Pan Nalin's come a long way, from his childhood in a village in Saurashtra to living in Paris with his French wife and making internationally acclaimed films.
He watched his first film at the age of eight and there was no looking back. What his parents could not afford to help him with, a supportive art teacher did.
On condition that he learn English, he joined NID where he got hold of a camera and discovered cinema.
His first feature film, Samsara, which has already released in about 50 countries and won several awards, opens in India this week. An interview with Nalin:
What is Samsara about?
Central characters Pema and Tashi in a scene from Samsara
It is love story with a spiritual background. It is about choices that we have to make at every step of our lives and destiny and a study of which is stronger — choice or destiny. The central character of Samsara has renounced all and become a Buddhist monk. But he begins to question his choice — since he never owned or desired anything, what did he renounce? He also begins to fall in love with a farmer's daughter. Once he joins the real world he encounters samsaric problems, until desire and spirituality meet head on and he decides to renounce his wife and child. That's when there's a twist in the tale. The ending is left for each one of us to conclude, based on our perceptions of life.
What was the film's genesis?
I had worked on short fiction and documentaries before. Once I had a great story in mind I wanted to understand what the man and the woman would feel. I researched their desires and came up with the question: what is more important — to satisfy 1,000 desires or conquer just one? I spent time with monks, some of who were very conflicted. They lived in monasteries but had posters of Sharon Stone on their walls. I also came across certain sects that are liber alising. We shot the film around Ladakh and cast Shaun Ku, a Korean-American actor as Tashi and Hong Kong-Chinese actress Christy Chung as Pema.
Your next film, Valley of Flowers, with Naseeruddin Shah and Milind Soman, sounds more commercial.
Yes. It explores the idea that if Romeo and Juliet resided in Asia, would their story be a tragedy or would they meet in the next life? In Valley of Flowers, two lovers stand across two centuries, beginning in the early 19th century along the Silk Route. Seventy per cent of the film is in Hindi and the rest is in Japanese.
Will it be easier to get Valley of Flowers released in India than Samsara?
Naseer and Milind make it more saleable in India, yes. It was a big struggle to get Samsara released here. Firstly it's all about marketing and getting audiences into cinemas. You just need to get people in and once they are in, it doesn't matter if they liked the film or not because the business is done. I am no good at marketing. I know how to make films. Secondly we had to deal with censorship since we had a lot of nudity and desire depicted in the film. But we got two minor cuts of frontal nudity and got an 'A' certificate. Once people see Samsara, I'm sure they will like it.