What happens when a cinema-obsessed production assistant is held hostage in a Pakistani border village at the home of a man who is in the business of selling pirated Bollywood DVDs? The result is a hilarious tragi-comic movie which has some really funny moments including where the two bond over Bollywood. The more hilarious ones involve Sunny Deol's popularity across the Wagah Border and Salman bhai's legions of fans in Pakistan.
This is the plot for Filmistaan, director Nitin Kakkar's debut offering that won the Best Feature Film honour (Hindi) at the 60th National Film Awards 2012. The Partition may have created a schism in our collective conscience, but people in India and Pakistan still share a number of passions across the line of control. And one of the biggest collective obsessions in the subcontinent, apart from cricket, is Bollywood.
The story of Filmistaan revolves around a film buff desperate for a role in a Bollywood production. In order to get work in the movies, he lands a job as a production assistant with an American production crew that goes to Rajasthan to film a documentary. There, he gets kidnapped by a terrorist group who mistake him for an American crew member. "The film carries an underlying message about how cinema knows no political or geographical barriers and can bring people together," says Kakkar.
Despite winning many accolades, including The Silver Crow Pheasant Award for Best Debut at the International Film Festival of Kerala, the film did not have an immediate commercial release. Filmistaan hits theatres on June 6 and Kakkar is eagerly awaiting the audience's reaction to the film. "For me, the masses matter more than the critics as they are the ones we make films for," he says.
Kakkar 38, the son of a photographer father and homemaker mom, grew up in Mumbai. For some time, he dabbled in theatre and later directed Black Freedom (2004), a short film that paid a tribute to Saadat Hasan Manto's poetry. For close to a decade, to keep the kitchen fires burning, Kakkar wrote television serials and directed a few episodes of popular soaps such as Sssshh Phir Koi Hai, Jersey No. 10 and CID Special. How does he view the creative process in the two mediums?
* Nitin Kakkar's directorial debut has been the toast of the festival circuit. It was screened at the Busan International
* Film Festival and the Mumbai Film Festival apart from winning the Best Feature Film honour (Hindi) at the 60th National
* Film Awards 2012 and the Silver Crow Pheasant Award for Best Debut at the International Film Festival of Kerala
*His passions include scuba diving and water-sports. "Scuba diving is like meditation," says Kakkar
* Saadat Hasan Manto is a big influence on him along with the works of greats of Hindi literatures such as Munshi Premchand and Amrita Pritam
"While TV is like a newspaper, films are more like a novel that requires a lot of passion," says Kakkar. "Also, television is essentially a producer's medium while I have always wanted to tell stories as a director. I was always sure about making only those films in which I believe, such as Filmistaan," says Kakkar.
Kakkar, who was born much after Partition, says he has heard stories about how the tragedy affected his grandfather psychologically. "My grandfather was from Lahore and they had to move to Jalandhar. But, he could never get Lahore out of his mind and would tell me stories about the city. Somewhere, those stories remained at the back of my mind and helped me during the making of Filmistaan," says Kakkar.
Unfortunately, Kakkar lost his father when he was just 13 and had to struggle to make ends meet after his untimely death. "His camera and other equipment had to be sold off and at that time I had no idea that I would be doing something similar one day," says Kakkar who dabbled in theatre for sometime before realizing that acting is not his cup of tea. But, one thing that Kakkar soon realised was the kind of impact that cinema has on our lives and how it affects us on a daily basis.
"Our emotions are governed by cinema in a very subconscious way and whatever we see becomes larger than life for us. I still remember how after Munnabhai MBBS, everyone was busy giving each other a 'jaadu ki jhappi'. Similarly, I saw appreciative comments left on Coke Studio Pakistan by people from India and vice versa and realised that we shared a common cultural link," comments Kakkar.
Incidentally, Filmistaan has no big names to boast off in its star cast but Kakkar is actually happy about it. "The lead (played by actor Sharib Hashmi) is a very real actor for me as my film is all about real people. Sharib is a great actor who has done full justice to his character. In fact, everyone has done a great job in the film. Moreover, I'm very happy to see the way filmmaking is changing and it's great to see more and more films that are closer to reality," comments Kakkar.
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From HT Brunch, June 1
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