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“I was shocked at the reaction to my film being selected”

Director Gyan Correa’s Gujarati debut film, The Good Road, was in the news for all the right and wrong reasons. Selected as India’s official entry to the 86th Academy Awards in the Foreign Language Film category this year, it drew a lot of criticism from other filmmakers lobbying for the same honour. Earlier this month, the film was also invited to be screened at Harvard University’s Cambridge campus inMassachusetts, US. Sagorika Dasgupta catches up with the director who takes us through the film’s journey

The Good Road is your debut film. How did films happen for you?

I produced as well as directed ad films. But, at the back of my mind, it was my objective to make a feature film. Advertising is a medium that is rich with ideas but there is a lot more you can do with the drama you create in an ad film. I was not happy making ad films and wanted to migrate to feature films. I knew I could narrate longer stories through the visual medium.

So I started writing a script based on a very nebulous idea. I decided to attempt something completely outside my comfort zone. I hitchhiked a truck and travelled a great deal. And while I did that, I would simultaneously write. When my notes were ready, I realised there was a very good opportunity for a film to be made.

Yours is a road film. Can you tell us what you experienced as you travelled across Gujarat?

It was a revelation. I travelled with truck drivers and chatted with them and practically lived with them as part of my research for the film. I wanted to throw light on subjects like child prostitution and other issues that people are judgmental about. I came across the lower end of the pecking order in our economy. The film is therefore a mirror to all those dark yet existential problems in our country.

Are you happy with the way the film has shaped up?

There’s just so much you can incorporate in your film and I always feel that a script is never complete. Every turn has a new story waiting for you to explore. I wrote the story and sent it to NFDC, who told me it was too long. But the guys at the script lab mentored me and I was able to trim the edges and was quite happy with the finished product. I wrote the script between 2009 and 2010 and shot it immediately after that. Yes, I am very happy with the way it turned out.

How did you cast for your film?

There is a guy who plays the truck driver; a little girl; and a bunch of urban people who are sort of the main characters in the film. My characters took shape as I was travelling, so I would write profiles and other details of these characters. At that time, I did not distinguish my characters as good or bad. I just kept writing. So when I was casting, I was clear that I wanted real people as actors. Thus, the film has a mix of professional and non-professional actors.

I wanted a real truck driver because they have this look in their eyes. They always look towards the horizon. Even when you’re having a conversation with them, they have a certain happy-go-lucky, wanderlust look about them. It took us five months to zero in on this one guy in Gujarat. I knew if I cast people who hitchhiked like me, they wouldn’t have screen presence and that is exactly what I was looking for to make the film real.

You are Konkani by origin. Why make a Gujarati film?

Why not Gujarati? I do understand Gujarati and it was more important for the actors to have an emotional connect with the audience rather than mouthing lines in an unnatural way. I believe language is a distraction. If you set aside the dialogue, you can really make these actors focus on their true expression and that’s what I wanted to capture. Since I had also worked on ad films, where dialogue is minimal, I guess that’s why I did not bother too much about the spoken language.

When will the film release in India? And, as with The Lunchbox, have any Indian producers shown interest in your film?

I am busy lobbying for the Oscars and I am not thinking about the Indian release just yet. Thus far, no big producers have approached me. You know, it was quite a challenge for me to raise funds for the film due to the subject it dealt with. Films like mine don’t make money but filmmaking is my passion. I was fortunate to be able to explore a career in parallel cinema because I had a full-time job to take care of the expenses of the film. I am aware that the right release, distribution and other economic aspects of a film are critical and I hope my film enjoys a commercial release.

Your film drew a lot of flak from other filmmakers when it was announced as India’s official entry to the Oscars.

Yes. I am aware of that and I was shocked. It took me a few days to register what was going on before it dawned on me. I was a little disappointed but I think the jury made a very good decision.

What next?

I have three to four ideas that I will get busy with in a few days.

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