Movies

Location is always an important character: Praveen Mochchale

ON A LEARNING CURVE: Praveen says he picked Yangthang from 30 villages that he visited to find the right location for “Walking With the Wind”   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Making waves in the festival circuit, filmmaker Praveen Mochchale’s second feature film, Walking With The Wind, has recently won the top prize at the 21st Tertio Millennio Film Festival in Rome.

Shot in a village near Leh with the help of a predominantly local cast and crew, the film is photographed by the Iranian cinematographer Mohammad Reza Jahanpanah, known for his work on Jafar Panahi’s critically-acclaimed film, Closed Curtain.

Here, Morchhale, whose debut feature, Barefoot to Goa, was released through crowdfunding, talks about the challenges of making small budget films about serious issues affecting the society at large through the use of children protagonists.

Location is always an important character: Praveen Mochchale

Excerpts:

What are you trying to tell us through Walking With The Wind?

It tells the story of a 10-year-old boy who tries to rectify his mistake which he commits unintentionally. During the journey, he explores socio-political hemisphere of the society and its people. What may seem a trivial matter can lead to serious problems in the world the boy lives in. He is unaware that this journey will finally make him a man.

What lends the film its universal appeal?

I attribute it to its simplicity and truthfulness. I see my film as a slice taken from the Himalayan peace and beauty, focusing on the local people’s daily life. During the interactive sessions after film festival screenings, I have learnt that the audiences are touched by the beauty of the people’s heart and the nature. The film’s honest depiction of good natured people is being loved by the audiences across countries.

How was the experience of shooting in a village in Ladakh region?

For me, location is always an important character as I like to tell stories through images which are at the heart of my cinema. So when I got the idea, before even writing a single page of the story, I started visualising the location and realised that the barren Himalayan region’s tough terrain would be the ideal place and in no time I was on the plane to Leh. It was December when I first visited the place; temperature was almost -12 degrees centigrade at that time. I travelled across almost 30 villages over a period of six days and found Yangthang to be quite suitable, visually mesmerising and best suited to the story. It’s a small cluster village with just 15 houses and 30 people residing in it. More importantly people were so kind and helpful.

We faced numerous unpredictable challenges during the shoot. I look forward to challenges as only then we are at our creative best and are able to work to our maximum capacity. We faced low oxygen levels, as we were shooting at 13000 feet altitude and so we could not even walk fast. Also every character in the film is performed by real people and non-actors who only knew the local Ladakhi language and our crew had zero ability to understand or speak that language. But it was a wonderful experience to work with those kind-hearted people. Somehow, we communicated visually and that came on the screen very well.

Location is always an important character: Praveen Mochchale
 

You shot your first film in just 21 days and this one only took 17 days to shoot. How are you able to shoot feature length films within such a short duration?

I cannot afford the luxury of shooting at leisure as we are working on a micro budget, mostly working with non-actors and local people. If I operate at a slow pace, my non-actors may get bored or disinterested and that could be the biggest challenge so shooting fast is the only way to keep them engaged. Also, I like fast paced work and my whole team is always ready to work fast overcoming all hurdles. We improvise a lot but we don’t shoot randomly. It saves our time at the edit table as well.

Tell us about your association with renowned Iranian cinematographer Mohammad Reza Jahanpanah

I saw one film shot by Reza at the Mumbai Film Festival and loved a particular long shot very much; I thought if I could shoot my whole film like that with such aesthetics, it would be wonderful. I found his contact and wrote him an email and he was on board within seven days. He knows English so communicating with him wasn’t a problem. I am so glad that we were on the same page with the scenes which helped a lot in shaping up the film. Reza is a thorough gentleman, so down to earth. He never ever had any complaint despite working in conditions that were very hard to adjust to. In fact, he had a twisted ankle and despite severe pain, he was climbing the mountains to capture the best possible images. He was loved by one and all in the crew.

In Barefoot to Goa, you relied more on images than dialogues. Walking With The Wind too appears to be visually rich with minimal use of dialogues. Why do dialogues tend to take the back seat in your films?

I love depicting emotions through images. In fact, in the film, the protagonist experiences, expresses and explores the life and its contradictions, mostly in silence. We all understand emotions through the visuals and we only need to talk when we are unable to communicate visually. If I can express without words, why should there be any dialogue? Also, too many dialogues may end up giving a certain direction or force audience to think in a certain way, which I don’t like. I like to leave the audience to think and visualise their own journey along with the characters in their own way.

Why do you use children to tell stories that are actually related to the issues affecting adults?

I believe children express the emotions in the purest form. Their honesty in seeing the society and family from their point of view makes cinema much more effective in communicating to the adults.

What are the challenges and advantages of working with non-actors?

They are real and express the most honest emotions, naturally. Non-actors are fearless and are least aware of camera. That’s the beauty of working with non-actors. They take the audience and me closer to reality, enhancing the believability. I believe it is much more easier to get a slice of life experience from the real people than eliciting the right performance from actors. In Walking With The Wind, every person is doing his role like he does every day in real life. This made the film very special and realistic. The differently able blind person in the film was indeed a blind poet, carpenter a real carpenter, and the Japanese documentary filmmaker in the film is a Japanese lady and she lives in Ladakh. Most importantly, it was everyone’s first experience of facing the camera.

Visually speaking, your films bear similarities to certain Iranian films. Also, you have dedicated your film to the late Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami. Are you influenced by the work of Iranian filmmakers?

Capturing simple people, their simple lives and in the simplest form without using gimmicks is what I love. Iranian Cinema pioneered this simplicity. As opposed to the escapist style of cinema, I am more content with our own reality and stories. Now our audiences have also started loving realistic cinema, cinema with soul.

For me, Abbas Kiarostami was an epitome of simple cinema. His cinema has layers of philosophical meaning and innovation. I love his creativity and innovation in the film medium to express stories in a minimalist way. For filmmakers like me, who have tonnes of stories to share but have limited resources, Abbas Kiarostami is a guiding force to be innovative, to be brave to create cinema without worrying much about the commercial aspects.

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Printable version | Apr 19, 2021 11:09:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/cinema-with-soul/article21911199.ece

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