Saturday, January 14, 2012

Piff: Sujay Dahake & His School

I have seen the next Poster Boy of Marathi cinema and his name is Sujay Dahake.

If the statement sounds grandiose and prophetic, then it is. Out of nowhere comes a youngster, with a film which looks mature beyond the years of its maker. During the press meet on Saturday, after the film premiered at the Pune International Film Festival on Friday, director of the festival Jabbar Patel, who was moderating the event, had to ask twice to this unassuming young man in a low-key leather jacket if he really was the director of the film ‘Shala’ (School). He said he was indeed. He was confident. He knew what he was doing.

And, he is young, incredibly young. Just 25. And is ready with a film, and the film looks spectacular, at least on youtube.

How was it like seeing his first film being screened at the film festival. “Since I’m from this city, I have been attending Piff for the last 10 years, and I always wished one day my film will be screen here. So, it was a dream come true,” he takes a pause, and adds: “Yesterday’s screening was overwhelming. The hall was packed, with people sitting on the aisles. There were more people outside who couldn’t enter the hall. Even I, myself, did not get to see the film yesterday.”

Even before the premier, the film has generated a lot of interest among the public. Producer Nilesh Navalakha lets out the secret. “We have had a great campaign though social media. Our Facebook page has received more than 9,000 likes (which is wonderful for a Marathi film), and even the youtube videos of the film has received considerable number of hits.”

But, what’s ‘Shala’ is all about? The Facebook page says it’s a love story from real India. “It’s an adolescent love story set against the backdrop of Emergency,” says Dahake. It’s one of the darkest hours of India’s history, and, it all happened more than 10 years before Dahake was born.

And, then, that very moment, during the press conference at Hotel Rendezvous, something wonderful happened. I don’t know how many people actually noticed it, but it struck to me after Jabbar Patel mentioned his film ‘Sinhasan’ (which was made during Emergency). There they were, two generations of filmmakers, one veteran, one brand-new, both of whom have made films against the backdrop of the same time, a rather sordid history of our time, and they are here sharing a platform, talking about marketing local films. (Patel said how he decided to release ‘Singhasan’ as soon as possible without much ado, as he feared that once Mrs Gandhi came back to power, she may have a problem with the film. It was another story that film was well-received, and now considered to be a masterpiece of sorts.)

While ‘Shala’ has become popular via internet among the urban/multiplex audiences, what marketing strategies are there for the audiences in other parts of the state, say Nashik, or Nandurbar, asks Patel. And, this is where the market for Marathi audience lies.

Basked on a novel by Milind Bokil, ‘Shala’ tells the story of a group of school boys in 1975 as they experience love and political turmoil at the same time.

And oh, his confidence. Dahake said he edited the film himself, as he did not want others to butchers his shots. “I’m perhaps little selfish that way,” he says politely. Perhaps. But, it also shows quiet confidence.

Dahake did his masscom from Pune, then studied film semiotics in Mumbai before going to Philippines to study further. Here’s another interesting thing. Here is one fresh new voice who is not a passout of FTII.

Jury is still out on how good the film really is, literally, as the film is in the competition as well at the Piff. But, one thing is certain, we have a brand new vision to watch out for.

(Picture courtesy Pune International Film Festival 2012.)
The Facebook Page.

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