This November as Delhiites are having a taste of bitter wind, director Nila Madhab Panda is ready with his “emotional story on climate change.” Set in a village in Bundelkhand, which hasn’t seen rain in the last 15 years, Kadvi Hawa is the story of Hedu and Gunu Babu. Hedu is old and blind and is living under the fear that his farmer son might commit suicide because of his inability to pay back the loan. On the other hand, Gunu Babu, a loan recovery agent who hails from the coastal belt of Odisha, is going all out to recover the loan so that he could quickly take his family out of an area that is prone to cyclones. The crises make them develop a special bond when as Nila remarks, “Hedu decides to change the geography.” The irony, he says, is that we have come to a stage where a blind old man has to save the world.
Kadvi Hawa is one of the 27 feature films that have been selected in Film Bazaar Recommends section of the NFDC’s prestigious event starting this Sunday in Goa. “Many years back, I shot a documentary on climate change for the Discovery Channel. That was the time when nobody took the issue seriously. Today, climate change is not a remote concern. It is here and we can feel it, taste it. It is a local story but the questions that it is raising are of global concern.”
Hedu, he says, “is asking Donald Trump, ‘we are suffering because of what you have done.’ It is an answer to Trump who has called the problem a hoax.” Shot in Chambal region, Nila says these villages are not contributing to carbon footprint of the world. “They don’t even have electricity. There are one or two motorcycles but the largest farmer suicides are happening in Marathwada and Bundelkhand. There is so much pressure of loan that a couple of crop failures take the farmer to the brink.” He underlines the poor are proving to be the biggest sufferers of climate change. “At a time when the Paris Agreement on climate change is still being debated, the film can help build a dialogue.”
Nila says he is no scientist but one can no longer deny the impact of climate change on ordinary lives. “Some might say that it is one of the reasons but it is no longer something that can be brushed aside. Nobody is denying the need of evolution and development but we need a healthy life to enjoy its fruits. And we can buy our air purifier for 17000 rupees but what will the poor man do,” asks the Padma Shri awardee.
Known to find a fountain of life in subjects that appear dry, the director of I Am Kalam, says here again instead of capturing the socio-economic impact, he is interested in looking at the emotional impact of climate change. “For years, so-called art house cinema has presented the poor as bechara living a wretched life. My point is people living in penury also have their little joys. There is a beauty in poverty as well. The poor knows that he can’t become an Ambani, but he also knows that both he and Ambani pray to the same god.” In these digital times, Nila has gone back to celluloid and has shot the film on Super 16mm, Kodak for he believes film still is the gold standard. “I needed it for the kind of imagery and feel I wanted to create.”
Coming back to the narrative, in old and blind Redu played by Sanjay Mishra, Nila has created a sort of superhero. “After the first few minutes you will forget the disability of the witty old man who uses his buffalo as his guide and has humorous conversations with his two granddaughters when he aspires to change geography as we know it. He represents all those fathers who live in fear that their farmer son might commit suicide. But he decides to take on climate change, making him a superhero.” It fills one with the feeling of finding larger than life elements in the narrative. “Of course, there will be, but not in the form of scientific fiction or magic. He will be as larger than life as the boy in I Am Kalam, who decides to study and follow the President of India when thousands of his age compromise with their fate.”
A mercurial actor, Sanjay is known to play characters which exist between real and unreal space. “He almost became the character. Throughout the shooting, he didn’t sit under the fan.” And with Ranvir Shorey and Tilottama Shome providing support, Nila says, he found a team of actors who did complete justice to his vision. “It is by far my most fulfilling experience,” sums up the National Award winner.