Pune-based theatre director Mohit Takalkar’s debut feature The Bright Day will premiere today at the Toronto International Film Festival. Mohit tells us about his foray into filmmaking:
What is The Bright Day about?
The Bright Day speaks out the confusions and dilemmas that the young generation faces in the process of finding the path they want to tread. The film explores this journey through strong cinematic imagery. It is shot in different terrains of India – City, Desert, Banks of Ganges; thus depicting imagery and reflections of inner and outer world beautifully. The film also works on spiritual and experiential layers to deal with the complexity of mind. A film of chance encounters, shifting perspectives and unexpected insights, The Bright Day is an intensely personal cinematic experience that is also universal.
What was the starting point for the film?
The starting point for the film was my own life. I kept hopping jobs and had diverse careers. I worked in a hotel followed by a stint in web designing and sound editing. Then I did video editing and from there on I started working as an assistant director for television soaps.
There was no focus point to concentrate. I felt slow, deranged, excited, and nervous all at the same time. All the while I had the tremendous support from family and friends. I wanted to release this safety catch and venture out into the world. It was a romantic thought that I would get to know the answers in the outside world. So me and my friend Sarang took on this unplanned journey and returned with a script in mind.
How did you fund the film?
A dear friend stood by my side. My school friend Abhijeet Bhosale wanted me to venture into films. He had tremendous faith in me all the while and shared his funds and his large heart. He never ever questioned about the funding needed but just kept on providing. And that is how the film got made. I am lucky to have such a friend.
Tell us about the journey of making The Bright Day.
We wrote the script in 2003 and met a number of producers and financers. Everyone thought the subject was nice, the script wonderful, but no one wanted to invest in me and the new actor, Sarang. We had no credibility. We tried hard but all in vain. There was a time when I did so many readings of the script that I had memorized the whole script. At the same time I started enjoying theatre more than ever. I kept doing play after play and the film was pushed to the back burner.
Nine years later, DOP Amol Gole (Stanley ka Dabba, Gajar etc) heard the script and filled new life and energy into the project. He was the one who said this has to be made, and that too NOW, so we all started work again. Abhijeet stood by my side and things started falling in place.
Why did you decide to shoot it on DSLR cameras?
We shot on Canon 5 D. It was Amol’s forte. Also a smaller camera allowed us to shoot an individual’s journey without intimidating him. It was used for its result as well as for convenience. But we studied the camera’s behavior: what were the pros and cons of it. We shot keeping them in mind. Amol had also grown as a cameraman since Stanley ka Dabba. It all mattered.
How would you describe the experience of making your first feature film? How was the transition from theatre to cinema?
It was enjoyable, rewarding and enchanting. The transition was smooth as all of the actors are from theatre. So the language was common while shooting. I understand that it is a different medium all together, but frankly it was an extension of theatre for me. We rehearsed the scenes repeatedly. Shooting on smaller camera also gave the actors freedom from the burden of shooting for a film. There was candidness while shooting which helped all of us.
Have you found a distributor for the film?
We have no distributor as of yet. Hence there is no plan for theatrical release. Also frankly, I don’t know how to go about it. The state for art house cinema is still the same. People want big names. No one is ready to distribute small movies. The risk is too much. A festival here and there hardly helps. We hardly see any Indian film in the competition section in major festivals. Back home such films are labeled as ‘festival films’. And that too not in a positive light.
‘Festival ki film matlab chalegi nahi!’ (It’s a festival film, means it won’t work). I don’t know if it is to be blamed on the audience or the distributors. Someone has to take a step. Otherwise we will just have the usual ‘masala’ mix. But I have not lost hope. That is for sure. I will try my level best. I am sure, seeing the way The Bright Day is made; it will see the light of the day. Sooner or later, it will achieve what is in store for it.
Who are the filmmakers you admire?
I truly admire Anurag Kashyap. He is a champion. I don’t like each and every film he makes, but admire him for his guts, visualization and detailing. He makes films without flinching. I think that is brave and necessary. To make the cinema that you want. I also like Dibakar Banerjee’s films. They are truthful, deep and wonderful.
Internationally I love Wong Kar Wai’s films. They are masterful and intriguing.
Tell us about your background.
I have to my credit more than a dozen feature films in Hindi and Marathi as an editor as well as a sound designer. I have assisted eminent director duo Sunil Sukthankar and Sumitra Bhave on their award winning film Devraai. I have assisted celebrated director Tim Supple in his play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.
I have chiefly worked as a theatre director and as the artistic director of ‘Aasakta’, a well established theatre group in my hometown Pune. I have a Masters Degree in Theatre Practice from the University of Exeter, UK under the guidance of Prof. Phillip Zarilli as a Charles Wallace Scholar.
My work as a theatre director is widely acclaimed and I am the recipient of numerous prestigious awards such as Aditya Vikram Birla Kalakiran Puraskar (2010), Sahitya Rangbhoomi Pratisthan Fellowship (2007), Amrish Puri Award (2005), Maharashtra State Award for best play and best direction (2001-2003-2007) and many more.