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Interview Marathi

Was tough to find a producer for a film on a skin disease: Imago directors Karan Chavan, Vikram Patil

The first-time directors explain why they wanted a girl with the skin condition to play the lead role and not an actress wearing make-up.

Keyur Seta

Marathi cinema has taken to exploring various social issues ever since its new wave began a decade and a half ago. Now, first-time directors Karan Chavan and Vikram Patil have taken on a subject hardly attempted in cinema. Their film Imago deals with a girl who has vitiligo, a disease which causes white patches on the skin.

Imago will be premiered at the upcoming MAMI (Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image) film festival in Mumbai. It is also one of the nine films nominated for the Oxfam Best Film on Gender Equality award at the festival.

In a telephonic interview, Karan Chavan and Vikram Patil spoke about the challenging journey of making a film on such a subject. Excerpts:

What is Imago about? What is the relevance of the title?

KC: The stage when a caterpillar is developing and about to fly as a butterfly is called imago. The film’s main character is Namrata, a teenage girl studying in school. She has vitiligo, which is a skin disease. That’s why she is inside her shell throughout the film. How she comes out of the shell is the story of the film. The butterfly reference is used in the film on quite a few occasions to connect with her character.

Is the film based on a real story?

KC: No, this is not a real story. I and Vikram met quite a few people with this disease. And we realized that people with vitiligo have a stigma attached to them, that they don’t look good, especially girls. So, I and Vikram had a discussion and felt we should make something on this.

VP: There are a few scenes in the film which we have seen in real life. We got to see some real situations which we have used in the film as is. 

Your film has been nominated for the Oxfam Best Film on Gender Equality award. How much does this mean to you?

KC: We came to know this only recently. We felt great. This is our first feature film. We went through a lot of difficulty to finish this project. So, it feels good to get such appreciation.

VP: We didn’t know anything about the Oxfam film awards. We got an official mail, so we gathered some information about it. We felt very good after knowing that there is a special category for the subject on which we have made a film.

Does the girl you have cast, Aishwarya Ghaydar, actually have this disease?

KC: Yes, she does.

How did you find her? It must have been difficult to find someone with the disease who can also act.

VP: We had earlier planned to use make-up for the actor who would play the character. But we thought the actor might miss what an actual sufferer would feel and it would look like acting. We wanted to avoid that. We discussed that only a victim should act as one. That’s why we had to spend a lot of time to find the right candidate.

Also, although a lot of parents were impressed with the idea of the film, they weren’t ready to let their girls play such a character. But the parents of Aishwarya Ghaydar showed a lot of daring by letting her work in the film. Even we were taken aback. She played it very well. 

Karan Chavan

How did you ensure during the writing and the making that the film does not look like a docu drama?

KC: When I and Vikram thought about the subject, we searched to see if anyone else has made a similar film. We came to know of a film called Nital (2006, by Sunil Sukthankar and Sumitra Bhave). It gives a lot of information about the disease. But we didn’t want to do that. We wanted to show the point of view of a person suffering psychologically because of the disease. Both of us were clear about this from the beginning. 

VP: We also wanted to show the reaction of the person after she faces such treatment from society. This is the journey of the character. 

What other challenges did you face?

KC: There were many challenges. I can write a 300-page book on it (laughs). The main challenge was to generate funding for such a subject. This is not a commercial subject. It is more like an art or festival kind of film. So, producers used to feel there is no recovery option for them. To convince producers was the biggest challenge.

Secondly, we are facing distribution issues right now; to find someone who would distribute the film at a good level. 

Vikram Patil

How did you find the producers then?

VP: They are my relations. We shot the film in Kolhapur. In Kolhapur, a lot of people make films but they don’t have the vision of how to make a film or what world cinema is. They have those rustic methods of making films.

Once, I had gone on one of Dashrath Yadav’s film’s sets. I saw their methods of making films and it didn’t convince me. He is a teacher, so it is in his nature to listen to young people and appreciate them. So, I discussed our film and told him what world and contemporary cinema is. He was convinced and agreed to produce our film. We faced difficulties, but by taking small steps we completed the film. 

You must have faced issues because of the low budget too.

VP: Actually the schedule became three times more than what we had designed initially. Apart from the budget, there were weather issues. 

Any specific reason for making the film in Marathi?

VP: Actually, because our mother tongue is Marathi and we have grown up in the same atmosphere. We wanted to express our vision, natural expression. If we did it in another language, the expression would change. 

Related topics

MAMI Oxfam Gender Equality Award