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Interview Maithili

The foundation is very personal, says Achal Mishra of his debut film Gamak Ghar

First-time filmmaker Achal Mishra talks about the making of Gamak Ghar, which is winning appreciation at festivals across the country.

Achal Mishra at the Kazhcha-Niv Indie Film Festival. Photo: Courtesy Kazhcha Film Forum

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Achal Mishra’s Gamak Ghar observes a house as it ages over two decades, as a family reunites for celebrations and festivals in its premises. As life takes over and the visits become rarer, the house falls into neglect.

The Maithili-language film received stupendous response at the 21st Mumbai Film Festival where it was selected for the prestigious India Gold section and went on to win the Vkaao award for Most Anticipated Film by a Debut Director in the National Film Development Corporation’s Viewing Room section at the NFDC Film Bazaar on the sidelines of the 50th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa last month.

Gamak Ghar was screened at the third Kazhcha-Niv Indie Film Festival as well. In a conversation with Cinestaan.com on the sidelines of the festival here, Achal Mishra spoke of his influences and his journey so far. Excerpts:

Gamak Ghar is steeped in nostalgia but also love and a yearning for a time that has past and will not return, as well as a desire for simpler times. How much of the film has been a personal journey for you?

We have been visiting this house since we were kids. Around three years ago, I had the idea of doing something there, in that house. There was suddenly talk of renovating the house to a double-storey house. So there was an urgency to make a film.

Around the same time, I discovered my grandfather’s diary. He had passed away even before my parents got married. He was a writer and, at a later stage, he got into films, acted in films and TV serials, and started his production house, wanting to make films. He passed away before he could do that.

So, I got to know him in bits and pieces over the years. I learnt about him through his diaries. I also never saw the house as a home because we were always visitors to the house where my grandmother was staying. But when I read the diaries, I saw it as a house where my father and his brothers lived. So, when I started writing, it came from my memories.

I think the foundation of the film is very personal. I kept my grandfather’s character as it is, the rest details I moved around a bit. In the second part of the film, the trajectory of each character is fiction.

The film looks at the memory of a house and the audience gets immersed in the mood that is set. How important was it to create the right mood and how integral was the role of music and the colorist in creating it?

Very important! We enjoyed the whole colouring process, especially in the first part, where we wanted to have that photographic feel, and the colorist, Mehak Gupta, asked me for old photographs to match the grains and do the ageing process.

Music is something which, I now feel in hindsight, could have been lesser, but I definitely wanted to create a mood with it.

It is quite extraordinary that as a self-taught filmmaker this is your debut film. What has the struggle been like for you, especially since we have been discussing the hurdles for independent filmmakers a lot at the festival?

The struggle was actually during the making of the film. When we started this project, I had no idea it would be on such a big scale. It all started when we got the team on board. Most of my main crew members are from film schools and they brought in a professionalism on set and I tried to be as organized as they were.

How has finding recognition at the MAMI festival and then at the Film Bazaar impacted your film in terms of its reach?

Before MAMI, we had no idea where we were going. We had got a few rejections from some international festivals. Then MAMI happened and being in the India Gold section there was a surprise. We released the trailer two weeks before the screening and that helped get a good response and houseful shows.

MAMI 2019: Achal Mishra’s Maithili feature Gamak Ghar explores the world of documentary and narrative format

After that, film programmers started approaching us. So we are hoping to get an international premiere and some more festivals around and then an OTT release.

Have you thought about your next film?

Not really. I wouldn’t want to jump straight into the next feature film. There are two other filmmakers from Bihar, from Darbhanga, and we are planning an anthology film, the three of us.

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Kazhcha Indie Film Festival