exceptional performance by Dev Patel as Saroo, supposedly he had spent eight months preparing for his role! But more surprising was debutant Sunny Pawar‘s role, who played the part of young Saroo and stole the show!

Then of course Nicole Kidman (a great come back for her), David Wenham and Rooney Mara all made their presence felt. The Indian actors – Tannishtha ChatterjeeNawazuddin SiddiquiDeepti NavalKoushik SenAbhishek Bharate all shined in their cameos. But again the performance of Priyanka Bose as Saroo’s mother deserves a special mention, she is so natural yet subtle!

lion-poster2Brilliantly shot by Greig Fraser and edited by Alexandre de Franceschi. And also well complemented by the music of Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O’Halloran.

Since Saroo used Google Earth to try and locate his origins, Google have helped in the production of the film and gave the crew satellite imagery access and other technical support.

Director Garth Davis‘s Lion will remind you of Slumdog Millionaire but then for me it’s an entirely different treatment and story, after all it’s based on a true story!

P.S. – But why does the film named ‘Lion‘? Well, for a very good reason but you have to watch it to find it out!

Poster courtesy: www.impawards.com.

In Conversation with Sridhar Rangayan – the National Award winning director of Gulabi Aaina.

In Conversation with Sridhar Rangayan – the National Award winning director of films like Gulabi Aaina and Breaking Free!

interviewed by Souranath Banerjee

Hi Sridhar Sir, Welcome to Cinema Forensic.

Thank you so much!

You made the path-breaking cinema ‘Gulabi Aaina’ back in 2003 and sadly enough it was banned in India for all these years. Finally in 2017 it’s getting released on Netflix! Tell me all about the journey of this film!

Ya Gulabi Aaina was my first film. We made it in 2002, because there was hardly anything in terms of LGBT cinema apart from may be few films like, Riyad Wadia’s Bomgay (1996).

Back then, we pitched this concept about ‘two gay people in love’ to several channels but they kept rejecting it because of the content. For them it was not appropriate for the family audience. And so, finally we only decided to make Gulabi Aaina, it was a self-funded project.

We shot on a shoestring budget, and we got help from many friends of ours who believed in the project. Also before this, I did a lot of In Conversation with Sridhar Rangayantelevision, so I kind of had a goodwill too. But that time we did not have any aspirations like who will be the target audience or how are we going to promote this film, festivals or release or this and that. All we wanted was to make the film!

Getting somebody for the character of ‘Samir’, who plays this bisexual guy in the film, was a little difficult because no body wanted to play that role. Getting the drag queens were relatively easy because I knew them, I mean they were real life drag queens whom I asked to act in my film.

And then the Indian Censor Board said it was vulgar and offensive, but the fact is there’s absolutely nothing vulgar in Gulabi Aaina!

Actually the problem was that they were just not used to seeing men dressed like women and yet being so comfortable; not at all apologetic of who they are! The film also questions patriarchy; like in In Conversation with Sridhar Rangayangeneral it is the men who prey upon women but here the drag queens are preying upon a man who is reduced to a mere sexual object. I guess that really made them uncomfortable.

So we applied for the censor certificate three times before finally giving up (laughs).

So what was your next step, what did you do?

How long can you stay with one film, you need to move on. So we moved on to make my our next film Yours Emotionally!, which was actually sexual in content; Gulabi Aaina was a saintly film compared to this one (laughs).

Yours Emotionally! is actually about lust and how it develops into love, you know. And also the film questions ‘what is identity in India?’ All these identity boxes – gay, bisexual, transgender – they all come from the west. Earlier people just lived their lives here without being categorised and identified by such terms.

Anyways, so this film, we didn’t even submit to the censor board (laughs). It got screened outside India and distributed in the DVD market – that was a very big thing for us!

Though I have tried a lot of different genres in television, i mean In Conversation with Sridhar Rangayanthrillers, comedies, hetero-normative stories and all. But then I felt that making LGBT films – it’s a niche that I want to occupy, and it gives me the most satisfaction. It didn’t give me money though (laughs).

But ya, coming back to Gulabi Aaina, it even went on to become a part of a university’s curriculum on ‘gender and studies’. And now it got released on Netflix! Great!

That’s really great! Tell me something about your latest documentary “Breaking Free” which recently won a National Award for editing, right? How did it all begun?

Yes!

The thing is that my earlier two films Gulabi Aaina and Yours Emotionally! were both self funded films but then how long can you fund your own films? It doesn’t work that way. It is very challenging in India to make LGBT-themed films. So my third film 68 Pages got the funding from the Humsafar Trust and Solaris Pictures. We had a In Conversation with Sridhar Rangayangreat cast Mouli Ganguly, Jayati Bhatia and Joy Sengupta. But we didn’t manage to get a release because it dealt with HIV/AIDS.

And then I had a long gap from 2008 to 2014. I did not feel like making a movie at all.

At that point to time I started documenting LGBT events and lives, doing documentaries, as they are comparatively far cheaper than doing narrative films. And being a gay man myself, I had easy access to our community and of course, everyone felt that these stories are needed to be told. So from 2008 onwards I started documenting the community like interviewing them, talking to them. I had 300 tapes of my recordings that said different stories of people!

All that first led me to do Purple Skies, a Public Service Broadcasting Trust funded project which told all kinds of powerful stories from our community, some angry stories talking about violence and injustice, while other stories were happy and romantic. The film went on to several festivals and was shown on Doordarshan too!

Then at the same time Supreme Court said that the Delhi High court verdict on Section 377 is not valid, and it was a very difficult time for our community. Being an activist for the last twenty years, I personally felt that with one stroke all our hard work has been demolished and it was back to being ‘you are illegal’. The documentary Breaking Free talks about the effects of Section 377 on the community. It traces right from the first case till the latest and shows how the law had been misused. How many LGBT persons are being blackmailed, how the police are twisting the law in order to abuse and harass the innocent people.

But like all my films, Breaking Free also has happy stories of young people coming out, being romantic and everything. Being part of the In Conversation with Sridhar Rangayancommunity, it is an insider saying the story, and the film was also a great personal journey for me. It got premiered in 2015 at the KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival and went on to screen at several international film festivals. It was a great surprise and joy when it got selected for in the Indian Panorama section! And then it went on to win the National Award for Best Editing, which was like a crowning glory!

It was an honor to receive the National Award in Delhi; my family had come there when I received it from the President, it was a moment of my life!

While Breaking Free has won accolades and acclaim, not a penny has come through the film till date, but we need to see about its release and distribution as well.

A great honour indeed, congratulations to you Sir!

Thank you so much!

And finally when did you decide that you wanted to be a filmmaker? Were you interested in cinema from your childhood?

Well, I used to watch a lot of movies in my childhood. Though I am from South India, my mom and I used to watch Hindi films.

In 1980’s, we had only two options in India, either you become a doctor or an engineer. So after getting done with my engineering, I In Conversation with Sridhar Rangayandid my Masters in Visual Communication from IIT Mumbai. From there onwards I was interested in making films.

Then I did a lot of television – Rishtey, Gubbarey, Kagaar, Krishna Arjun, Pyaar Ki Kashti Mein and all, before finally deciding to make films.

For me the whole idea of using Cinema is to pass on social messages in an entertaining format, that really is what intrigued me. Every scene that I write till now is to get an emotion or a reaction back from the audience!

Overall an interesting journey till now, I have always taken roads which I didn’t know where it will lead me to. Even when I came out as a gay man it was a complicated decision, it was in 1990 when very few people used to come out.

If ‘Gulabi Aaina’ was made now, what do you think, i mean could it get released?

Gulabi Aaina being a 40 min short film it maybe challenging; you see, very few documentaries or short films in India gets actually released in theatres. Distribution system neither supports short films nor the movies that are away from the mainstream. If Gulabi Aaina was made now and sent to the Indian Censor Board, I know it would have got an ‘A’ certificate.  But with ‘A’ certificate, you can barely get theatres for release.

So I personally think Netflix is a much better option for this film as people can watch it how and when they want to watch it.

Our latest film, Evening Shadows on which I am currently working will be a theatrical release though (smiles).

All the images are exclusively provided only for the use of this article. 

Maroon (2016)

Maroon review

written by Souranath Banerjee

A disturbingly beautiful psychological thriller!

My Ratings: 3.8/5

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 Maroon-reviewreclaimed 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, Maroon is a 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 Maroon-reviewhave 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!

Fantastic work by Soumik Mukherjee as the cinematographer and superb music by Sagar Desai.

Produced by Jyotsana Nath, the film Maroon after been showcased in numerous festivals world wide, has been recently released on Netflix!

A very well-made psychological thriller that demands your attention; go watch it!

Elle (2016) – BEST OF 18TH JIO MAMI MUMBAI FILM FESTIVAL 2016!

Elle review.

written by Souranath Banerjee

If a rape victim desires to return to the act itself, then the next time, does she still remain a victim?

My Ratings: 4/5

Quality erotic thrillers are hard to find but then Basic Instinct director Paul Verhoeven often comes to our rescue.

elle-reviewHis latest French thriller Elle was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and also has already won the Golden Globe Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language and the lead Isabelle Huppert won for the Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama!  

The film starts with a disturbing rape scene that makes the audience uncomfortable enough but then the alarming normality maintained by the ‘victim’ as she continues to perform her daily routine becomes even more disturbing. Why doesn’t she complain about her violation? How can she be so inert about her abuse? Does she know the attacker or will she track him down?

Multiple relations and several interesting plot lines crisscross their paths, and one has to admire the Dutch director’s subtle use of comedy throughout the movie, but then again, the erotic undercurrent is what makes the film so special!

elle-reviewAnd of course Isabelle Huppert‘s brilliant performance!

Actually “Elle” means “She” and so the whole film is seen from the perspective of the central character Michèle and Isabelle Huppert simply owns the part. Her beautiful, sexy looks, her cold and courageous character, her raw animal desires and her level of supreme confidence – no doubt she is the spine of this film.

Though according to me the ending of the film doesn’t justify her character at all but then again a performance to cherish for sure.

Based on the novel “Oh…” by Philippe Djian, I think the best compliment for this film would be that it feels very much like a Michael Haneke film, a lighter version may be with a hint of comedy in it!

Poster courtesy: www.impawards.com.

In Conversation with Milind Dhaimade – the very talented writer/director of Tu Hai Mera Sunday

In Conversation with Milind Dhaimade – the very talented writer/director of Tu Hai Mera Sunday.

interviewed by Souranath Banerjee

Milind Dhaimade – an independent filmmaker who believes that everybody is born for some purpose in life and for him it is film making!

His film Tu Hai Mera Sunday is been considered as one of the most entertaining films at the recent Mumbai Film Festival and immensely appreciated as well.

In Conversation with Milind Dhaimade as he talks about his journey as a filmmaker!

Hi Milind, Welcome to Cinema Forensic.

Thank you so much.

Your film ‘Tu Hai Mera Sunday’ was screened in Mumbai Film Festival and got a very positive response. Feels good? 

Great actually!

I never thought of Tu Hai Mera Sunday as a festival-film at all. It’s a very ‘happy’ kind of film, if you know what I mean. It’s a Bombay-story and bits of it is from my life. So when we got selected for Film Bazar and for BFI London Film Festival, I was pretty shocked! I mean U R M SUNDAY TYPO (2)wow! looks like we have made something that also has an international appeal (smiles).

But for me the real joy is always home you know. You want to know what will people think in India, in Bombay. We did some screenings and we always got positive responses from the audience. And that’s why Mumbai Film Festival was fantastic for me, home ground – the ultimate test and it all went so well!

Superb! So tell me how did it all start, you have an advertising background right? 

Yes. See, though I come from a non-filmy background but from my childhood I was very much interested in theatre and films.

But I come from a tough family where people expect you to have real jobs. Then somebody told me about advertising where you can be creative and also have a job, like I can write and make my own stuff. And that’s how I started the journey of advertising and I enjoyed it very much; a great training process of instantly thinking on your feet, thinking of 10 different things at one time and all. But at the back of my mind this filmmaking thing was always there.

So when did you start planning to make a film? 

Actually there was no proper plan as such. It was not like ‘ok look, so after ten, twelve years I will make a film’.

While making ad films I met some very good filmmakers and had a great time working with them. Soon we (me and my wife) were way up in the corporate ladder, we could go higher as well but at some In Conversation with Milind Dhaimadepoint you realise that the higher you go the lesser is the creativity part you know. It’s more of people management and salaries and stuff like that. Then we realised that we are getting away from the things we liked to do, it’s all about sustaining in the corporate goals and all.

At that time in 2005, me and my wife had a chat and decided we should do what we always wanted to do. So we quit our jobs and started planning to make a film. For me it’s like from a very early age you know that you are born for a purpose and you kind of know that you are gonna do it somewhere down the line no matter when. So I was pretty sure about this. The only thing I didn’t know was how?

So by this time you have decided on a particular story?

I started developing a few stories, and then what happened, I had a friend in advertising, Vinay Kanchan and they have a group called Juhu Beach United. So these bunch of guys play at Juhu Beach every Sunday. They come from mixed background and they just love playing football. So it just struck me that what would happen if these In Conversation with Milind Dhaimadeguys couldn’t get a place to play on a Sunday – what would they do? That’s how the story started developing.

Finally in 2008 I started writing this, and I took my time. As I said there was no plan or deadline as such. So for one and half years down the line we kind of had the final version. And also over the years I have picked my team, it took time but it’s very important that you choose the right people with whom you want to work.

Then the other thing was shopping the script. Not that we went to too many studios but you also realise that there is a certain film culture here which is little weird, basically it’s not based on scripts but it’s based on casting and actors. But this film is about everyday guys – if you put some high profile stars in it – it simply won’t work. And we were very sure whom we wanted to cast and the casting directors Anmol (Anmol Ahuja) and Abhishek (Abhishek Banerjee) did a great job. Be it Barun SobtiShahana GoswamiPallavi Batra, Avinash Tiwary, Vishal Malhotra, Masnvi Gagroo, Rasika Dugal, Suhas Ahuja, Nakul bhalla, Jay upadhyay and Shiv Subhramaniyum – it was a perfect cast.

So finally we decided to fund it ourselves, put together whatever money we had and the best part is my wife agreed! Surprisingly! (laughs).

In Conversation with Milind DhaimadeAnd finally in 2015 we started putting it together, by then the script was locked and the casting was done, and the funds ready. Then I spent six months with my music director Amartha Rao, doing the songs and the music. Each song is based on some idea in the film so – we wanted the songs to be really special! And ya, so by May 2016 we were on floor, shooting it.

And so for how many days did the shoot went on?

It was a 38 days schedule – mostly Bombay and a few days in Goa – a week or so. It was amazing because 38 days was 38 days. Nothing went off track and everything was fantastic! My producer Varun Shah had planned it beautifully. Normally whoever comes out of a film shoot comes out with a regret, barring whoever has invested in it but here everybody was happy, everyone enjoyed. All of my crew are actually writing to me saying ‘now make the next film’. We had a great time!

That’s so cool! So after the shoot got over did it take much time in the post? 

Yes, we took our time in post as well. It took around six months, I think by 2015 December it was done. We also had some international buyers and distributers interested in our film, so some time went in getting an international cut as well. They wanted a shorter version.

So when is ‘Tu hai mere Sunday’ going to release in the theatres?

See the good thing about this film is it’s not totally a festival film nor entirely a commercial film. It can be very well enjoyed by the In Conversation with Milind Dhaimadeaudience, intelligent audience. So currently talking to people about the whole distribution and marketing plans – and I am realising a lot of stuff about ‘making-a-film’ Vs ‘selling-a-film’. And that making is actually very easy – like 25% of the whole process. The harder part is of course selling it. But then we have lot of positive responses, but we just have to choose the right kind of partnership. So, it will be releasing soon.

All the best for the release of your film Milind and now tell me something about you, like when did your get interested in filmmaking?

Thank you.

Well, as a kid, when I think back now – I always loved movies. I had a ritual of watching one film a week without my father knowing about it. I would flick money from his wallet and I would go alone and watch films (laughs). Yes, all my childhood I have seen movies alone!

But that time of course I wasn’t thinking of movies as a career or so, it was just my passion. And my favourite thing was to watch these In Conversation with Milind Dhaimademovies and then narrate them to my friends and that too I would put my own masala in those stories while narrating them. I think I loved entertaining people and also the attention!

With my friends I used to do plays in my locality when we were just six, seven years old. During the summer time we didn’t have much to do, so we would write our own crap and perform. Once I remember we saw The 36th Chamber of Shaolin and we made our own play based on that. It was rubbish but that’s how it all started (laughs).

I was supposed to study science and get a decent job, the typical middle-class Maharashtrian path all chalked out for me. But in college I soon realised I was not cut out for science and ended up joining commerce. My dad freaked out and finally decided I should go for CA. I also promised I would study hard. But then I got introduced to theatre and that changed my life.

There was this intercollegiate competition where me along with my friend put up a play and it won all the awards! And after that there was no looking back for me. We started writing, acting and directing our own plays and I thoroughly enjoyed this process. I liked directing more than acting and so I slowly shifted on this side of the camera.

So in college we were obsessed with theatre and films, and now when I look back it’s great, I realise this is what I always wanted to do – making films!

In Conversation with Alankrita Shrivastava – the very talented writer/director of Lipstick Under My Burkha!

In Conversation with Alankrita Shrivastava – the very talented writer/director of Lipstick Under My Burkha!

Interviewed by Souranath Banerjee

Alankrita Shrivastava – a filmmaker drawn to telling women’s stories, inspired by different forms of art, who sometimes uses books and paintings to prepare actors!

alankrita-20Her second film, Lipstick Under My Burkha was selected and well appreciated at this year’s Mumbai Film Festival.

In Conversation with Alankrita Shrivastava as she talks about her journey as a filmmaker!

Hello Alankrita, welcome to Cinema Forensic! Lipstick Under My Burkha got such a positive response at MAMI this year – how do you feel about it?

Thank you. Yes, it is very exciting, very heartening to know that it’s been so well received.

It is a very gratifying feeling for a film maker when people are watching and enjoying their film; also it is very interesting to see the reaction of people, even from other cultures. My film is rooted in a specific Indian cultural context. So it’s exciting for me to see the universality of emotions and characters cutting across cultural barriers!

Yes indeed. Lipstick Under My Burkha – such a unique name and also a very different storyline, so how did you come up with this idea?

I don’t know, I didn’t think about it consciously. There was this thought that just emerged in my head – that I wanted to tell the story of four women who are kind of cloistered, want to do more lipstick - plabita - press release 3with their lives and how they go about doing it.

Even though I am brought up in a very liberal and educated background, I still don’t feel fully free and so wanted to explore that feeling. Sometimes I feel like something is holding me back. I thought that it would be interesting for me to explore that in a way where there are also external things holding you back, not just internal things. The whole idea was that how one can sort of break free even while being cloistered.

That’s very interesting, and when you wrote the script of the film how did you start with it – like you have written the script in one go or like …

No, this script is a very long story in itself, because I thought of the title and the essential concept more or less at one go. I wrote it in 2012 and took it the NFDC Screen Writer’s Lab. That was a very helpful experience. But that time I was also trying to write another film which finally didn’t happen.

So, then at the end of 2013 I decided to work on the script again.

And then I got my friend Suhani Kanwar,  to  help me with additional screenplay, and Gazal Dhaliwal to work on the dialogue. So the script developed over time.

Most good scripts come out like that only huh?

Ya? (smiles). I don’t think any writer intends to be like that but then sometimes it takes long. But I agree because I feel if you let a thought stay for a longer time it just matures in a way, it deepens.

So, after the script is final, then how do you plan the production, like how did you get in touch with the producers, and what about the casting process?

Casting Koko (Konkona Sen Sharma) and Ratna (Ratna Pathak) was relatively easy – I sent the script to them and they liked it.

Mr Jha had come on board as the producer earlier, since I had been working with Prakash Jha Productions for many years. They Lipstick - ratna - press release -2produced my first film as well.

But for the other two girls and for selecting the rest of the cast I will give full credit to my casting directors Shruti Mahajan and Parag Mehta. They worked really hard.  We tested a lot of people and then finalised Plabita (Plabita Borthakur) and Ahana (Aahana Kumra). So I honestly give credit to the casting directors and my assistants for digging out the many gems in my film. They did a fantastic job!

And so after the cast being decided, did the production start write away?

It took a while. We finished shooting in the first half of 2015. I was editing for a while. Then I took the cut to the Work-in-progress Lab at Film Bazar. The lab was very helpful, because we had editors from other parts of the world, and programmers and producers who were part of this panel. They watched the film a few times and gave us feedback and then an editor actually worked with us. My editor Lipstick - aahana - press release 4Charu Shree (Charu Shree Roy)  and I both gained a lot through that process and made some dramatic decisions about the overall edit of the film.

For me what is nice is that I have really grown with the project because it has almost been like film-school like thing. The screen writer’s lab, the edit lab… And even the actor workshops with Atul (Atul Mongia). He is just fantastic. I learned so much as a director working with Atul, about how to work with actors.

It’s really been a process you know and it’s still going on (laughs) – currently we are finalising the distribution deal for the film’s release and again that’s a challenge.

Wish you all the best Alankrita. Now tell me something about yourself – how did you become interested in films, like from the childhood – your journey as a film maker?

No, actually I went to this all-girls boarding school in Deharadun called Welham Girl’s School and there we had this activity class – where the senior girls would make audio-visual films which were alankrita-2screened at the annual day. It was like huge screen and thousands of people watching. I saw that when I was in a junior class and I just wanted to be one of the girls in that AV team. So I joined the Audio Visual class.  I guess that was the beginning for me. I felt the power of telling the story through this medium. Also I always used to read books since I was very young, then my father always told me stories – so this storytelling process was always in my mind. (smiles).

I did my BA honors in journalism from Lady Shriram College and did lots of media internships during that time.

And then I did my masters in Mass Communications from Jamia Milia Islamia. After that I was very clear that I wanted to do films. I started working with Mr.Prakash Jha as a trainee assistant, then one thing led to another. I assisted on Gangaajal and then I was chief assistant on Apaharan, I was associate director on Rajneeti and in between I was executive producer on Sudhir’s film Khoya Khoya Chand and also another film called Dil Dosti Etc. In-between I made my short film (Open Doors with Tisca Chopra), and after Raajneeti I directed my first feature Turning 30!!!

And finally some films that influenced you, made an impact on you as a filmmaker?

I’m not that influence by films in terms of my thought process but I Lipstick - konkona- press release 1am much more influenced by books, especially female feminist writers like Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, Toni Morrison and most recently by Elena Ferrante.

I am not sure I love watching films as much as I love reading books. I love making films though!

Thats really interesting because most of the filmmakers say that films have been their major inspiration but for you it has been books!

Because you know, what I feel is that, honestly if you are expressing yourself in a certain medium, that doesn’t mean that all your influences have to come from that same medium. I think film is after all a coming together of different art forms!

So while directing Turning 30!!! the references I gave to my actors were paintings, and excerpts from novels which I felt represented their characters in the film!