[G]reat filmmakers from Dadasaheb Phalke to Akira Kurosawa rest on a wall at his office in a large collage of filmmakers that he admires. Mangesh Hadawale, who started with national award-winning Tingya is now basking in the response his second feature Dekh Indian Circus received at Busan International Film Festival. A story of motherly love and sacrifice that portrays a rural family’s struggle to take the children to a circus in town won the Audience Choice award at the festival. Hadawale talks about his film here:
The story came to me long back when I saw two kids with a woman standing in queue for museum tickets in Pune. I started sketching characters in my head and though I couldn’t follow their conversation, I had imagined a story about them.
The other thing that prompted the story of this film is that for fifteen days in a month, I live the life of a farmer in my village. When I am in Mumbai, I live in India and when I am in my village, I see the Bharat. Though my village still lacks in basic amenities, MNCs have surprisingly made their way into the village. There are 4-5 mobile handsets in every household. Every brand is thinking about capturing those rural markets without giving a damn if people even have access to clean drinking water.
There is a scene in Dekh Indian Circus where there are about a hundred women who have gathered at the well to draw water, and beside them children are scouting for cold drink bottle-caps as a pastime.
My micro-observations of day-to-day village life combined with the story that occurred to me at the museum formed the premise for Dekh Indian Circus. I thought of using circus as a metaphor for what’s going on in our country.
Why did you set the film in Rajasthan, a setting you weren’t familiar with?
I wanted to set the film in either Kerala or Rajasthan. These are huge attractions for international tourists. I wanted to package rural beauty and sell it to a global audience, just the way MNCs are targeting their products at rural India. Rajasthan with its vibrancy and colours has a global appeal. Even in Busan after watching the film people were curious to know which part of India it was.
As far as familiarity is concerned, it would have been an easy way out had I shot the film in a Maharashtrian village just because I am familiar with the place and its culture. I believe that time, space and language should never be a barrier for cinema. It is the story that should decide the treatment, more than anything else.
So, how was the experience at Busan?
The most impressive thing about Busan International Film Festival was that they had a young and intelligent film audience. They asked me if reference to America, like a boy wearing T-shirts with Obama’s face printed on it or the American flag on his hat were deliberate. I signed about 350 autographs there.
What was the idea behind having actors like Tannishtha Chaterjee in the film who are well known in the festival circuit?
There is a thought and a philosophy behind every character in the film. The character of the children’s mother that Tannishtha plays resembles my own mother. I had approached Rani Mukerji, Vidya Balan and Chitrangada Singh for this role but it didn’t work out with them for some reason or the other. Then I went for Tannishtha because of her earthy looks. Except her and Nawaazuddin, all other characters in the film are played by non-actors.
How did Vivek Oberoi come on board as a producer? Also tell us about Sundial Pictures that produced your film.
After Tingya, I had got about 20-25 offers to direct films for several production houses. But only two of them were in Marathi, and rest of them were in Hindi. I met the people at Sundial Pictures through a common friend. They liked the concept of Dekh Indian Circus and wanted to produce it. I was little skeptical in the beginning as it was going to be their debut production. But then I thought of the 41 producers who had refused Tingya because it was my debut directorial venture. I didn’t want to be like them. And I am happy I made this choice. My producers strongly believe in the film that I have made.
Vivek Oberoi was friends with my producers at Sundial Pictures. He came on board after he liked the script and stood by us at every stage of the film.
How did you manage to rope in big names in the industry like Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Prasoon Joshi?
Shanker-Ehsaan-Loy liked the script so much that they readily agreed to do the music for my film. Prasoon Joshi said that he would pen the lyrics for Dekh Indian Circus if he found the script to be as honest as Tingya. He liked it and did the lyrics for the film.
Describe the journey of making Dekh Indian Circus.
We shot the film over 57 days. We hired a circus in Nalasopara for the scenes of the circus.
We auditioned about 11800 kids in every small town and village of Rajasthan to find the kids who play central roles in the film. After we zeroed in on Virendrapratap Rathore and Suhani Oza, they went through a workshop for 4 months.
We also wanted to experiment with the background score and not use the kind of music that is typical to Rajasthan. I wanted it to be contemporary and Wayne Sharpe helped us with that.
For the look and feel of the film, my cinematographer, production designer and I decided upon a color palette consisting of three colors. These three colors have been used in the film primarily instead of portraying a typically colorful Rajasthan.
How much did the budget of the film come up to?
Any success with the distribution of Dekh Indian Circus?
My producers are in talks with several distributors who have showed interest in the project.
What kind of films would you like to make in future?
For me a film shouldn’t speak much, it should be felt. It should create moments to experience. I make films keeping my mother in mind. She is my audience. If she can understand my film, everyone can. It is important for the film to be entertaining.
What are you working on next?
My next project will be with Sundial Pictures as well. I am working on 2-3 scripts but nothing has been finalized as yet. All I can tell you is that it is going to be a big-budget film with a star.
Tell us about your background.
I come from Rajuri village in Pune district. I completed a degree in Theatre at the Center for Performing Arts in Pune. But I didn’t like working within the limitations that theatre imposed. There were so many books I wanted to adapt into plays but the scope in theatre was limited. On the other hand, there are no such limitations in cinema. I can portray whatever I want. So I turned to filmmaking and made Tingya which garnered critical acclaim as well as commercial success.