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'Samsara was born out of inner turmoil'

The acclaimed director Pan Nalin shares insights into filmmaking with Sudeshna B Baruah.

india Updated: Aug 01, 2007 18:22 IST

He shot to limelight with his debut feature film Samsara, which scooped 30 international awards. His next documentary - Ayurveda- Art Of Being has already won acclamations abroad and awaiting release in India. A self-taught filmmaker, Pan Nalin aka Nalin Kumar Pandya has also worked as a cinematographer, editor, scriptwriter and producer. But one meeting with this internationally acclaimed director could remain a life long memory. What with his down-to-earth streak. And as he himself admits, his stay in Ladakh to explore Buddhism, has taught him to be compassionate and humble. Presently based in France and India, Nalin shares his insights on filmmaking with Sudeshna B Baruah.


Tell us something about the genesis of your first feature film Samsara?

It is born out of the world of confusion that I myself was dwelling in. Be it my inter-personal love relationships. Out of my inner turmoil is born the story of this married young man, who has a wife and a son who gets admitted into a monastery to understand renunciation, but then feels as to how he can understand renunciation when he owes nothing. Thereafter, he sets out of the monastic world to be trapped in a love affair. M
y spiritual upbringing in the countryside, the wisdom of the people there have also been influential in my coming up with the plot of Samsara.

Do we see shades of Gautam Buddha in your protagonist in Samsara?

To an extent yes. It has been set in a similar tone. But as one goes deep one is set to find a reflection of oneself. Aren’t we as human beings caught at the crossroads of choices and destiny? For instance, one might come out in the evening with the thought of going to pub having a good weekend dinner, but might suddenly end up doing none of them. May be because he was not destined to do what he desired. I however, leave Samara with a question mark where the protagonist has three roads to choose from - to go back to his family, to the monastery or to his love.

You are also known to have an interest in painting and art. Was it choice or destiny that we see Pan Nalin as a filmmaker today? <



Partly both of them. As you must be aware, I was born in a remote countryside of Gujarat. My inclination towards filmmaking began the day I saw my first movie, at the age of eight. But the financial condition of my family did not allow me to get into film institutes.

I also had this teacher who having sensed my inclination for films insisted on my leaving the village and asked me to pour my heart into film-making. Here again it's destiny that played its role. I could also have had a teacher who might have persuaded me to stay back in the village. You may not have then seen me as a filmmaker. For some years, I also dabbled in the world of cinematography and design having joined the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad.

Given that your film was pitted against film like
did it not face distribution hurdles ?

It did. Big exhibitors always get the lion's share when it comes to Bollywood. Even when Samsara was doing well by sheer word of mouth, it was pushed down by distributors thanks to the politicking by big exhibitors. No doubt, even offshore distributors hesitate upon giving wide space to low-budget films, but once the film clicks with the audience they come out with more prints of the movie.

What according to you is a good film?
A film that gives a true insight into the characters is a good film. We, in India, are made to believe that a hero is one who fights a villain and then sings a song in an inebriated condition and then sleeps with his ladylove. Is this what we call heroism?

Similarly, it is easy to show George Bush in a humorous light. But quite difficult to build up the circumstances that create a terrorist. I have heard this story of this 23-year-old sniper who had a horrid past – he saw his whole family being shot dead before his eyes when he was just 9. This incident, apparently, led him to take up the gun 'to kill all human beings' as he is known to have said to his trainers. Filmmakers like late Satyajit Ray and Guru Dutt were artists par excellence in projecting such intricacies. Be it making an actor hold the hookah or a pen.Should we hence consider Satyajit Ray and Guru Dutt your inspiration? Which genre (parallel or mainstream) would you place yourself in?

Not really. My inspiration is very much outside the world of film. Indeed, Japan and Cambodia are some of the surroundings that inspire my themes.

As far as genre is concerned, I don’t believe in films such as mainstream or art. Indeed, if you look into the history of filmmaking, the concept of genre emerged with the setting up of video libraries. Films have to be strong enough to the extent that people can relate to.

You have been credited with making many documentary films. How different is a director’s role in documentary films and feature films?

Well, in a feature film the director is equal to god. He can enjoy maximum flexibility in dealing with the theme. On the contrary, he needs to be more perceptive while shooting a documentary film. He has to be very careful in carrying out research on the theme.

Your film Valley of Flowers had premiered at Osian’s Cine Fest. Would you share some details?

Valley Of Flowers is a love story that spans 200 centuries. It is about a demoness who falls in love with a man on earth and does not intend to return to where she belongs. It is here that Naseeruddin Shah comes into the picture and tries to send her back to her hub.
It is during the making of this movie that Myelin Jampanoi (French actress) and Milind Soman got attracted to each other, which eventually led to their marriage. When I brought Jampanoi to India, hardly did I know that I am bringing a life partner for Milind (Chuckles).What are your upcoming projects?

It will take a year before I actually reveal any details about my next feature film. We have started shooting in the UK for the same and have also roped in some foreign actors. But as of now I am awaiting the release of my next documentary film Ayurveda-Art Of Being in India.