Rotterdam 2010 Diary: In Conversation with Umesh and Girish Kulkarni

By Editorial Team • Published on February 7, 2010

Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni and Girish Pandurang Kulkarni cut modest, humble and thin figures. They are just as soft spoken about their work, their achievements and ambitions. In a wide ranging conversation they discussed the production and release process with me, as they were both getting ready to leave Rotterdam. They are now in Clermont Ferrand in France for short film festival. They will at the Berlinale 2010 with Vihir which will become the first Marathi film screened there since Samna some 35 years ago.

Umesh and Girish have a productive relationship for artistic production. They brew the ideas for scripts together as Girish is a scriptwriter. The idea for the narrative of Vihir, says Umesh, is autobiographical, as accidental  death of his cousin at ten years of age stayed with him, affected him and raised in him thoughts about life, death and the meaning of these transitions. The film was within him as he went on thinking about it. After Vallu, he found himself restless thinking about the events, memories, and surrounding issues. The credits for an excellent script and the screenplay of the film  are shared by  Girish, as well as Sati Bhave, another close associate of Umesh s on the film.  Dialogues were written by Girish Padurang Kulkarni. 

For a film that claims popular audience, handles abstract dimensions of life, it is an immensely meditative work. Girish says he works in fits and starts, driven by his inner imagination and the script flows out of him. The two of them work together to realize it on the screen. The film s impressive achievement in blending the philosophical with the narrative comes from this symbiotic partnership the two of them have together. The culture they grew up in and what they take to the screen, the concept of Advaita, the positive relinquishing in Vikrant allowed them to be positive and not produce a “depressing  narrative. And with all the existential trappings they could have fallen into, they have managed this successfully.

They were both delighted at the cinematography of Sudheer Palsane who rendered the respect and reverence that Sahyadri deserved and one Umesh and Girish had visualized. Indeed, the cinematography is a memorable achievement of this film. The central visual icon of this film is the old vaada, a mud covered building that was commonplace in most middle class households in rural Maharashtra, indeed all over rural India. That place becomes a central character in the film in all celebrations, children s play-games and all the tragic, transitional moments as well.

I was curious to see where the financing for such innovative and bold project could come from. It is heartening to see that AB Productions have extended their mainstream profile and supported this film not just from an FTII graduate but also from an upcoming star of world cinema.  Umesh and Girish were glad that the support was total and well funded with added encouragement.  Hope producers like AB Productions as well as their peers will support projects like these to elevate emerging cinemas in India to world wide praise and attention.

Both Umesh and Girish said that they were delighted that the film was appearing at Rotterdam (and later at Berlinale 2010), but that does not match the thrill of watching the long lines for tickets and audience appreciation back home in Maharashtra. They will have the opportunity to do just that as Vihir opens in theaters on March 7th. In the meantime, Vihir will be part of Berlinale s reputed Generations program and will be screened on February 14th, 15th and 16th at Babylon cinema.


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