Himachal Pradesh does not have a film culture. That fails to deter filmmaker Vivek Mohan from charting out his own course
His youthful eyes are in a marked contrast to his more-salt-than-pepper hair. His carefully careless stubble makes a statement hard to miss. And when Vivek Mohan introduces himself, it is hard to believe he comes from a State with no film culture, a State that has done so poorly in the world of cinema that it makes Orissa look positively top notch.
Yes, Vivek, who was on the non-feature film jury for the International Film Festival of India in Goa, is a rare filmmaker from Himachal Pradesh, a State that manages to cover itself with anonymity despite giving us aces like Anupam Kher and Preity Zinta. Vivek himself is a National Award winner for the documentary Malana, a film that told the world to come to India, not go to Greece in search of the earliest democracy.
“My father was a psychiatrist. He wanted me to be in the Army,” says Vivek. He, of course, wanted to have nothing to do with medicine. So, off he went and did graduation in sociology. But the prescription was not quite ready then. So, he searched for his real calling. “That was films only. I did a number of ad films, documentaries, rubbed shoulders with some of the best names in the industry, before finally finding my own feet.” Of course, in-house ad films with Lintas helped him get into the groove. Then, one day, he stepped out of the comforting umbrella, and charted his own course. “Yes, Malana was that moment,” recalls Vivek on a short journey from the Taj Village to INOX, the venue for screening some of the best films at IFFI.
As part of the non-feature film jury, Vivek sat through more than a hundred films to select the best for the Indian Panorama, films that were screened at IFFI and will in due course find their way to Indian Panorama festivals across the country. There was not a single entry from Himachal. Does it rankle the man who has always kept his Himachali identity in the forefront? That a small State like Manipur could have a couple of representations at IFFI but none from Himachal?
“Of course it does. That is why I have been trying to focus on my home State in my films one way or the other. In the past filmmakers have been to Himachal for shooting but a cinema culture is not present in our State. The Government does not do enough to promote cinema. Even seasoned artistes who have brought honours for the State and the country are not recognised by the Government back in Shimla.” Indeed, in Himachal the entertainment industry is confined to the production of music albums!
“Spot the Difference”
But away from his home State and the responsibilities as a jury member, Vivek is charting his own course as a filmmaker. One day maybe he would like to come up with a blockbuster. For the moment though he is happy with Spot the Difference, a film without any dialogue, a film that aims to tell us that at the end of the day we are all human beings irrespective of the difference of religion, caste or creed. Again, it is set in Shimla “It is a simple, straightforward visual narrative of a day in the lives of two people living in Shimla. There is an antique shop owner and a shoe shop man. They follow different faiths but do not realise it till the end that one of them is a Tibetan Buddhist while the other is a Chinese Roman Catholic.” Understated yet the film scores a point. Add to that For Whom the Jingle Bells Toll and his next, and you have a filmmaker who deserves greater recognition than what has come his way. Much like his home State.