Bhagwan Bharose director Shiladitya Bora on working with small kids | Bollywood - Hindustan Times
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Bhagwan Bharose director Shiladitya Bora on working with small kids for a film on communal harmony

Oct 28, 2023 06:47 AM IST

Filmmaker Shiladitya Bora talks about his new film Bhagwan Bharose, the experience of working with Vinay Pathak, and more in an interview with Hindustan Times.

Producer Shiladtiya Bora made his directorial debut with Bhagwan Bharose recently. The film tells the story of two village kids, and weaves a stark message on communal harmony, through the innocence of the kids. In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, the filmmaker talks about the experience of working with the kids Satendra Soni and Sparsh Suman, Vinay Pathak's unwavering support for the film, and more. Earlier this year, the film won the Best Film award at the 25th UK Asian Film Festival. (Also read: Vinay Pathak's Bhagwan Bharose bags Best Film award at UK Asian Film Festival)

Satendra Soni and Sparsh Suman in a still from Bhagwan Bharose.
Satendra Soni and Sparsh Suman in a still from Bhagwan Bharose.

When Vinay Pathak accompanied Shiladitya despite limp

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Vinay Pathak plays an elderly man in Bhagwan Bharose while Manurishi Chaddha plays an atheist in the film.
Vinay Pathak plays an elderly man in Bhagwan Bharose while Manurishi Chaddha plays an atheist in the film.

Recalling the support his lead actor Vinay Pathak offered to him during and after making Bhagwan Bharose, Shiladitya said, “Vinay is an actor in the film, but even before the shoot, he would talk to us about the script and tell us ways of executing it all. When we went on set, Vinay helped us with some dialogues. He was also with us during the edit. He has been involved throughout. Recently, when we went to the UK for the world premiere (at UK Asian Film Festival), Vinay travelled with me in economy class. When we were going to Patna, he accompanied me despite the fact that he was still limping. He is very fond of the film.” He also revealed that Masumeh Makhija's Three Storeys' look was part of his pitch presentations for Bhagwan Bharose.

Briefing kids for Bhagwan Bharose

Bhagwan Bharose features Satendra Soni in the lead role of a young boy named Bhola who ends up challenging the traditions in his family, after a tragic accident forces him to lose faith. Revealing that Satendra is an 18-year-old boy, Shiladitya said, “Satendra is not actually a kid. But he was so different during auditions…. The rest of the kids, generally, look at the camera and get stiff. Satendra was like he knew how to use his body language, his voice, and the space around him. I was impressed. We had an internal discussion after we came to know that he is not a kid, but we thought ‘if 50-year-old actors can play 18-20-year-old kids, why can’t he?' And, Sparsh is a seven-year-old kid.”

Was it easy to work with kids on a film like Bhagwan Bharose? "We had very limited resources. I had enough money to shoot the film for 17 days. We did not have the luxury of going to the sets and then figuring out how to go about the scenes. So, we had to be really well-prepared for the 17-day back-to-back schedule. We shot it for 12, 15, and even 17 hours, without breaks for those 17 days."

"We held workshops for the kids and Kanishka Aggarwal from Atul Mongia's The Artist Collective held those workshops with the kids. She made them comfortable, with different types of breathing exercises, and games. We also got them to practice the tougher scenes like the ones where they are supposed to cry." The larger meaning of the scenes was not explained to the kids, the filmmaker said, adding that it was not too difficult to work with the young ones.

Writer Sudhakar Nilmani is real Bhola

While Bhagwan Bharose is a fictionalised story, director Shiladitya said that the story has been inspired by real-life incidents that writer Sudhakar Nilmani Eklavya saw in his native village - Bihar's Munger. “This is a work of fiction, but the main story of the film is inspired by a real-life event. We fictionalised the climax for a better cinematic view. Sudhakar Nilmani studied at IIT Roorkee and then he worked as an engineer with the Defence Research Development Organisation before moving to London where he worked for some time. He then returned to pursue a screenwriting course at FTII, Pune. He wrote the film Ribbon before he wrote Bhagwan Bharose. Bhola is actually Sudhakar. He witnessed similar incidences around him.”

Recalling when co-writer Mohit Chauhan came on board, Shiladitya said, “I did a film Vivek Gomber's Sir, and Mohit wrote the songs. When we met for that film, I mentioned I was looking for someone who could add to Bhagwan Bharose. Mohit was like ‘I have never done it. I write songs’. But he agreed when he got to know that I have the film, and need his help for the screenplay. The scene where a monkey plays with the antenna and the one where an important character dies in the film are both Mohit's contributions. Also, the one where Bhola (lead character of a child) writes a letter to his father on a kite.”

Editing out ‘meaty scenes’

“Our initial film was 110 minutes. When we showed it to a few senior people, everyone told us to ‘shorten it, tighten it'. They suggested I should stick to Bhola's story and avoid too many other things. Then, I made a cut of 94 minutes. Now, after the release, I am getting messages that say ‘The film just ends immediately after the interval, it should have been longer'. For that 94-minute cut, I had to sacrifice some very good scenes. There were some very meaty scenes between the lead characters. But, it is okay. We can bring out all those scenes later, in maybe some deleted scenes on YouTube or they can be added in the OTT cut.” Asked about a digital release, the filmmaker confirmed Bhagwan Bharose will be available online early next year.

How content-driven cinema works

For a long time, Shiladitya worked with Drishyam Films - a production house that has traditionally enabled good cinema to reach a wider audience. He worked as the CEO of the production house that backed films such as Newton, Rukh, Masaan, Dhanak, and Kadvi Hava. Is there a method that assists his endeavour of making content-driven cinema more accessible?

“I always feel that people should watch an independent film because it is good. Because they are excited by the trailer or some reason. Watching it for support is not the right reason. Because no one pointed a gun at you to make a film, you did it on your own so it better be good. I am not saying that Bhagwan Bharose is a great film, but I have tried. Secondly, whether it is independent or commercial cinema, we should try not to bore the audience. Sometimes people intellectualize things a lot. Some are even of the opinion ‘I have made a great film, this is my point of view, the audience is dumb for not understanding or not liking it’. For me, engagement is my first war, I want to engage the audience with my film, and not preach.”

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