Very often than not, we hear the term ‘realistic’ cinema in the film industry, especially when a film festival is being hosted. For starters, what is ‘realistic’ cinema? Real locales – shot on streets or running trains, shots that require just one take, no song-and-dance routines – yet have one scene-based song, low budget and made in just 20-30 days. Cinema is getting real and even audience loves it. Truth being that social themes and larger-than-life characters often reflect society at large and touch a chord.
The biggest proof was the screening of Madholal Keep Walking at the 11th Osian's Cinefan Fest in the Capital, which ran packed houses for all its screenings.
Madholal Keep Walking is about a man called Madholal, a security guard in a private firm in Mumbai. He loses his arm in the Mumbai blasts like many others – except that he develops a fear psychosis that he will die and hates that he will no longer be the breadwinner for the family – will not be able to fulfill his responsibilities. He withdraws himself into his single room chawl and stops participating in his family’s joys.
The unique selling point of the movie is that least importance has been given to the protagonist’s (Subodh Datta) self-pity attitude by the other characters. He is shaken from his self-pity reverie by his daughter and that Mumbai’s spirit is still undeterred by the deadly blasts.
Jai Tank, the director of Madholal Keep Walking, says that the movie was shot in just 27 days on the streets of Mumbai and the local trains. Since trains would not be stopped for shooting, the crew had to rehearse for shots and get into running trains. Mostly there were no re-takes. Once, one of the crew had to miss a local train because of the chaos, quips Apoorva Tank, the producer of the film.
Clothes for the stars were even bought outside the Churchgate railway station – to give it a genuine rather authentic touch, says Swara Bhaskar who plays the lead in the movie. She adds that her character is called Sudha who belongs to a middle class family, which has a lot of dreams and aspirations. In the movie, she wears a completely deglamourised look.
So, what about preparations to get into the skin of the character? "Initially, I asked my bai to read out the entire script to get the lingo right since I thought that I needed a Marathi accent to learn my dialogues. (More so, because, I belong to Delhi). And when I said my dialogues for the first time in front of Jai, he told me that my character was an educated, urban girl who spoke English too – that I did not require the Marathi accent.
"It is a film about people from a certain class who are vanishing like the old chawls and buildings there," says Jai who feels this film acts like a significant medium to tell the audience about this particular class of people.
Apoorva Tank who is also the producer of the movie, says that a primary research was conducted by showing people the movie before it was officially shown. "And we received a positive response from the audience as well. The biggest reason being that people could connect with the characters very well. It reflected in the reactions we got."
Incidentally Madholal… has been shortlisted in the competition category at Sao Paulo and Cairo film festivals, Third Eye Asian film festival, Kolkata film festival and Hidden Gems festival (Canada).
One of the other films screened at the Osian's festival was the Raj Kumar Gupta-directed Aamir, starring Rajeev Khandelwal. It was also a similar attempt at creating realism in the movie. Released nearly an year ago, Aamir, drew a warm response from audiences. The plot surrounds an educated Muslim doctor returning after his three-year stint in UK. He is made a victim by a fanatic of his own community who tries to convert him into a jehadi, and almost ends up blasting a bus - after his family is held hostage by the fanatic himself.
About the making of the film? "The movie was extremely intense and I got worked up halfway during the shoot. I threw a lot of tantrums saying I couldn’t get up early in the morning and sleep late at night. The more I complained, Raj said that this is what he wanted – make me look really tired and tense. In the last part of the movie where my character breaks down and cries, I am really crying too. For instance, there is another scene where I vomit in one of the areas close to Bhindi bazaar – even that was real. The stench was so much that it made me vomit," says actor Rajeev Khandelwal.
In this movie, Rajeev adds that there were no retakes of any sort as it was shot in a highly populated area of Mumbai.
The only point to ponder is that most of such films do not go beyond film festivals and do not reach out to the larger masses. Acclaimed director MS Sathyu made the movie Ijjodu (Incompatible) after nearly 12 years and his movie was screened at the Osian's film festival. His own movie, based on the life of a Devadasi, faced a lot of obstacles before its release. It took him a long time to find someone to finance the film. Ask him why movies with social themes shot in real locales are fewer. "Mostly the biggest reason is lack of financiers as commercially they do not sell. That is why only a niche audience gets to watch such movies," he quips.
Yet another fine example of undeterred enthusiasm to portray a social theme was by the cast and crew of The Supermen of Malegaon. This movie that ran to packed houses, like Madholal..., was also screened at the film festival. The biggest USP of the movie is that its director Faiza Khan recovered the cost of making this film solely by selling its DVDs all over Maharashtra.
These movies may not be commercially viable, but they do end up driving an ironical point home – social issues do exist, they do not vanish. Reality bites when one sees audience take to such films too just like any other Bollywood blockbuster!