Delhi

An adventurous take on a burning issue

Nila Madhab Panda

Nila Madhab Panda  

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Director Nila Madhab Panda of ‘I am Kalam’ fame comes up with his new film ‘Jalpari - The Desert Mermaid’ which focuses on the social evil of female foeticide. Madhur Tankha finds out what went into the making of the project....

The skewed sex ratio between males and females is widening in different parts of the country. After doing an exhaustive research on the subject, film-maker Nila Madhab Panda, who came into the limelight with I am Kalam, has made a feature film on female foeticide which will release across the country on August 31.

Comparing his upcoming film with I am Kalam, Nila says Jalpari - The Desert Mermaid is basically a family adventure while his earlier flick was about the need to educate the underprivileged children and was in sync with the Right to Education Act.

“Though my first feature film was preachy it was made in a way so as to create interest among cinemagoers. While in I am Kalam I had roped in Gulshan Grover who justified his character, for upcoming venture I have Parveen Dabas who is a talented actor.”

Nila feels that film-lovers are eager to watch a real adventure film so he weaved a narrative in which a young girl finds out that there is deep corruption in a village.

“Our villages are not the same anymore. To understand why a large number of families in urban as well as rural areas prefer a boy instead of a girl child, I travelled across the country. Interacting with a number of men and women to find out whether there was pressure from their orthodox families to give birth to a boy was a time-consuming experience yet extremely gratifying. Earlier, we thought that female foeticide was rampant in Haryana but even in Maharashtra and other States the gulf between males and females is widening.”

Unlike his first film I Am Kalam which was inspired by the persona of former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, this upcoming venture is about two children who are on a mission to discover the secrets of a village.

“It is about a well-heeled family from the tiny neighbourhood of New Delhi which travels to a village in Haryana. Shreya finally arrives at her father’s village for the first time during her vacations. Shreya, who is the tomboy of the family, and her brother Sam had in their imagination spun the village right out of a fairytale, replete with streams, lakes and grasslands that will allow them to run free. But all they find are dusty alleys, dried up ponds and hostile playmates.”

The story revolves around the adventures and misadventures of Shreya and Sam, which transform this dull place bereft of water and women into a land of enchantment. “But unknown places have many secrets and here too secrets lurk at every corner. Strangely-behaving villagers, a witch and a no-access zone beyond the hills intrigue Shreya, more so after housemaid Shabri tells her various mysterious stories about the village. Then, one night, Shreya sees Shabri and her husband Trilochan slink away, and starts following them, only to find out a horrifying secret the village harbours.”

Parvin Dabas, Suhasini Mulay, Lehar Khan and Harsh Mayar, the lead child actor of ‘I Am Kalam, who was honoured with the National Award, are the main actors.

One of the reasons for the filmmaker to rope in Parveen Dabas, who is essaying Dev, is because he comes from “the Jat community living on the outskirts of Delhi.”

“A doctor, Dev belongs to a nondescript village of Haryana but now lives in Delhi. He wants to make a hospital in his native village and keeps going back for the same. He has two children, a girl and boy, and is a responsible father.

Parveen who plays father of the protagonist instantly agreed to work with Nila because he loves the kind of cinema the filmmaker is famous for on the international circuit. And also because Nila is among a handful of directors who can make entertaining films which convey messages in an indirect way.

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Printable version | Dec 11, 2019 4:24:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/an-adventurous-take-on-a-burning-issue/article3798182.ece

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