After last year’s Syracuse International Film Festival in New York, a reviewer, talking about an Indian film, said it “certainly matches Truffaut’s cinematic spirit”. The film was Mahek and the maker was 29-year-old Kranti Kanade from Pune.
François Truffaut himself was known as “the gravedigger of French cinema” for his unforgiving reviews, who later as a film-maker pioneered the French New Wave cinema in the 1960s. Mahek also won the Best Feature Film award at international film festivals in Houston and Hollywood. Even better, it has now been included as part of the Modern India course at the Otterbein College, one of the oldest in the US.
The ‘Truffaut’ compliment might seem precocious but probably not out of place. Kanade had earlier started a song-and-dance film but shelved it. “I was doing it because everybody else was doing it. I wanted to make a film which is different and true.” Then he made Mahek, the story of an 11-year-old girl who wants to be the best in everything, but doesn’t know what she’s best at and adding to that is parental pressure.
It could be the story of any child. It was definitely his: “I lacked respect and dignity as a child. I made this film to overcome that bitterness.” For this postgraduate in philosophy, film-making is a “truthful refuge”.
What does he think of Bombay cinema? “Despite a lot of potential, it is very regressive. How long can we just have beautiful exceptions,” he asks. He is against selling dreams. “The audience only feel miserable about their lives after watching these films. Life is not about wishful thinking but self acceptance.” How is he planning to break the mould then? “By being non-judgmental. The moment you pass a judgment, there’s no second chance. Every character will get a second chance in my films.” But does he think he can survive without making song-and-dance films? “Five-hundred people might say no to you but it takes one ‘yes’ to make a film. Finding economic stability is easy but not artistic expression. You will find likeminded people who will support you.”
Kanade might sound very idealistic and impractical but his work speaks for itself. He started an NGO at the age of 24, called ‘Mother’ that has so far rehabilitated 45 children and put them in school. “We give them extensive information on liberal arts and music. The second most important thing man did after hunting was painting on cave walls.” He says a child needs more than a loaf of bread. “A child needs a poem and a flower. Without that life will be empty.”
Mahek is soon going to be released in India. It wasn’t easy finding a distributor. He is now gathering funds for his next film: a boarding school drama. “This is going to be an international venture. The time has come for us to make films for the global audience.” It might not be easy but he is not the one to give up. He, probably, is trying to live up to his name, Kranti (revolution)!