A story of relationships told in the backdrop of the kite festival, ‘Patang’ is a tremendous journey for Prashant Bhargava
Nawazuddin Siddiqui is the toast of independent and unconventional Indian cinema today. A few years ago, when US-based filmmaker Prashant Bhargava met Nawazuddin, the actor had Black Friday and a few other films to his credit, and was largely unknown to mainstream cinema. Prashant wanted to audition Nawazuddin for his film Patang. This wasn’t going to be an audition where an actor had to do a ‘look test’ and emote sequences. Patang’s casting director Anjali Punjabi took Nawazuddin to a crowded market and observed the actor exploring the market. “Nawaz walked to a fish stall, tested the back of the fish, then opened the mouth of the fish and smelled it, dropped it back on the cart and walked away casually with a mysterious expression. We knew we wanted this actor to be part of Patang,” says Prashant Bhargava.
Similarly, he signed the vivacious and beautiful Sugandha Garg by just observing how she got friendly with children on a beach as she was shooting them with her camera.
Prashant’s unconventional method wasn’t limited to the casting process. Patang, a film that is winning praises in the US and international film festivals, took shape after three years of research. Recently, Patang was screened amidst glowing reviews at the Osian’s Cinefan Film Festival 2012 in New Delhi.
Patang narrates the story of six people in the backdrop of the warm, colourful skies of the Old City of Ahmedabad during one of the country’s largest kite festivals. “In 2005, I visited Ahmedabad and when I saw almost half the city gazing up at the sky filled with kites, I knew I had to make this film,” recounts Prashant.
Three years of research later, he shot the film with a largely Indian crew and child actors chosen from the city itself. “The Old City of Ahmedabad is a beautiful place and its people are warm. But it was not easy to shoot a film there, unlike in Mumbai or Delhi. We followed an organic method of shooting and I returned with 100 hours of footage. It took me three years to edit the film,” says Prashant.
Patang was one of the first Indian films to be shot on high definition. “Our unit worked like a family, on and off the sets. The cast and crew took the leap of faith and went with my vision. It was an honour to have Seema Biswas as a part of my film,” says Prashant.
The finished product won hearts and was endorsed by film critic Roger Ebert. “Ebert is also a fine human being. His way of looking at films stems from his tremendous life experience. We also got good reviews in New York Times and LA Times,” says Chicago-based Prashant. He found it easier to release Patang in the US, given his work experience in the country. Prashant has 15 years experience in commercials and music videos and his short film, Sangam, was screened at Sundance Film Festival.
As Prashant talks about Patang, his passion for filmmaking comes to the fore. “It’s been a tremendous journey for me,” he says, hoping to release the film in India between October and December this year.