Paresh Mokashi: ‘I’m Very Critical of My Own Movies'
Paresh Mokashi Interview

Paresh Mokashi: ‘I’m Very Critical of My Own Movies'

The director delves into his filmmaking process, the future of Marathi cinema and Pune in the Nineties

Paresh Mokashi, whose Harishchandrachi Factory (2009) was India's official entry to the 82nd Academy Awards, recently released his comedy thriller, Vaalvi. The film follows a couple planning to commit the ‘perfect’ murder. Their undertaking goes awry and how. Mokashi’s Vaalvi confounds, first by its circumstance, and later, by the characters’ nonchalance towards it. In an interview with Film Companion, the director, currently working on a Hindi-language mystery film, spoke about Vaalvi and the future of Marathi cinema. Here are the edited excerpts:

In the past decade, has Marathi cinema progressed the way you expected it to or has it surprised you? Where do you see it going in the future? 

Well, I'm a very difficult man to please. I'm very critical of my own movies, so I don't know how to answer this but generally speaking, I'm happy that we are tackling so many subjects and coming up with different narratives. But of course, I'm not satisfied 100% with the quality of the filmmaking, including my own. 

I don't see any one particular direction. People are making films the way they want, so that's why we see so much variety in content and presentation. I'm happy that so many types of movies are being made.

Where do you see your own stories going next?

I have always focused on …jisse hum Marathi aur Hindi mein ‘Shaili’ kehte hai (what we call 'Shaili' in Marathi and Hindi, loosely translated as 'style' or 'cinematic narrative ' in the language of the critics.) I try to focus more on that because the rest are secondary in making a film. Even the story takes the backseat, kyunki aapki film ek chitrapat ke starr par sashakt honi chahiye (because a film should stand on its own feet without taking the support of different subjects)

How was Vaalvi’s story conceived?

My wife and I sat one day and this one particular visual came to us - a husband and wife standing in front of each other with guns pointed at their own heads, ready to commit suicide. Of course, it took a different route towards the end, (but) that's how it began: A couple is trying to plan the perfect murder, (and) get away with it.


What’s working with your wife, Madhugandha Kulkarni, like?
It's a husband and wife writing a film script together…I mean you can imagine. I won't go into the details, she may read the interview. I need to protect myself. But yes, it's part and parcel of any two writers working together, but since we live together I have to be careful with my words. Of course, we debated, we quarrelled but ultimately thoda sa unki sunno, thoda sa meri sunno , yeh keh-kehke phir baat aage badhti hai (sometimes I give in, sometimes she does, and so the writing continues.)

Was Vaalvi inspired by something? 

None of my films are. Humare teenage se leke abhi filmmaking ki avastha tak ki jo yatra hai woh inn saare film festivals, National Film Archive (NFAI) and Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) mein screenings hua karti thi, unke karan hi…yeh jo hum ‘vyasang’ kehte hain, ‘exposure’ to world cinema, that happened and guided me and made me the filmmaker I am. (From my teenage to my life as a filmmaker, I’ve been exposed to world cinema through screenings at film festivals, NFAI and FTII.) I was never a student in any film school. Toh jo hazaron filmein dekhte hain aap, wahi aapki shiksha bann jati hain. Humare jo adarsh filmmakers maane jaate hain, duniya ke sabse bade, toh wahi mere bhi shikshak hain kahin na kahin. Lekin kisi ko drishti ke samne rakhkar koi baat ki ho…aisa hua nahi hai. (I’ve never received formal education in filmmaking. It was watching countless films by the greats that comprised my education. But I haven’t idealised any person or film while making my own.)  

If you haven’t received any formal education, how did FTII come into the picture? 

FTII mein mere bahut saare professor mitr the, mujhse bade the. Yeh naya ladka hai, yuva ladka hai jo filmmaking mein interest le raha hai toh woh screening pe bulaya karte the mujhe, jab bhi unke students ke liye screening hua karti thi. Federico Fellini, (Michelangelo) Antonioni, (Vittorio) De Sica and (Andrei) Tarkovsky, matlab inn saare logo se wahin pehcchan hui. Phir kabhi NFAI mein screening hua karti thi, kabhi Alliance Francaise mein, kabhi Max Mueller mein. Yeh jo saari antarashtriya sansthaein hain, wahan bhi humara mitr parivar tha. Eighties and Nineties ka dashak ka Pune hai, usne mujhe bahut kuch diya hai, theatre se leke, sahitya se leke, sangeet se leke, chitrapaton tak, bahut sara uss vatavaran ne diya hai.

(I had friends who were professors at FTII, albeit older. I was young and interested in filmmaking, so they would call me for the screenings they held for their students. There, I was introduced to Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Vittorio De Sica, and Andrei Tarkovsky’s films. There would also be screenings at NFAI, Alliance Francaise and Max Mueller. I had friends in these international organisations. Pune in the Eighties and Nineties exposed me to everything from theatre and literature to music and film. That environment contributed a lot to making me who I am.)


Was there a learning that stuck with you from the sets of Vaalvi?

Yehi learning thi ki abhinay par adhik zor dena uchit nahi hai, kyunki jo charon pramukh kalakar hai Vaalvi ke woh bahut hi anubhavi kalakar hai. Hum sabhi log natakon se upar aye hai sangharsh karte karte aur ab filmein mein bhi thoda bahot sthaan utpan kiya hai. Woh jaise hain, jo bhi unka skillset hai, woh paryapt hai iss bhumika ke liye, iss chitrapat ke liye. Maine nirnaye leliya aur kisi par bojh nahi dala ki issi prakar ki acting karni hai. Toh bas Vaalvi ka yeh ek learning experience tha ki kyunki mere paas bahut hi acche kalakar the, toh abhinay par zyada dhyan dene ki awashyakta nahi padhi mujhe, toh maine shots par, uske flow par adhik dhyan diya. 

(I learnt that it’s not right to focus too much on the acting. The four leads are experienced actors. All of us began as theatre artists and have now made a name for ourselves in the film industry too. Who they are as people and as actors is appropriate for their characters and the film. I had decided not to tell anyone what kind of acting they should do. So that was the learning…because I was working with excellent artists, I could focus on the shots and the pace of the film.)

What struck me was the transition from panic to sheer indifference. How was that incorporated into the film?

I didn't give it a thought because once the story was ignited, woh engine shuru ho gaya aur phir woh apne raaste par chalne laga (and once it was set in motion, it all fell into place.) Marathi mein ek kahawat hai, ‘Pindi te Brahmandi’, jo aapke core mein hai, ussi drishti se aap brahmand ki ore dekhte hai ya wahi aata hai aapki har action mein, aapki har kalakruti mein (There’s an idiom in Marathi, ‘Pindi te Brahmandi’, which means that what lies in your core reflects in the way you see the world, in your actions and creations.) I didn't really focus on doing it a certain way, woh ugta gaya usi marg par (it just kept growing in that direction.)


How has your career as a theatre artist influenced your film direction?

Natakon ka yeh ek hai ki lekhak-nirdeshak hone ke nate, ek kalakruti aap apne bal par khadi karte ho, tayyar karte ho, shuruat se leke ant tak aur phir uske shows bhi hone lagte hai. Toh yeh jo puri prakriya hai, ek lekhak-nirdeshak ki wahi lagbhag prakriya chitrapaton mein bhi hoti hai. Aapko shuruat se ant tak woh sab nibhana padta hai, aapke upar uttardayitva hota hai uska, zimmedari hoti hai. Toh woh puri prakriya jo maine natakon se seekhi thi, uska fayda mujhe chitrapat karte waqt bhi hogaya. Ek jisko aap aatmvishwas kehte ho, ek creator ka, ek nirdeshak ka, toh woh mujhe theatre ne diya hai, jo main mere chitrapaton mein upyog kar saka. 

(In theatre, as a writer and director, you build your work from the ground up. This process applies while working on films too. You have to fulfill your responsibilities from the beginning to the end. Whatever I learnt through theatre, applied in films too. The former gave me the confidence that one needs as a creator, and a director, which I can use to make movies.)

What have been the responses to Vaalvi so far?
Abhi toh bahut hi matlab ashcharyakarak…yeh jo prakar hai film ka, Marathi mein bahut hi rare hain ya kabhi aya hi nahi lagbhag aap keh sakti ho. Agle kuch hafton mein uska final result aayega. Lekin haan utsahjanak vatavaran hai ki chalo do haftein toh tikki aur chote-chote centres mein bhi tikki sirf Pune, Mumbai, Thane aur Nashik main hi nahin. 

(I’m surprised by the response. This genre of film is very rare in Marathi-language cinema, you may even say that it’s the first of its kind. We’ll know how it fared in a few weeks. But we’re very enthusiastic that the film has run in theatres for two weeks, and in small centres too, not just Pune, Mumbai, Thane and Nashik.)

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