Earlier this year, I Am Kalam opened to a huge critical acclaim. And now, filmmaker Nila Madhab Panda has started work on his second venture, Jal Bin Jal Pari (titled The Desert Mermaid in English) with new vigour. Mainly a children’s adventure story, Madhab’s film intertwines issues like the country’s traditional preference for a male child with scarcity of land and water.
“The film focuses on society’s preference for a male child and how we are largely living in a male-centric society. But I am connecting it with scarcity of water,” says Madhab. While I Am Kalam featured Gulshan Grover, Jal Bin Jal Pari broadens the canvas with names like Parvin Dabas, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Suhasini Mulay and Rahul Singh on board. “It was easier (to cast actors) this time. After you do one nice film, people realise that the filmmaker can do good work,” says Madhab.
Madhab adds that though the film is a kids’ adventure, it is a thriller too. And the National Award-winning child actor Harsh Mayar, the lead protagonist of I Am Kalam, isn’t the central focus. Instead, the story revolves around Leher Khan, a 12-year-old Delhi girl. “Medieval Punditz is composing a song for which Shubha Mudgal has lent her voice. I am not using it as a kiddie song but as a lounge number,” says Madhab.
Even the film’s producer is confident of its reach. “When Madhab narrated the story, I was confident of his vision and thought this is the best way to be socially active through cinema,” says producer Sushilkumar Agrawal, CEO of Ultra group.