The impressive Marathi film continues its festival run with screenings at the Pune International Film Festival this week.
Director Vinit Chandrasekharan on Bodhi: We were able to pull off the entire shoot in 18 days
Mumbai - 13 Jan 2019 8:00 IST
The Marathi film Bodhi (Buddha) originally began as an anthology. The feature film would have woven in four other stories to tell the tales of people from the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra.
However, when the makers got together behind the scenes before the filming, they began to reconsider their approach.
Vaibhav Ghodeswar, the story writer, and Vinit Chandrasekharan, the director, met us at the Cinestaan.com office after Bodhi's world premiere at the 20th Mumbai Film Festival to discuss the backstory of the film’s journey.
“At the time, it was five different stories merged into one," said Vinit. "It was about a well where the priest used to meet people and talk to them. Originally, the first few pages were about the priest and [Vinya]’s relationship. Then there were a few more stories, but I thought that this thing can be expanded into the entire film.”
Ghodeswar, who had been working on the project for a long time, agreed.
Their heart-breaking, eye-opening film, Bodhi, stars Shashank Shende, Ninad Mahajani and Ketaki Narayan and explores the pressing issue of farmer suicides in Maharashtra.
In Bodhi, a priest, Father Benedict Daddario (Shende), and young Dalit leader Vinya (Mahajani) wage a battle to settle age-old problems in the region, the return of land to the church and to those Dalits who had earlier converted.
Amazingly, the duo took few drafts of the script before they went into filming. Ghodeswar, while doing his MBA in London, had researched these issues quite extensively. He also hails from the region where the story is set.
“I was very close to this topic, because I come from that area and I was constantly thinking why farmers are committing suicide, and the answer lies in the global financial systems," the writer explained. "A lot owes to Wall Street and the policy makers, but what can be done? We blame governments, but governments are in a minimal role to cater to this issue. Governments are basically putting forward the capital, but what happens in farming, they don’t have that much of value. Global financial systems will divert their value.”
He planned to take the research with him while pursuing a PhD but eventually did not enrol for the course owing to personal reasons. But he decided to make a movie instead to share the reality of what was happening on the ground and tell the story the way it was.
They brought on board Ninad Mahajani, who had earlier worked with Vinit on his short film Unborn (2017), to write the Marathi dialogues and he also ended up playing one of the leads. The team worked on the script, especially on the characters of Father Benedict and Vinya, and often had many debates internally on how to approach them.
For the casting, Mahajani suggested Ketaki Narayan, with whom he had worked in a play earlier.
“I thought she looked the part. She came in and read and that was done,” Vinit said. “We approached Shashank Shende and [Ninad] pitched the idea to him in Pune. I met him and told him specifically, this script really needs you. If you do it, then it will be the best. He said yes, so we didn’t test anybody. Lucky [Singh], the guy who plays Schezwan, was brought in by our line producer, and the rest of cast were all from either Dhule or Amravati.”
The makers used people from the region to retain the authenticity of dialect. Most of the crew, however, didn’t speak Marathi so there were two versions of the script for reference.
“We did around 15 days of intense workshop with the main three actors and Singh because he is also part of it," the director said. "After that, sadly, what happened is, because of the rains, we had to push the shoot a couple of months. And then Shashank sir went for another shoot and came directly here. But the workshop had stayed with him luckily. All of them came back and picked up where they had left off. Because of that we were able to pull off the entire shoot in 18 days."
After filming in the short period, the editing was completed in seven days. The end result is remarkably polished. The makers are eyeing an April release for the film, hopefully around Ambedkar Jayanti. Bodhi is currently being screened at the Pune International Film Festival this week.