Last year, his assistants went to producer Sunill Khosla with a script and told him they wanted to film it during the annual 18-day Vari pilgrimage. He gave them the go ahead and, led by award-winning director Ajit Bhairavkar, a unit of 115 people walked 240 km from Pune to Pandharpur.
“The result was Gajaar — The Journey Of A Soul, a Marathi film that has already won 27 awards and is nominated for more,” says a proud Sunill who is now adapting the film in Hindi as Moksh — The Journey Of A Soul. “Since June 12, my unit has been walking with the Varkaris towards Lord Vithoba’s shrine.”
Some 50 per cent of the talkie portion of the film is in Marathi, while the remaining is in English and Hindi. Sunill decided to re-shoot the Marathi portion in Hindi rather than dub it, because dubbing would disqualify it for a National Award nomination.
“We had entered Gajjar for the awards this year and were expecting it to win the top honours,” he explains. “But we lost out. We will now enter Moksh and I can guarantee that it will be India’s official entry to the Oscars.”
Gajjar is the story of Parth, an ambitious young director from Mumbai, who is transformed after he is persuaded by Eric, an anthropology student from the US, to make a path-breaking international film on the pilgrimage. Confident of its success, Sunill released it in 140 screens on May 6. He is returning to the theatres with the Hindi version in August-September.
Sunill hasn’t chosen to replace the original cast of Chinmay Mandlekar, Suhas Shirsat, Umesh Jagtap and debutants Sukadha Yash and Edward Sonnenblick with Bollywood faces. He doesn’t even plan to change the script. “My film is based on the 18 Chapters of the Dnyaneshwari, a religious book followed by Varkaris, and is entertaining and educational,” he says. “Only the soundtrack is being re-done by Shankar Mahadevan and my wife and co-producer Vibha Dutta Khosla.”