PARESH MOKASHI – DIRECTOR OF THE OSCAR NOMINATED FILM FROM INDIA
Posted by Arjun Sekhri on November 16, 2009 | No Comments
Paresh’s film, Harishchandrachi Factory, is the official entry from India, for the Oscar’s to be decided in early 2010. The film is about how India’s first feature film got made against tremendous financial odds. Ironically, Paresh’s story is not very different. He had to mortgage his property, overcome the typical Bollywood mindset and make his film. We managed to catch up with Paresh as he makes the rounds of Los Angeles, trying to muster up the promotion for his film. Both Paresh and his film have come a long way, from the deepest of dungeons of doubts to the highest stage in world cinema.
Try to go against the flow and make it “the flow.”
Over to Paresh.
Tell us a little about your formative years and what got you into the Film Industry?
I started as an actor in Pune, India based organization, Theatre Academy. Later, I became a lead actor in plays for children based upon Grips theatre, Berlin, methodology. I started doing rounds of Mumbai show biz industry but soon realized that I cant do this actor’s struggle. I was associated with Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai. We used to organize theatre festivals. For the1999 festival I directed my play ‘Debuchya Muli’ which I had written earlier. Thus I became writer director on Marathi stage. ‘Mukkam Post Bombilwadi’- a comedy based upon Hitler’s landing accidentally in a little village in coastal Maharashtra, ‘Lagnakallol’- a musical set in early nineteen hundreds and ‘Samudra’- a mystery based upon ancient history are a few of my plays that were successful.
In 2005, I read a biography of Dadasaheb Phalke, the pioneer of Indian cinema. While reading I started seeing visuals in front of my eyes. I decided right there and then to make a film on the making of first Indian film. This was my entry into the film industry.
I am not trained at any institute or have not assisted anybody. I was surrounded by world cinema and that upbringing and impression taught me some basic things about filmmaking. Murnou, Lang, Eisenstein, Tarkovsky and Satyajit Ray are few of my favorites whose films have contribute immensely in the development of my cinema.
On you earlier struggles to get a film like Harishchandrachi factory (“HF”) going and how you overcame that?
As it was my first film, I had to go through what every first time filmmaker goes through. especially if you plan a film like Harishchandrachi Factory- which is off trendy, without any big stars, without song and dance! Nobody supported that concept, a few said yes but on conditions like – I should make it in Hindi, with at least one title track etc. I said no as I wanted to make it the way I was seeing it- simple, without any larger than life treatment, so finally I had to produce it on my own.
What is HF all about and highlights of shooting the film and also any people you would like to recognize, who helped you get the film where it has been?
As I mentioned HF is about the making of India’s first feature film back in 1913. Phalke made it in times when nobody knew this medium existed. He was poor and unemployed at that time. He started to gather information about filmmaking by selling household things and today the Indian film industry is the largest in the world producing 1000 films per year!
My entire cast and crew who believed in me, are the people I must recognize.
My friends at Essar group made it all possible regarding financial support and of course my family who allowed me to mortgage our ancestral property to raise money. Its because of these people the film came to existence.
Irrespective of the outcome from hereon, you are already a winner, as is your film, where do you and the film go from here?
Well, I go back home! After we await the jury’s decision, that is. We have (the film) participated in a lot of competitions in good spirit without expecting anything. We won some and lost some. I am happy to be one of the participants in the Oscars, Golden Globes and Bafta. I want to spread this adventure of Phalke and pay tribute to all the pioneers in the world of motion pictures.
Any words of wisdom for those out there who go “against the flow,” as you did in case of HF?
Keep going that way and try to make it ‘the flow’. We have to come up constantly with these stories of terrific common people who without any support achieved something that benefited future generations.
Your thoughts and feeling on getting the Oscar nomination and what other doors has that opened for you, both in India and across the globe?
As I said I am looking at it quite objectively. There are other good films around too. so what could a first time filmmaker say? I am surprised at being here. As my film is about filmmaking and that too showing adventures in the making of world’s largest film industry, I am sure it will attract people. Some people and some big companies, have, already shown interest in my next set of films. I have some ideas that are in the developing stage. So now, I don’t need to worry about finance anymore. Thats good!