Thursday, June 23, 2016

'Haal e Kangaal' on

Finally, Haal e Kangaal (The Bankrupts) is seeing a VOD (Video on Demand) release

Please do click on the snap below, go to the site, log in, watch the movie and tell us about it.

'Haal e Kangaal' being watched on demand

If you want to screen 'Haal e Kangaal' (The Bankrupts) or any of my other film in your schools, colleges , film clubs and offices, please contact us 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Peda from Dharwad

There is something about Dharwad that makes me go back to it every now and then.

Dharwad Pedas
Although this is where I had shot my second feature film ‘Putaani Party’  in 2008, my first memories of this place dates back to my childhood. We were transferred there. I was in my high school, then. 

It was here that I had started learning cycling. It was here that I was waiting by the highway, in excitement for three hours on an empty stomach, to watch the London-Sydney care race, getting thrilled by the swanky cars zip by.  The route touched the town of Dharwad and our school had declared half a day of holiday, so that we kids see this race. 

It was here when we friends giggled away to glory when we watched a naked monk who was on a religious padayatra (a tour by walk). Poor man, he was oblivious to our intent. It was here that I saw my first film shooting - that of Shankar Nag's 'Minchina Oota'. We had taken his autograph, then. It was here that I first saw Girish Karnad – the image of him riding a Bajaj scooter, I think, is still etched in my memory.  

It was also here that I got introduced to the films of Amithab Bachhan – Amar Akbar Antony, Parvarish, Don, Trishul etc.  And it was here that I had my first brush with a film society when I watched  ‘Sagina Mahato’, a Dilip Kumar film on a working class society at the Chitra Film Society –  founded by Girish Karnad himself.

Abdul Khan
I was thrilled go back there a few weeks ago to screen my latest film Haal-e-Kangaal (The Bankrupts) at the very same Chitra Film Society.  This was it’s 23rd screening. I have been networking and arranging small targeted screenings of this film in different places in India for the past six months or so.

Abdul Khan is the person in charge of the Film Society, which is one of Karnataka's oldest. He is also it's founder member. He was a colleague of my father while we were there in Dharwad and that was the primary reason why I was allowed to see 'Sagina Mahato' then, despite me being a minor.   
St Joseph's High School 

The energetic man lives nine kilometers from Dharwad.  On the day of the screening he had woken up at five in the morning to receive me and check me into a hotel. He was there with me the whole day – discussing things about Dharwad, the Film Society movement, about globalisation, and privatisation.  He also took me to my old school and also to the quarters that we lived. 
Srujana is a well maintained multi purpose auditorium in Dharwad.  In the after noon, we checked the
Our quarter's at Toll Naka Junction
projection, the film was being played from Abdul Khan’s laptop. Later since we had some time on hand, I was taken to ‘Da Ra Bendre National Memorial Trust’, by it’s president Shyamsundar Bidarkundi. Da Ra Bendre is a towering figure in the Kannada literary scene. A visit to his house where the memorial is located, is almost a pilgrimage. 

Bidarkundi showed me an old film on Da Ra Bendre made by  Girish Karnad; he wanted to know if the bad quality of the dvd copy could be restored to it’s original form. I explained him about the digitization process and on how he should get hold of the negative of the film so that a proper restoration be possible.  He asked me about ‘Haal – e –Kangaal’. When I told him that it was about two filmmakers who narrate a film story to one another he exclaimed, ‘So, it is a narration based film!’,  I thought he was disappointed.

he screening  itself  went of well. This was the first time that I was showing this film to a group of
Projection testing
people who were not related to films in anyway – neither they were film and media professionals nor they were film students. They were doctors, lawyers, librarians, government employees, blue collared men and women etc. Though they were not Film Festival hoppers, they did have a history of film screenings and therefore film culture behind them.T

During the discussion after the screening, an old fragile doctor, who apparently sees every film the Society shows, came up to me and said,”Film is an visual art. You have based your film on dialogues. Therefore, I did not like it.’. Saying so, he walked off. Earlier I had met his equally enthusiastic and fragile wife. She had made it clear to me that she had not liked the film that the Society had showed the previous day, Anup Singh Batla’s ‘ Qissa’.

Shyamsundar Bidarkunde was also very vocal about the film, but to my surprise he had some encouraging things to say. He was thrilled when he realised that the film was about 'who we are and who we say we are' and the dialectics behind it. Are we the persons who we really say who we are? If not, who are we? 
Shyamsundar Bidarkundi
He went on and said something to this effect, 'It is not the concern of the two characters in the film to find out if the other person is saying the truth or not.  Although both know that they might be faffing, they do nothing about it except to acknowledge it by the end of the film. It was okay for them to have met, to have faffed, to have acknowledged that they have faffed and then to have left. Like in 'Waiting for Godot', they had to do so.’

“So, in that sense the 'narrative' form that you have chosen for the film – that of people saying things to each other – really works and goes well with it's theme.”

Never had anyone expressed the thematic concerns of 'Haal e Kangaal' in correlation to it’s form,  in such explicit manner.

While coming back, I had two packs of boxes in my suitcase – boxes that contained the famous ‘Thakur’ pedas, the delicacy that Dharward is famous for.

To screen 'Haal e Kangaal' or any of my other films in your schools, colleges, offices and film clubs
please contact

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Holy shit, not so soon!!!

It is almost like an odd-even scheme if you are seeing some of your work along with a group of selected and informed film buffs. Even - because you begin to see the graph of your journey and the connection between your seemingly different films. Odd - because the 'retrospective', so to say, gives you the feeling of being a 'senior citizen' and you end up saying, 'Holy shit, not so soon!!!'

Ashish Arora
Deepa Pathak
Gurpal Singh
Deepa Pathak and Ashish Aurora run a quintessential resort in the hilly Uttarakand village called Sonapani, in India. Well, it is not just a resort - they organise music festivals, food festivals and film festivals for select groups here. Gurpal Singh helps them curate some of these festivals.

Raam Reddy, Niharika Popli, Ramchandra PN
The film festival from 4th to 6th of March, 2016 was their tenth one in five years. Each time three film makers are invited and their select films screened. This time, it was young Niharika Popli who has made a wonderful documentary on the musical legend Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan called 'Rasan Priya'; the younger Raam Reddy, whose debut film 'Thithi' is making waves the world over; apart from myself.

The festival has its own quite pace - films are interspersed with music secessions, nature walks and serious and non serious reading secessions. The first day, it was Niharika's film that was shown. The second day was a bit hectic . The lineup included Raam Reddy's film, my documentary 'Miyar House' and my debut feature film 'Suddha' (The Cleansing Rites). 
Haal e Kangaal

'Haal-e-Kangaal' (The Bankrupts) was on the third day. So, was my documentary on the theater legend, BV Karanth. Judging by the responses that I got for 'Haal-e-Kangaal', it was by far the most satisfactory screenings of the film. I have had about twenty odd screenings of this film at seven to eight cities and towns. It is only in Kolkata and Manipal that I got such instant receptivity. 

Way back during the 1984-85, when I was still in college, I had asked my father if I could apply for the Film and TV Institute of India. I wanted to do the direction course. He was shocked, but he calmly asked me to complete my degree course first. 'Let us see, then.', he had said. 
BV Karanh: Baba

I was disappointed. I remember declaring to my classmate and neighbor Anil Nayak that I will at least complete one fiction feature film before I turn fifty years old - even if I am not allow to join the film school. It turns out that I got into the film school, I have made three fiction feature films, a host of documentaries and I have now just crossed fifty.

It is always useful to pause and look back on what you have been through - the good, the bad, the ugly, the dirty, the stupid and the indifferent. The Sonapani film festival has just been that for me. The magic of the 'Hills' is that it sometimes puts you in a reflective mode.

And I refuse to accept that I am inching towards becoming a senior citizen; not as of yet.

To screen any of my films in your schools, colleges, film clubs or even offices 
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The first four photos are by Kanishka Prasad. 

Monday, February 29, 2016

The dissent travelogue…

The last time I met Dr Verghese Pulickal, it was around four years back when I had gone to conduct a workshop at the Kuvempu University in Karnataka. This year too Dr Poornananda DS from the Mass Communication department invited me to hold a similar workshop; and of course he wanted to screen ‘Haal-e-Kangaal’ (The Bankrupts) to his students.

I reached Shimogga at about five in the morning; Dr Verghese received me and took him to his house. A couple of hours later we were driving down to Shankarghatta, where the University exists. There is now a brand new four lane road built enroute. This is laid specially for the airport that is being planned in Shimogga. I was told that the planning itself is in the initial stage, but the approach roads are ready.

At one point somewhere down the line, the road narrows down. Members of three houses here have refused to vacate; they have moved to the courts. Dissent…

Dr Poornananda DS
The workshops are always educative for me. You think you are teaching, but actually you are learning. I touched upon the fact that a film should be seen, experienced and analyzed based on its physicality of the choices that are made by the director. To experience what the film is saying it is essential to understand the manner in which it is said; ie… how the visuals and the sounds are put together.

The more we went towards the form, the more went off to a tangent. We talked about issues that besieged the students – things like the need for smart cities, corporatization of our natural resources and of course a bit about Rohit Vemula too – the Dalit scholar who had recently committed suicide at the University of Hyderabad alleging discrimination.  Dissent…

The workshop was the culmination of a five day film festival of feature films across the world that deals with the subject of environmental issues around the rehabilitation of people displaced by large projects. I managed to see the last two films of the festival – Girish Kasaravalli’s ‘Dweepa’ and Jahnu Barua’s ‘Banani’.
Jahnu Barua

The former deals with a family who refuses to vacate the land that is going to submerge due to the construction of a dam and the later has an upright forest officer who is hounded by the corrupt system when he tries to strictly deal with deforestation. Dissent…

On the last day of the workshop Dr Poornananda made an announcement to the students that one of the professors Mr. Padmanabha NK would be leaving the University and that would be his last day. Judging by the way everyone in the room emoted it seemed that the students loved Padmanabha and were shocked that he was leaving.

Dr Padmanabha NK
Padmanabha is from Raichur. He studied Mass Communication from this very University. He has been teaching ‘Media management’ in his Alma Mater for the past nine years, the caveat is, as a guest lecturer. According to the students, he is an inspirational teacher – in his classes they have got insights into not only the media, but to life itself. Dr Poornanada too, is not nine years old at the department.

Despite Dr Poornanada’s recommendations, for all these years the University was reluctant to give permanence to Padmanabha. Guest lecturers are not eligible to promotions. Once he was made to sit along with his own students to be interviewed for the post of an Assistant Professor. Later, the creation of such a post itself was pushed further, as it was not considered necessary.

The higher ups in the administration allegedly supported the words of the administrative staff to facilitate the scuttling of the creation of this new academic post. With great angst, Dr Poornanada rues that in many Universities abroad the academic staff would have the freedom and power to take in such guest lecturers, after a due process. In the farewell meeting he urged the students to be happy that Padmanabha is leaving for a better post. Dissent…

And then there was the Rohit Vemula factor. A couple of days back the students had held a protest meet at the campus, favoring Rohit Vemula. Some Professors too spoke on the dais. The next day the ABVP, the student wing of the Right wing BJP political party, protested on the streets of Shimogga and gave a memorandum to the District Collector saying that the Professors be removed for anti-national activities. The concerned Professors were seen gathering support for a signature campaign against this protest. Dissent…

On the protest meet, Dr Varghese too was called to the dais to give a speech. He refused to go – for he feared that if he spoke at all, he would go all out, holding no bars and be unstoppable in his criticism on how the whole issue was handled. Dr Varghese doubles up as a chair to the department, alternating with Dr Poornanada.

On the way back to Shimogga, I gathered interesting information about him. He is the seventh child in his family. He lost his mother when he was just two years old. He was a student activist during his college days. He participated in street plays in state wide drug awareness and polio campaigns in Kerala.

He was once escorting some Germans on a South Indian tour, as a guide and helping them with translations. They were so impressed with his enterprising nature that they agreed to support him in getting a scholarship from the German Government so that he studies Mass Communication in Indonesia. He stills goes to Indonesia for deliver an occasional lecture.  
Dr Varghese Pulickal

A self made man, he has studied the Vedas. It amazes him to an embarrassing level that many thousands of years ago somebody could have even thought about and have written about concepts like airplanes and transplantations. Whether such things did exists or not, he says, is the subject of further research. ‘How could someone even think of it, conceptually?’, he exclaims.

His wife is a homoeopathic doctor. His children learn Barathanatyam, Carnatic classical music as well as attend classes that teach The Bible, in the local church. Dr Varghese has also put together a motley group of Keralites residing in Shimogga with whom he stages Malayalam plays that are written by him. He has learnt puppetry, edits travel and music videos and teaches ‘radio Communication’ in the University.

At night, he showed me every nook and corner of his house – designed by himself. There is a grill that he has designed himself. It has a lotus flower in it. Embarrassingly he says, ‘In these days this has political connotations, as the lotus is the symbol of the right wing political party BJP. But when I designed it there were no such rightist thoughts in my mind’.

“I was a rebel and a dissenter. But I have mellowed down now”, he explains.

In a world of binaries, Dr Varghese is an exception, and not a rule. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

An Actuality Trip...

A sunrise at Telangana.
It is only in Hyderabad that someone like Parushuram Singh can sponsor a Biriyani and listen to the Telangana VS Seemaadra argument initiated by someone like Upender Apparasu. If Parushuram had anything remotely to do with any Government in India, in present times he could have initiated a case of sedition against Upender. Elavarty Satya Prakash and I, who had wry smiles on our faces during this discussion, would also be liable, then.

Fortunately, Praushuram and Upender are just two old colleagues from the film world - local Hydrabadies. We were sitting in a cozy roof top hotel at Hyderabad when we were having this discussion and after attending a screening at Lamakaan of my recent film ‘Haale-Kangaal’ (The Bankrupts).

Lamakaan is a cultural hub in Hyderabad. Recently, there were murmurs that it would be asked to shut down, allegedly due to parking issues that were created when culture shows happened here. But a swift signature campaign ensured that it stays, doing what it does the best – providing a space for cultural expression which otherwise would not have been heard.

It was originally built as a house. But the owner does not stay there anymore. Exhibitions, stage shows, musical performances, film shows, poetry recitations etc... are held instead. The venue is offered free for anyone who does not charge the viewers. 

There are four curators who manage the show – for four broad disciplines. I was dealing with Sumanaspati Reddy, an employee of All India Radio. Among other things, Sumanaspati curates film sections. He was introduced to me by Elavarty Satya Prakash.

Satya Prakash's book on Cinema 
Satya Prakash is an Assistant Professor at the Sarojini Naidu School of Communication dealing with the Documentary Course at the University of Hyderabad. I was asked to conduct a small workshop for the documentary course students.

Yes, when I went there, the students had just ended a boycott of classes on the Rohit Vemula issue. Rohit had ended his life in a most tragic way. The question of his Dalit identity was mentioned in his suicide note. The students have alleged discrimination.

Shop Com at UOH
Though the strike had ended, the protest was still on - so was a whiff of counter protest. There was anger, sadness, anguish, confusion and fear lurking around in the campus. A professor told me that there is no chance to know who is a student, who is not; who is an informer and who is not.

In the evenings, after four, students gather around in the shopping area, what is called the Shop Com. It is also the main area of the Rohit Vemula protest. Apart from students, possible plainclothes policemen, watchmen, stray animals, coffee cups and Karachi Biscuits, I also bumped into the likes of Sheetal Sathe, Anand Patwardhan, Deepa Dhanraj and Navroze Contractor – people of my ilk.

Rohit's selfie
Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student union president Kannaiyya had just been arrested and there was considerable buzz around it. Was the sedition charges applied on him really needed? Did he really shout those anti-national slogans that the police and the press said he did? Was sedition law, first used by the British to curb the freedom fighters, itself redundant in present times?

There were fifteen Mass Communication students in the Documentary Course. I led them to an actuality field trip to the Shop Com area as a part of the workshop. Actuality field trips result in observations and structured audio-visual scripts. The students were then sent with cameras to the same area, so that they film and edit what they observe. It was stimulating; I did the exercise myself. It was impossible to keep Rohit Vemula out of Shop Com – for me as well as for the students.

Post 'BV Karanth: Baba' screening at UOH
Satya Prakash and his Communication school also hosted the screening of ‘Haal-E-Kangaal’ (The Bankrupts) at Lamakaan on the 14th of February, 2016; along with another documentary of mine, ‘Lohit Diary’. The previous day, on the 13th, I had a University level screening of ‘BV Karanth: Baba’. My day was made when Satyabrata Rout, a long time student of BV Karanth and presently a faculty at the Drama School at University of Hyderabad, agreed with me that the film on Karanth was a portrayal of the man himself seen as a metaphor and a myth.

Raj Kumar Roy was out student union leader at FTII when we had gone on a strike against the rustication of a few students way back in 1987. We had to leave for Mumbai and then head to Delhi – the very second day of my joining of the course. We, the entire student body, stayed in Delhi for almost a month. Roy was there till the end; he was someone we looked upon for leadership.

Roy now teaches the Art of Films at Rama Naidu Film School in Hyderabad. He was very keen to watch ‘Haal-e-Kangaal’. He is also a keen student of Film History and therefore he also wanted his students to see ‘BV Karanth:Baba’.  On the 10th, I had two back to back screenings of these films at the film school at Jubilee Hills.
Raj Kumar Roy

I was meeting Roy after twenty five years. Roy was born in Benaras, he studied in Mumbai, Kolkatta and Pune. He has worked in Delhi and Chennai. He was on the beaches of Tamil Nadu when the Tsunami hit the state. After going through a series of health issues and a near death experience, Roy is now heading the Direction Department at his film School. In his resilience, he still inspires.

Roy, Rohit, Shop Com and Lamakaan – for me, this was what the Actuality Trip to Hyderabad was all about.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Taranjit Kaur on 'BV Karanth:Baba'

The rest is personal...

Sumit Ghosh

Sumit Ghosh is an affable character.  Although he joined the Film & TV Institute of India a year after I did, we graduated together, as he was in the editing course, which was then just two years. For a year or so, he was even my neighbor at the institute hostel. 

I had requested him to support me in arranging a few screenings of ‘Haal-e-Kangaal’ in Kolkata. Referring to the dates that I had chalked out he had mailed me, ‘Oh, why did you plan during those days?’ He was worried that we could not meet, as he was to go to the North-East for a workshop. But before going he had put me on to filmmaker Pradipta Bhattacharyya.

Pradipta Bhattacharyya
Pradipta Bhattacharyya had made “Bakita Byaktigato’ (The Rest is Personal), a film in Bengali language that is not only refreshing in it’s form and content but it had also broken away from the conventions of the ‘realism’ debate that Indian cinema has gloriously clung on to, over the years, ever since Satyajit Ray. It also reminded me of New Theater’s ‘Vidyapathi’ and I thought it belonged to that line of Indian film tradition.

Pradipta and his friends run an organization called ‘Kolkata Shorts’ where they have shown films in the remote areas of Kolkata. Bakita Byaktigato had found an audience like this. On the 14th of December 2015, a screening of ‘Haal-e-Kangaal (The Bankrupts) was held in Kolkata under the aegis of ‘Kolkata Shorts’. The kind of excitement the screening generated was one of its kind and is the best I have had till date.
Discussion at 'Kolkata Shorts'
The post screening discussion that we had, dealt with a lot of issues – about the kind of choices that was made in the making of the film, to the kind of audiences that it could be shown to. We also had an animated argument about the nature of Post Modernism, which one member of the audience, to my amusement, was convinced that the film made a case for.

Most of the audiences either were film buffs and short film makers. I did mention my ‘man ki baat’ to this audience that I would want the film to be shown to an audience who are not necessarily from a film background. After the film an excited Pradipta asked me if he can screen the film in his village – the audience of which would be the general public. I readily agreed.

The next day, there was a screening at The Satyajit Ray Film & TV Institute of India (SRFTII); I have to thank my good friends Prasanjit Ghosh and Santhi Ranjan Mujumdar for that – both of whom are teaching there. Most of the teaching staff at SRFTII are from the FTII, so a film on film school graduates was easily related to, especially by some of the staff, all contemporaries from my film school days.

The screening at SRFTII
Non mainstream film screenings would mean that there is no uniform quality in those projections; for the projectors may differ from screening to screening. In many cases, the screening spaces might not even be entirely dark. One is mentally prepared for such things. But the projection at SRFTII was by far one of the best projections of the film Haal-e-Kangaal. The other one was at the Manipal School of Communication.

I should say that the attendance count was below what I had expected at SRFTII; maybe the ongoing ‘Sexual Harassment’ case and the palpable tensions that it generated albeit simmering underneath the calm exterior, had played a part in it. Or maybe, in an age where World Cinema is easily accessible and available on a lap top or on a mobile phone, the collective viewing of an Indian no budget independent film is not that good a proposition.

I did miss out of a couple of screenings like the one at the Roopkala Academy; they had their student exercises during my visit. But a few of Roopkala students had come to the screening arranged by Pradipta. Pradipta himself is an alumnus of Roopkala Academy. Jhadavpur University is another possible screening venue.

It was good to have made new friends in Kolkata and to have caught up with old ones like Shyamol Karmakar, Abdul Razzak, Debashish Ghoshal, Pankaj Seal, Pradip Sarkar and Monish Das. I was especially pleased to have met Prasanjit Ghosh, who teaches production at SRFTII. He had discovered the value of wearing a suit when I was there and he was looking like Sharmaji, our Production teacher at FTII.

If I plan another screening schedule in Kolkata one of the ulterior motives would also be to catch up with Sumit Ghosh. It has been ages since we sat together for a chat.

If you want to screen this film in your colleges, film clubs or even offices 
please contact HERE

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Conversations with another ciniphile.

Niraj Sah and Hemant Mahaur in 'Haal e Kangaal' (The Bankrupts)
It was started off when friend Shrikant Prabhu goaded me to send a dvd copy of the film to Vidyarthi Chatterjee, a no-nonsense film critic from Kolkata. When I sent it to him, it was Durga pooja time. 

After a couple of days when he did not receive my calls, I was worried. The meaning making machine that my mind is, thought that maybe the senior critic has not liked the film. 

And then the next day came the call, that lasted all of forty seven minutes. He had not heard the phone ring as the Durga Pooja celebrations around his house was at its peak. After cursing the noise levels, he spoke about my film, Haal e Kangaal (The Bankrupts), the one that I had sent it to him. 

During the course of the conversation he said among other things, "The film is unusual, perky, interesting, experimental and smartly made in a positive sense. There are a few films like this, and you should continue to thread this path, having a district style and language for yourself.

'The visual language is sophisticated having its own aesthetics. The cinematographic design is abstract, serious things are treated in an absurd way. It goes beyond the visual that it is showing to create another visual in the mind of its audience. It is very ambitious. 

'The character Trips cons out a web of stories, it is a web around the viewers. His character is somewhat like the character played by Utpal Dutt in Aguntuk, but denser in nature. The film is about sex, lies and invisible video tapes and is straight from the heart.

"It is sociologically and politically relevant in its own way, making fun of the so called intellectuals; it is a critique of the film school culture and practices, of the lingo and jargon that are being used. It is also a celebration of the film school ethos. The fact that the film is made by a film school graduate is itself a  tribute to the very film school that allows such a film to be nurtured. 

"It is an act of faith in the medium, in one's own self and cinephiles like myself. Only a mad man can make this film ", he went on and on, in this conversation that happened a couple of months ago.

Seems like, I am still on a high!!!

If you want to screen this film in your colleges, film clubs or even offices 
please contact HERE