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UNCONVENTIONAL FARE Nitin Kakkar at The All American Diner. Photo: Sandeep Saxena

UNCONVENTIONAL FARE Nitin Kakkar at The All American Diner. Photo: Sandeep Saxena   | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

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Nitin Kakkar on making “Filmistaan” and why he would like to visit Pakistan one day

As relations between Indian and Pakistan continue to seesaw dangerously, it is perhaps a good time to turn to the sobering influence of cinema.

At India Habitat Centre, a package of four films from India and Pakistan is being shown this August. Titled ‘From Both Sides of the LoC’, the films ( Filmistaan, Khuda Kay Liye, Bol and Ramchand Pakistani) underline the salience of cultural exchange in bringing the two countries closer to each other.

In town to attend the screening of Filmistaan, its director Nitin Kakkar says the film’s unconventional approach was an outcome of long years of thinking on the subject. The film, which released earlier this year, touched a few hearts with its focus on the commonalities between the two nations rather than their differences.

“The way India thinks is controlled by a lot of things – politicians, media, social media. There are two ways of looking at it – a way of looking at the world the way they want you to see it, and a way of looking at it with your own eyes. Over a period of time I’ve started seeing the world from my eyes,” the filmmaker says. Manto’s stories proved to be a huge influence in this regard, he adds.

“Whenever there’s any tension between the two countries you ban their music, ban their artists, ban their cricketers. I am saying you should increase them. If you increase the cultural exchange, you will be able to see how much we have in common.” Pointing to the success of the newly launched channel Zindagi as evidence, he says, “It has brought happiness to so many faces. And my mother-in-law has finally started watching television!”

We are at The All American Diner in India Habitat Centre, with a few hours until the screening of the film. On the recommendation of our hosts, Nitin chooses a chicken hotdog from their special promotional menu, while I opt for the mushrooms on toast. Although he is not a big fan of fast food, he has been forced to make an exception today. “I am a hardcore Punjabi, I love rajma-chawal. I can die for it,” he says. “I think in every Punjabi household they make namak mirchi ke paranthe with malai. That used to be my staple.”

“Recently I have developed a taste for a lot of cuisines, including several Indian cuisines. The brilliant part of India is you travel 300 kms and the food changes. In Maharashtra, the food of Satara is different from the food of Kolhapur and Pune. It’s very interesting to see,” Nitin adds.

He doesn’t venture very often into the kitchen, but years of living alone have taught him a few things. “When I have time on my hands, I cut vegetables. It is fun, although it can be a pain for people who do it everyday. But if you enjoy it nothing like it; and that holds true for anything you do.”

After having worked as an assistant to a music video director and in television, Nitin realised he wasn’t enjoying what he did. It strengthened his resolve to pursue his passion for films. Incidentally, Filmistaan hinges on the mutual love for films on both sides of the border, and Nitin’s own love for cinema comes from his father, who became a photographer in the film industry after his family moved from Lahore to Mumbai via Jalandhar. “We had a lab in our house; the dark room, the red light, I've seen it in my childhood. My toys were the rolls and glazed sheets. I think that is where the seed of movies was sown.”

Now directing Fanne Khan, a Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra production, Nitin says Filmistaan has been a huge learning experience – getting it released particularly. “ Filmistaan in many ways is unconventional. To begin with, there’s no heroine. You have an actor who doesn’t look conventional...and the major problem was the fact that none of us were known people.”

But Nitin is content with the response it got. With a sip of his watermelon juice, he says his abiding wish is to go to Pakistan. “...The first thing I want to do is eat their food, their Lahori kababs and paranthas...one day I will sneak in!”

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 9:20:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/nitin-kakkar-on-filmistaan-and-pakistan/article6334721.ece

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