Veteran Marathi theatre personality Paresh Mokashi had never imagined in his wildest dreams that his debut film on the father of Indian cinema, Dada Saheb Phalke, would be shorlisted by the Film Federation of India for the Oscars. Paresh, who is now here for the screening of his film at Osian’s Cinefan Film Festival at Siri Fort, says his film Harishchandrachi Factory chronicles the several obstacles that Phalke faced while making the silent film on Raja Harishchandra.
Associated with theatre for the past two decades, Paresh has neither been to a film institute nor assisted any filmmaker. He got inspiration to make the film on the legendary filmmaker after reading a biography on the multi-faceted personality. He also did thorough research at the National Film Archives.
Paresh describes the whole process of making a movie on India’s first feature film as a “terrific adventure”. “I avoided a few things like flashbacks or black and white scenes. The grand frame and technical nitty-gritty have also been avoided. I’ve come out with a simple film that shows some aspects of this larger-than-life character,” he says.
On Dada Saheb Phalke
Like Dada Saheb, he also had to mortgage his personal belongings to make the film. “There were many aspects to Dada Saheb’s personality. He learnt magical tricks from a German magician, had a sense of humour and a sharp scientific mind. So instead of showing all sides of his personality, I decided to depict a small part of it.”
The theatre personality, who has directed, written the screenplay for and produced Harishchandrachi Factory, says making the film has helped him get acquainted with the technical aspects of film-making. Paresh decided to make the film in his mother tongue (Marathi) as otherwise the whole story would have got lost in translation.
He has carefully done his homework to promote his film for the Oscars. Paresh says even Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan had to publicise his highly acclaimed film Lagaan abroad during the run-up to the Oscars: “Even established film-makers have to publicise their movies. You always face a hard time selling your first feature film. I want my film to be in the reckoning at the Golden Globe and BAFTA. Fortunately we are not cash-strapped. Besides UTV, Paprika Media is supporting my film.”
“It is important to create a buzz around your movie. Luckily, UTV that promoted Rang De Basanti and Tare Zameen Par in the run-up to the Oscars is distributing my film. On November 2, I will travel to New York for the South Asia Film Festival. Then I will go to Georgia for another film festival,” adds Paresh, whose film will be dubbed in Hindi and also sub-titled in regional languages.
Paresh started as an actor with Theatre Academy Pune. His plays like Sangeet Debunchya Muli, Mukkampost Bombilwadi and Lagnakallol have been described as experimental and vivid by critics.