National Award-winning director Ashvin Kumar of Inshallah Football fame finally able to release his first ever film, The Forest, after four year wait.The victim in this film has four legs, growls if bothered, and can, with one solid leap, combat the biggest villains that Bollywood’s best have fought.
National Award-winning filmmaker Ashvin Kumar fought the Censor Board for years to protect his documentary, Inshallah Football, from drastic cuts. Ironically, the film won a National Award this year. But even before Inshallah Football, Kumar had directed a film called The Forest which didn’t get to the theatres — until now. On May 4, thanks to a PVR Cinemas initiative, the Nandana Sen-Javed Jaffrey starrer will finally release.
“Inshallah Football should be called Baptism by Fire,” he says, before laughing when asked about the irony in receiving an award from a system that he spent the last few years fighting. “It’s a good milestone, the National Award. It’s tiny, but good.”
Ask him whether his first fiction feature film is seeing the light of day today due to the award and he denies it, saying, “No, the award came much after the deal was settled. My wait has been agonising. Distributors came close to signing, and then plans changed. That’s the thing about Mumbai, no one says no. They’ll make you believe that they’ll do it and then not do it.”
The Forest has been in the cans for over four years. The avid wildlife conversationalist was a regular at Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand when the idea of writing a film about the “anguish about man-animal conflicts in India” came to him. “We are one of the rare countries that has this wildlife, yet we read stories about leopards being stoned to death and burnt in cages,” says Ashvin.
Spread across Jim Corbett, Bandhavgarh and Thailand, the film has been made on a budget of R6.5 crore. This amount also includes the hiring of trained leopards that were flown down from France to Thailand for the shoot.
“The story is about a man who confronts his fear of the animal. All the animals in the film are real — tigers, leopards, elephants — though some scenes were put together during post-production,” reveals Ashvin, adding that the most exciting part of the filming was recording the sound with a 40-piece Philharmonic Orchestra in the iconic Abbey Road studio in the UK.
“Bono (from U2) was supposed to come for the next slot. We tried delaying our work to get a glimpse, but he didn’t turn up,” he laughs.