Treads on the thin line between truth and delusion

Moon on the Man a documentary on two individuals whose claims seemed bizarre

Published - December 13, 2021 08:25 am IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

Curiosity about lives of two men led to the making of the documentary Moon on the Man.

Curiosity about lives of two men led to the making of the documentary Moon on the Man.

During his college days in Mumbai in 2007, filmmaker Prince Shah was having a late night tea with his friends when a stranger with the looks and demeanour of a movie star came to them and asked them to buy him tea and bun. They got curious about him and later it turned out that he was once a movie star.

He introduced himself as Master Sailesh, a once-popular child actor who starred in films like Yaadon Ki Baaraat with a young Aamir Khan, but later due to various circumstances ended up in the streets of Mumbai where he has lived for decades.

Around the same time, Shah and his friends met Praklawn, another intriguing character, who claims to have had an epic life, from being the youngest freedom fighter to having associated with filmmaker Guru Dutt and James Bond creator Ian Fleming.

But, there was no proof for his claims, although the stories he narrated did not have any loopholes, especially with the time periods and other details mentioned.

The curiosity about these lives led Shah to making Moon on the Man a documentary on the two individuals with somewhat similar trajectories, which was screened in the long documentary competition at the 13th International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK) on Sunday. The documentary begins as a quest for the truth behind their claims, with two aspiring filmmakers Asif and Wadood debating on the truth of their claims.

Praklawn, 80, who seems to have friends all over the streets of Mumbai, claims that he had taken part in the freedom struggle as a young boy. Some years later, filmmaker Guru Dutt approached him when he was singing on the beach his own song titled ‘Yeh hai Bombay Meri Jaan’, which Praklawn claims was used by Guru Dutt in the movie CID . He says that he was not credited as per his request, as his conservative foster parents wouldn’t have liked it. He also claims to have associated with Dutt in some more movies.

“After we met him, we were very curious as human beings to whether he is telling the truth or not. We wanted to decode him and started making this documentary to study why he is saying what he is saying. We pursued and pursued them and made the film with footage shot over 5-6 years. Whenever we were free, we used to shoot. It is a self-funded project, as it got rejected from several places for funds,” says Shah.

What begins as a mere curious quest soon raises it to something in which the truth does not matter, and becomes a celebration of two individuals who seem to have derived much pleasure from each minute they have lived on the earth. With some captivating frames and organic moments, which comes only with a thorough familiarity with the subject, the film also documents life on Mumbai streets.

“From Praklawn’s point of view, he has achieved as much as someone who has gone to the moon. Some people may call it delusional, but we just need to be empathetic about other people because we don’t know their reality,” says Shah.

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