MANAV KAUL – I AM CONTENT CAUSE I AM LIVING MY DREAM
Posted by barkha on January 27, 2013 | No Comments
As an actor, in a film laden with solid actors, he stood out in 1971. For the people who know him from theater, he has always stood out as a talented, committed and sincere individual and artist. He dreams not of a car and a house, he dreams of that perfect performance. It is this drive which made him complete his first feature HANSA and it went all the way to theatrical in India and the same passion made him complete his second film, again with no particular ambition, other than a self fulfilling journey to push his and those he surrounds himself with, to their ultimate journey of fine performances. We talk to Manav Kaul, an exception, in this mad world of Bollywood. A true artist:
Why acting and how come the move to writing and direction?
I am born in Kashmir, but I grew up in Hoshangabad, a very small town in Madhya Pradesh. From there I started doing theater as an actor and it just hooked me. See in India honestly, there is no money in theater, yet, people who do theater are so passionate that it results in some very interesting work. And as a youngster you often get hooked to these very bizarre and crazy ideas and one such idea that became my calling, was to do theater all my life. So I showed up in Mumbai in 1999, primarily to work with Pandit Satyadev Dubey, the legendary playwright and director, and while doing films was also on my agenda, it was theater that drew me. In 2003, in a very depressing time in my life, I digressed towards writing. Such was that lure of writing that I stopped acting completely in 2003. I wrote my first play called Shakar Ke Paanch Daane (5 Grains of Sugar). I also ended up directing this play and formed my theater group, as a result of this play. This play was very appreciated for its freshness, in both writing, directing and the performances. Because of this success I started writing and directing more plays and that is the point of my life in Mumbai, that I really started enjoying, because I realized who I really am, a writer and a director. However, experimental theater in India, has a very limited market. All this while I continued to get some solid acting offers, primarily because people knew me from theater. 1971, Daayen Ya Baayen, etc were films I did during this time, as an actor. These movies took me to my favorite location, the mountains of North India. During this time I started thinking that since experimental theater is taking all my time and money, why don’t I step on it and make experimental films, albeit with lots of time and no money. So I wrote my first film Hansa and I told my theater group that I don’t have much money, but I can pay your fare, so lets go to the mountains for a month and see what comes out of that. We thought we would stay there, do a workshop with children, read the script that I had and take it from there. I have no idea why, but they all agreed! So we showed up and within a month wrapped up our film. Nobody knew any aspect of filmmaking, but we all wore multiple hats, everyone was experimenting and this honesty came out in the film. We ended up getting two very prestigious awards in the OSIAN film festival, the critics and more importantly the audience, which surprised me and also mattered the most to me. PVR saw the film, in the festival and said they would like to release our film. This shocked me since I, in all honesty, thought this is a film we will see amongst our theater group and leave it at that. Theatrical was beyond my wildest dreams. So I gave the film to PVR and last month (Dec, 2012) the film got released. We got some amazing reviews, but due to lack of publicity did not make a big box office noise, but nevertheless, we all felt great, as it ran in 6 cities.
For an experimental journey, so seeing the first day and first show, at PVR, how did that feel?
I had Rs 12,000 in my pocket the day I thought I want to make a film. But one thing theater in India teaches you, our plays and our world is on the edge at all times, and within the constraints of that, we have to train very hard and we have to perform better than the best, since there is no option. That helps in the movie too, as an actor when I am facing the director, what I have done in the past means nothing, at that point the director demands the best possible performance and I have to deliver. We finished our shooting in Rs 5 lacs (USD 10,000), I borrowed some money, I had some of my own. We actually thought we will make this film and watch it amongst us, over a cup of chai. I never made this film with a mindset that this is a kind of film that will be released. I had written something and I wanted to visually see that being enacted, that’s it. We did not know what length we would end up in the film, we had no idea whether we had a 5D, 7D, just that what we got, we used and filmed. We finished the shooting in 17 days, came back, a buddy of mine offered his editing services for free, so we started editing on the computer. We were having fun editing, experimenting. This was the first time I was actually seeing the film being cut. Then when I started showing the film to people, they started to react very positively and I thought, “maybe just maybe I have made something even half decent, so let’s do something about it.” So basically just step by step we moved ahead. So first day, first show, when the name “HANSA” appeared, we all screamed, I mean we felt overwhelmed, here we are in PVR, it was nice as people recognized their name, as the first day first show all the cast and crew showed up. I think the honesty and simplicity came through.
And barely has December 2012 passed, and now you have just completed filming your second film, no break, no celebration?
I think basically it is because I am a writer. The moment I finished HANSA, I showed up in FTII as I was directing a play there. I had some time on my hands, so I decided to write something as I had an idea in my mind. So I started to write and it took shape and before I know the screenplay is fully written. Everything else magically followed, I got the right actors, right crew and we went ahead a just shot it. It is a poetic film and is now beginning the post production journey. It is called ANTIM ARANYA. I wanted to see poetry on screen, again experimental.
There is a certain freshness and positivity about you, despite the struggle, where does that come from and how do you ensure you keep it going with a Bollywood hell bent on imposing itself on you?
From 2004 when I started my group till now, I have always been working and doing theater, which was my dream and my life ambition, so basically I am living my dream. I guess that shows. The house and all else can wait, this is what I want to do, work in theater for now. In fact I have got more theater and more aspects of it, than I had ever expected. I love to write experimental plays and films, but at the same time entertaining, and entertaining in my sensibility. Regular Bollywood, at least for now, does not seem to interest me too much.
What is upcoming on the acting front?
There is Abhishek Kapoor’s (ROCK ON) Kai Po Che, which I am looking forward to.