The great Indian story: Bharatbala on his ‘Virtual Bharat’ initiative

Filmmaker Bharatbala   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Bharatbala is involved in a five-year project, and one that he hopes will open the eyes of Indians to the glory of their country. “Some tell me Indians don’t find India cool anymore, and that it is no longer the country we loved. I don’t have the answers to all that... I found plenty to be proud about,” he says, in a telephonic chat. He will showcase that in his mammoth project, titled ‘Virtual Bharat’, a collection of 1,000 short films that will be released one by one in the coming months.

The first film, Thaalam, released recently, and showcased the men behind the boat races of Kerala, and Bharatbala has several more exciting stories to share. Excerpts from a chat with the director, who is well known for his ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Gurus of Peace’:

What is the basic idea behind ‘Virtual Bharat’?

We’re making 1,000 films. Over the years, I have collected many stories during my travels across the country. In the last few years, thanks to the new avenues that are now available due to Internet penetration, I thought that this was an opportune time to make these stories into short films. Imagine a child growing up in Nagaland, who hasn’t explored the country much, watching a beautiful story based in Orissa. I believe that this virtual museum of stories is a way of connecting India.

Your first film, Thaalam, showcased the boat races of Kerala. On what basis did you select that as your subject?

I’ve been to Alleppey many times and watched the boat race, but what fascinated me was who those 150 people rowing the boats were. They were not athletes or sportspersons, they were shopkeepers, plumbers and school teachers who were coming together to train. When I asked them what brought them together, they said, ‘Thaalam’. Their main purpose was to find the thaalam (rhythm) that would get them together in unison.

The great Indian story: Bharatbala on his ‘Virtual Bharat’ initiative

What other themes do you plan to explore in subsequent projects?

The next film is titled The First Man, which revolves around an adivasi poet from Sambalpur. Every film will be introduced to the world by one leading personality; while Thaalam was introduced by AR Rahman, The First Man will be announced by Gulzaar saab. The third film, on a quaint little village in Punjab where every child learns classical music, will be released by Shreya Ghoshal. On October 2, we plan to release a film titled Chasing Gandhi. It’s about this man who runs bare-bodied on Cathedral Road, Chennai, every morning. With that, I wanted to explore what values he was chasing. I want to make projects that are timeless, and am looking at telling human stories because that will transcend boundaries and connect with audiences across the world.

What is the most challenging aspect of this project?

The research part. All of them need tremendous research, and work on 300 stories are already done. Also, each film will be in its original language. I envision them not as reportage but as stories, one that needs protagonists, beautiful cinematography and music.

So, the intention is to introduce India to Indians who might not have explored the country, right?

When I shot one of these films in a Tamil Nadu village, even people in the neighbouring villages didn’t know about the aspect I was concentrating on. So yes, some of these stories do uncover untold narratives. I want the average Indian consumer to start celebrating the creative side of the country; tomorrow, if he/she sees a temple or a piece of architecture, respect should arise. The intention is to celebrate the creativity that is present in abundance in our country, in under 10 minutes.

Your last commercial film was Maryan with Dhanush. When do you plan your next feature?

I’ve finished the script of a Hindi film, and am in the process of casting currently. It will go on floors early next year.

The films will be made available on YouTube and later

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 1:41:58 AM |

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