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Bitter Truth

Kadvi Hawa’s protagonists – actors Tillotama ShomeRanvir Shorey and Sanjay Mishra – in conversation with Team Box Office India

BOI: Kadvi Hawa has a unique script. What made you say ‘yes’ to this film?

Ranvir Shorey (RS): The script was really great. It is the story of two simple people from a small town, with a deep and impactful message attached to it. When I heard that Sanjay bhai was playing the lead role, I was very happy because I don’t think anyone else could have played this part. I found my role quite interesting too. You could call him the antagonist with many shades of grey. I really like roles where you cannot quite figure out if the person is good or bad, just like in real life.

On top of this, the commitment shown by Nila Madhab Panda towards the film was commendable. He shot the entire film on super 16mm and we went to actual locations like Dhaulpur as well as the interiors of the Chambal, which are some of the hottest places in India, to film this movie. These factors inspired me a lot.

Sanjay Mishra (SM): Yes, it was quite challenging. I have not really been offered roles like these before where I play a blind, old man who is a farmer. That was a huge kick, huge motivation. When I got to know that the story talked about the threat of climate change, I was very impressed.

Tillotama Shome (TS): When I heard the script, I felt the story was extremely powerful, and it was being essayed by actors like Ranvir and Sanjayji. Intially, Nila didn’t tell me anything about the story. He suggested I read the script first. If I liked the story, he said, the role of Parvati was all mine. After I finished reading the script, I immediately said yes because the screenplay was very well-written.


BOI: How challenging was it to shoot at such difficult locations?

RS: It was very difficult. We shot in Dhaulpur and that too in peak summer. We shot in May or June. But when the team is good, the script inspiring, the director a motivating factor, everything gets done.

TS: We were shooting in June and July, which meant 45 to 50 degrees heat but when you see the lives of the people who live there, you feel very privileged and humbled.

BOI: Since this movie deals with intense issues, how did you prep for your respective roles?

RS: The film has the backdrop of an issue but the story itself is not an issue. The story is primarily about these two characters, where Sanjay bhai plays the protagonist, Hedu, a blind farmer in a drought-ridden region. His family is also neck-deep in debt. In the middle of this is my character, who is the antagonist, a loan recovery agent with a reputation of killing three to four people wherever he goes. That’s why the villagers call him ‘Yamdoot’.

The story is about these two people who are actually in conflict with each other but have to strike a relationship with one another for survival. Through the story of these two characters, the film talks about something bigger, but that doesn’t mean the story is about the issue or the focus is on the issue. The focus is on the characters, their lives, conflicts, relationships, etc.

TS: I had to basically learn the dialect and I had help. It was sheer coincidence that I was doing another film at the same time for which I had to learn the same dialect. So I had already started the prep on that. The rest followed the adage, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’ When you arrive at a location like that, in small towns, interiors of villages in Bundelkhand and the Chambal area, you observe people, how they live. That becomes a huge influence. The preparation is very real and personal.

SM: There was no real research involved. It is not a role relating to science fiction that called for research. It is a story about the aam India, the general population of India. All you have to do is work on your own characters individually and personally, in terms of how they will be and what they will do.


BOI: Interestingly, Sanjay, your character is the most complex one in the film.

SM: Everyone’s character is difficult but, yes, mine was tough too. I was actually told to watch a couple of films in the beginning for reference. But I thought that if I portray my character by watching someone else, I would be influenced by the other character. There are a lot of roles in films out there where a character is blind and even a little crazy. I figured that if I, Sanjay Mishra, was blind, what would I have done? And since the character lived in a small town, how would he react to the surroundings there? That was how I portrayed my character.


BOI: Do you think that winning accolades, like a special mention at the National Awards, hypes a film in the industry and among the audience?

SM: Yes, a film acquires a certain credibility after it receives accolades. People think ke haan kuch toh hoga ismein. But that is only to a certain extent. We don’t have the kind of audience that is influenced by awards and will watch a film because it has been given some kind of honour. The film does acquire a certain seriousness after it gets a National Award but I don’t think it really helps create a buzz. What do you think, Ranvir?

RS: I think Sanjay bhai is absolutely right. It lends credibility to the film but, in the end, a movie is a medium for the audience. Unless a certain number of people watch that movie, its life is incomplete. There are some films that people don’t watch when they release but watch them years later, on TV. I have noticed that they acquire momentum years later when people recognise their true worth after they are shown on TV and other such mediums. There is a place for awards, I don’t deny that. But it is not the be all and end all of the journey of a film.


BOI: Speaking about the audience… there were many films that connected with the masses on several levels this year. What will resonate with the audience when they watch Kadvi Hawa?

RS: I think the fact that they will be watching two characters from a small village in rural India who are telling a story that is neither arty nor dry. Not many films have that. This story has its own entertainment and its own sadness. Then there is also the broader theme that will compel you to think about the issue it is talking about. For me, this is wholesome entertainment. It is not like you have to leave your brain at home for this movie or vice-versa. It connects with you emotionally. You resonate with these two characters whose stories we don’t see in the urban world. But you will identify with them even if they are from rural India.

TS: I think if you watch this film, whether that person is good or bad, a hero or villain, a protagonist or antagonist, you will feel for both. That is the strength of the screenplay. You realise that all the characters are, in the end, just trying to survive.


BOI: The movie is intense and dramatic. What was the dynamic like between all of you on the sets?

SM: We are all very professional people. We knew we had to stay with these people for a month and we did that. Bas kaam achcha nikalna chahiye. The chemistry between any two characters should be seen on the screen. What they do when the cameras are switched off doesn’t matter.

RS: I have worked with Tillotama before and she is a friend of mine. We have done theatre together and also worked in the film Death In The Gunj. As for Sanjay bhai, this is the first time I have worked with him and I have to say that he is very warm. I don’t have to mention that he is talented and experienced, everyone knows that already.

TS: (Cuts In) And a great storyteller. So many stories.

RS: Yes. Sanjay bhai really took care of us. He would also cook for us sometimes. He once called me to the well on location to take a bath but I didn’t go (Laughs). But, yes, he looks after you and is extremely talented. With him playing the lead, Madhab directing, Tillotama being a part of it, it was a good team effort. At this point, I also have to mention Nila Madhab Panda’s team – Anuj, Kapil, the production guys, the chief assistant director, our DoP Ramanuj, etc. It was a really good team that the director had assembled. Like I said, if the script is inspiring and the team is good, then mushkil kaam bhi maze se ho jata hai.

TS: I completely agree with everything they have said. With all these things, work doesn’t feel like work, no matter how hard it is and how low the budgets are.


BOI: What was your association like with the director, since this is the first time you have worked with him?

TS: He was going to make it at the peak of summer, in that area; it was not going to be shot in the comfort of a studio; and he was hell-bent on making it. I was really taken in by his passion.

SM: In the beginning, when we reached the sets, for the first 2-3 hours and finally working for eight hours, I didn’t even have a word with Nila. I thought I got trapped badly for at least one month and that he wanted to make his own film. On the second day, the call time was 5 am and again, we didn’t speak much for the entire day. Then, he came to my room at night and told me, ‘You look exactly like the character in my film and this is what I was looking for.’ After that, I just followed it.   

RSKadvi Hawa was my first film with him but we have done another film after that. It’s a children’s film called Halka.But speaking of Kadvi Hawa… I really like his cinematic sensibilities. He is a filmmaker in the traditional sense of the word. His understanding of the screenplay, mounting the scenes, looking for the USP of the subjects, blending it visually… I loved all these things about him.

I was also able to express myself easily in front of him. He was quite strict with the others but very warm towards me and I had a good relationship with him. That’s why I did the second film with him, Halka, where I play a father. I think he is one of the finest filmmakers we have. And with every film, he talks about a larger canvas.

TS: Also, this movie was shot on film; this is not a digital film and shot on 16MM. His madness was further amplified because Nila wanted the texture of the film. Even though it was a low-budget film, he took on the challenge because it means you do not have the luxury of extra takes. So even if it is a 3-minute or 4-minute sequence, we would rehearse the entire sequence as it had to be shot in one go, without the privilege of cuts. Things like this indicated that he has a certain way of storytelling.


BOI: Your choice of films has always been unique. How do you select your scripts?

TS: There should be at least one thing I haven’t done before. I do this to learn. If I get something that I have not done before, I get very excited. Also very scared. And in that excitement, that’s the best way for me to grow. I have grown up with music being a part of my life. At this age, I believe I am just trying to catch up. So, for me, learning new languages is like learning a new sound. Whenever I get an opportunity to speak in a different dialect, I get very excited and scared. It is the kind of fear that makes me feel alive. It is one of the main things that help me choose a script. Then there is the director because, at the end of the day, he is the captain of the ship.

RS: Films are my bread and butter. I started my career as an assistant director, and then I directed non-fiction shows before I started hosting non-fiction shows. Then I started acting. It’s been a journey of ups and downs. The motivation is obviously rozi-roti but beyond that, I have always tried to do parts that are different from each other. I have tried never to repeat anything. I was born into a film family, my father was a part of the film industry, so since my childhood, I have seen the consequences of being typecast. I have always fought typecasting. Whenever a film becomes a hit, everybody wants you to do the same type of character again and again. I have suffered losses like that and although it meant having to earn less than I could have, I have been able to do the kind of work that I wanted to do, believed in and loved.

TS: It has taken quite a lot of time for me to become a part of Bombay. When I moved here, there were very few scripts that came my way and I was grateful for anything I was offered. Now, I can choose what I want to do and am grateful when a director trusts me with a part. That is huge, and then the second thing is that I will get to do something new in this film.

SM: I did whatever came my way, I had no other option. After Phas Gaya Re Obama, people said they had started writing parts for me. So, for me too, it is like getting something that I have never done before. I also look for something philosophical in my character because it is so much fun to do something like this.


BOI: We see many movies being made with social messages. Do you believe that movies can change the perceptions of the audience?

RS: I don’t think any artiste or storyteller is obligated to talk about social issues. You can make films for entertainment, you can make films for self-indulgence. Also, anybody can make a film if they can afford to. Having said that, I believe that storytellers and artistes have this unique power and ability to get a message across to the hearts of people, which I feel is difficult for other kinds of communication.

If you want to teach a child that he shouldn’t lie, I doubt he will learn to be honest if you pressurise him.  But if you convey that message in a fictional story, he will understand it. All across the world, across time, we have always conveyed messages through stories. This is a far more effective way of getting your message across; it is like putting medicine in sweets. I do think films have the strength and ability to change perceptions but it is not easy to achieve. If a film is too preachy, people will call it bhaashan, but if there isn’t any subject at all, people will call it a film without a story.

SM: When a popular actor, say, smokes in a film, people start imitating him in real life. Perceptions do change. In the ’70s and ’80s, people followed the ‘angry young man’ trend. People might change their perception after watching our film. Since it is a film about climate change, I guess you will talk about it after watching the film.

TS: I don’t know to what extent cinema can change the world. It’s an age-old debate and I don’t think I am qualified to answer the question. But I think every film has a message. When people watch our film, they will relate to it in their own special way.


BOI: A few films that were to release along with Kadvi Hawa have been postponed. Is that a relief?

RS: I don’t think we have any box office pressure but Nila and Drishyam Films might. If I was a box office star, I wouldn’t have done such films.

SM: It is almost like gambling. If two players leave the table, it is always an advantage. The risks will obviously lessen.

TS: I don’t know how to answer this question.


BOI: Tell us about your future projects.

TS: Satyanshu and Devanshu are brothers and they are making a film titled Chintoo Ka Birthday. I will be sharing screen space with Vinay Pathak. Tanmay Bhatt is producing the film. There is a great energy in that project because almost everyone is a newcomer.

RS: I will be shooting Rajat Kapoor’s Kadak and, in January, shooting Abhishek Chaubey’s film. That’s all
for now.

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